Good news, bad news

Imagine you've just been promoted to a better job - only to learn that two of your key helpers will be missing work for the next month or so ... at least.

That's essentially what happened to Tennessee's Jonathan Crompton this week. He learned he'll be the starting quarterback for Game 1 but he also learned that his ace receiver (Gerald Jones) is out 3-6 weeks with a high-ankle sprain and that the guy who snapped him the ball last season (Josh McNeil) is out indefinitely with a knee problem.

Clearly, the news on Jones and McNeil tempers the promotion to first-team quite a bit.

"That's obviously a downer for us," Crompton conceded this week, "but we know the guys that are going to step in for them are going to be just fine. They've had the reps and the mental reps and the experience in spring ball and fall camp, so they're just as much veterans in this offense as the other guys are."

With Jones sidelined, Tennessee will look for greater contributions from senior Quintin Hancock (voted the most improved offensive player of spring practice) and junior Brandon Warren (a converted tight end who has had a very good preseason camp).

With McNeil's status still to be determined, Tennessee will almost certainly hand the center job to fellow senior Cody Sullins, who has been bracketed first-team with McNeil since last spring.

"That's one good thing we have," Crompton said. "We have some guys that we feel comfortable stepping in."

The Vols need several guys "stepping in" but they also need several more "stepping up." This number includes Crompton, who must significantly improve on last year's 51.5 completion percentage and 4/5 touchdown/interception ratio. He also must prove himself ready to lead. He already is showing some leadership skills by staying after practice to do extra throwing with his receivers.

"Everybody's a leader in their own way," he said. "I try to lead by example. We've got a lot of great guys at receiver that really want to learn and really want to get better."

Asked if it will be easier to lead the team now that he has been named the Game 1 starter, Crompton shrugged.

"That I don't know," he said. "Guys respond to different guys in different ways."

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