Mr. October?

When Tennessee's quarterback threw six interceptions in his first 60 pass attempts of 2009 the Vol offense became so conservative it made Rush Limbaugh look liberal.

For a while it appeared that every throw had to be 10 yards or less and directed at a running back or tight end. Then something unexpected happened. Jonathan Crompton got his go-to receiver back. He got his confidence back. And he quit throwing interceptions.

As a result, Crompton's stats for October are as follows:

Game 5 vs. Auburn: 20 of 43, 259 yards, 2 touchdowns, 0 interceptions

Game 6 vs. Georgia: 20 of 27, 310 yards, 4 touchdowns, 1 interception

Game 7 vs. Alabama: 21 of 36, 265 yards, 1 touchdown, 1 interception

For those keeping score at home, Crompton has completed 57.5 percent of his passes this month, averaged 278 passing yards per game and thrown 7 touchdowns versus just 2 interceptions.

"I think he's put together 2 1/2 games of playing really well, going back to the last half of the Auburn game," Vol head coach Lane Kiffin said. "We have a lot of confidence in the way that he's playing."

Crompton has thrown 14 touchdown passes this fall, tying for second in the SEC behind Arkansas's Ryan Mallett, who has 15. After a sorry September, the Vol senior just might be the league's most effective passer in October.

"He's playing as well as anybody in the conference," Kiffin said. "He's doing things really well."

The recent surge has elevated Crompton's confidence, along with the confidence of his teammates and coaches in him. No longer limited to the simplest, low-risk pass plays, Kiffin feels a lot more freedom in his play-calling.

"It's made it a lot more comfortable," he said, adding that: "When you have confidence about the decision-making at quarterback, there's times that we take some shots."

Not all of Kiffin's newfound comfort level can be traced to Crompton's growth, however. Some of it is related to receiver Gerald Jones' return from a nagging ankle injury. After catching just three balls for 29 yards in the first four games, he has reeled in 19 balls for 252 yards and 3 touchdowns in the past three games.

The return of fellow wideout Denarius Moore from injury has provided another big boost for the Vol passing attack. After catching just one four-yard pass in Games 1-3, he caught 15 passes for 237 yards in Games 4-7.

Kiffin noted that the Crompton's rally also "has a lot to do with his receivers being healthy and being there for a few weeks, so the timing is better."

Ultimately, though, the quarterback's October numbers largely reflect progress in making (A) quality decisions and (B) quality throws.

Kiffin said it best: "Since the day I got here, I've told him that the more good decisions you make - as far as not forcing the ball - the more shots we'll let you take downfield."

The head man believes Crompton could be selected in next spring's NFL Draft if he continues to play the way he has the past three games.

"I think he's increasing his draft value by the way he's playing," Kiffin said. "He's making himself some money.

"The key is going to be: How does he play down the stretch? You watch some games, and he looks completely different than others. So (the question) will always be: Who are you?"

Right now he's Mr. October.


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