Fulmer says Stephens deserves chance to start

After a week of practice, it all comes down to what Nick Stephens can do in a game.

Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer announced Friday evening that Stephens would be the starting quarterback for Saturday’s game (TV: Pay-per-view, 7 p.m.) against Northern Illinois, saying the sophomore has earned a chance to show what he can do on the field.

“We need a lot more production from the quarterback position,” Fulmer said following Friday’s walk-through practice in Neyland Stadium. “Jon’s had his opportunities in the ballgame – that certainly doesn’t say that he won’t have future opportunities at all. Nick has made progress, and he deserves the chance to see how he does in a football game. That’s for our team.”

Stephens, a third-year player from Flower Mound, Texas, has played eight snaps in his UT career. All those plays came against UAB on Sept. 13, and he was 1-for-2 with a 42-yard completion to tight end Brandon Warren. Stephens also rushed once for 5 yards.

Fulmer said Stephens’ improvement since the season began helped him earn the opportunity to start.

“He’s become in the last couple weeks, several weeks, more consistent in his play and his handling of the huddle and his voice inflection and those kinds of things,” Fulmer said. “He’s had ability all along. I’m anxious to see how he does. I certainly understand that the most important thing is we get production from the offense, regardless of how that happens and/or who does it.”

For now, Stephens is UT’s quarterback, although that could certainly change depending on his play. It's what happened to Crompton, who ranks last in the SEC in passing efficiency after going 8-for-23 for 67 yards against Auburn last week.

Echoing his comments from Thursday as well as those of offensive coordinator Dave Clawson, Fulmer said Friday there is no plan to share snaps between Stephens and Crompton on Saturday. Simply put, if Stephens can move the offense, he’ll be Tennessee’s quarterback for the foreseeable future including next week's trip to No. 11 Georgia.

“Obviously the perfect scenario is Nick goes on fire and takes over and everything happens like you want it to happen,” Fulmer said. “That’s what we’re hoping for. If it doesn’t happen that way, then we’ll evaluate it from there. I’d like for somebody to take charge.”

Players do not speak to the media after Wednesday evening, and neither Stephens nor Crompton was available for comment Friday.

Fulmer informed Crompton and Stephens as well as the team of the decision Friday afternoon before practice.

“They both handled it well, which you’d expect them to,” Fulmer said. “Obviously Jonathan’s disappointed, but he handled it like a man.”

As for the team, Fulmer said it was business as usual.

“We just lined up and started practicing today with Nick as the first-teamer,” Fulmer said. “I didn’t hear anybody say anything. I think they will accept it in stride. They’re probably like everyone else, looking to see what happens a little bit.”

Drew Edwards covers University of Tennessee football. He may be reached at 865-342-6274.

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Comments » 214

movol77 writes:

Please make it count!

DennisVols writes:

Finally a decision and the right one at that

thevoice writes:

I guess Fulmer was reading the posts here after all. Nice first step. Now go get 'em!

tennecwingrider writes:

Man, let's hope this is the start of a brand new day. Good luck Nick. We are all pulling for you.

RockyTopRooks writes:

big deal.. its going to be hard to tell against a team like NI

jhayes1911 writes:

It's about freakin time! This may bring the attendance numbers up to 90k...Hopefully this will give us the spark that this engine needs!

BradleyCountyVOL writes:

We wish you the best Nick! Now, lets go out there and take care of business!

orange_glory writes:

Oh please. All they are trying to do is sell a few more tickets with this false hope. It is not so much our QB as it is the coaches. I want them to say Fulmer benched in lue of our New starting Head Coach.

MemphisVol writes:

Cmon Nick! Go Vols!

orange_glory writes:

People we are going to suck as long as we have Fulmer. I am sorry I don't care who is at QB

RemembertheAlamo writes:

56-10....nothing less is acceptable

caskew#218608 writes:

LET'S GET THIS SHIP TURNED AROUND!

WorkinLikeHeck writes:

Captain Indecision will be 2nd guessing himself from now until Saturday. Hey FOOLMORE!!!!!!!! If it works, than Foolmore looks like a dunce for waiting so long, if it doesn't work Foolmore is still a dunce that is SOL!!! VOF day is coming!!!!!!!!!!

jr8657 writes:

let's just hope they give him enough time to fully see if he is the answer or not. they give crapton 4 gives to kill the hopes of a great season they should atleast give stevens the entire first half to see what he can really do!

orange_glory writes:

And if we somehow pull this game off. Everyone will say our Saviour Nick is come and thank you Fulmer for having the visions to change. Soooooorrrryyyyyy but this should have happened in 2nd half of the Fla game if not sooner. This is just a ticket gimmick

tnvol737 writes:

I am so glad Stephens is getting the start....It seems clear that Crompton is not the future of TN football. We need to be patient with Stephens through mistakes (which is why it is great that we are playing NIU) because he has not been given a chance to develop experience. However, I really like his attitude! Go Vols!

CharlotteVol writes:

Run the ball Fulmer! Don't put the ball in the QB's hands and he might do okay. We had to do this - Crompton was going backwards.

auttat writes:

in response to RemembertheAlamo:

56-10....nothing less is acceptable

NIU is not a 56-10 football team for the Vols right now. A solid win with limited mistakes and a completed pass or two is acceptable. Come on, dude!

VolGraduate writes:

About time!!! Just throw the 10 yd passes and let the receivers do the rest.

VolGraduate writes:

workin and oglory:

would you have put stephens in against florida and auburn and have his confidence ruined? then we would be down to only 1 qb...bj coleman

soccervol writes:

Bout damn time!! Now time for a coaching change...

Moaninglikeheck writes:

in response to orange_glory:

Oh please. All they are trying to do is sell a few more tickets with this false hope. It is not so much our QB as it is the coaches. I want them to say Fulmer benched in lue of our New starting Head Coach.

While I certainly agree that certain members of our coaching staff are past their prime (Fulmer, Chavis, Slade) and I'd like to see them step aside, you are dead wrong here. If we had started only a competent QB who made minimal mistakes (someone like Ainge), for the first four games we'd be at worst 3-1 right now and possibly 4-0. Everything would be, for the most part, hunky-dory in the Vol Nation.

The playcalling has not been impressive...especially on offense...but it hasn't been the kind that loses games either. The thing that had gotten us beat has been bone headed mistakes at critical times. Crompton has been center stage for most of those mistakes, and he certainly hasn't done much to help or rally the team. All Stephens has to do is complete 60% of his passes and minimalize interceptions, manage the clock, and generally play mistake free ball. We might luck up and lose only one more game if he can manage that.

Would that be enough for Coacho Ocho?

Lofton4Three writes:

Smart move...of course it was a move he had to make. If not the attendance would have stooped into the 40's...

thevoice writes:

I agree with the change! But one has to wonder about the process that brought this about. Up until this week, Stephens has typically been practicing with the second team. Fulmer is quoted as basically saying the best QB will start. Is Stephens all of the sudden mysteriously better than Crompton during this week? Or was he better all along? Or did Fulmer finally see what everybody else saw in the first four games? Unless Stephens DID indeed get mysteriously MUCH better this week (vs. Crompton's 4-game experience, 1st team reps), coach you've just admitted that he was the better QB all along. Hmmm. Sounds like that seniority thing again. And inability to discern talent.

orange_glory writes:

VolGrad Your dang skippy I would have put stephens in. It couldn't have been any worse than what we got.

TommyJack writes:

My guess is that Clawson has been lobbying for this for quite awhile.

RoyaltyVol writes:

Yeah!

beef4davols writes:

I just hope Stephens isn't on too short of a leash. Chances are, he may not come out blazing but we need to at least leave him in long enough to get into the flow.

So when is the article coming out announcing the new starter at Tail Back

b_neas writes:

I would rather see stephens making mistakes (maybe some int's with growing pains) trying to make something happen than see what Crompton has been doing. H#ll Crompton is so far off with his passes that the defender or the reciever do not have a chance at catching it. Not to mention Crompton can not hand off or hit his 2nd or 3rd wr because all he can do is stare at his primary wr and if he is not open throw it 15 yards out of bounds.

auttat writes:

"If we had started only a competent QB who made minimal mistakes (someone like Ainge), for the first four games we'd be at worst 3-1 right now and possibly 4-0."

Can someone please explain to me how any person in their right mind can think that UT had a chance to beat Florida? Please? I'm all ears!!!

invisiblekid writes:

in response to TommyJack:

My guess is that Clawson has been lobbying for this for quite awhile.

Mine as well TJ.

shorrocks#644844 writes:

Nick sorta looks like the Sherminator, so I see good things for him.

RJ BANNED ME FROM SSS.

WorkinLikeHeck writes:

yeah, we forced Florida to punt one time the whole games and they scored on every possession except one but "we should have beat Florida". LMAO!!!!!!!!!

Greyback_Vol writes:

Bad times on Rocky Top...

Stephens wasn't impressive in the Orange & White Game, which is really all we have to grade him on until tomorrow. But Fulmer and Co. really had no choice. A change is needed.

Show us what you got, Mr. Stephens.

Go Vols!

mattlock writes:

As Adam Sandler said in Wedding Singer, "Gee, you know that information... really would've been more useful to me yesterday!!!!"

volboy81 writes:

GOOD NEWS!

Now lets all get over there tomorrow
and support him and the Vols...
Anyone wearing orange is worth
our support!

GO VOLS!!!

orange_glory writes:

Moaning I agree to some extent but it is just that our coaches can't coach and they don't develop talent. That is what I am referring to. I am not taking up for Crompton at all don't get me wrong. I just think with stephens we have a little less talent with the same terrible coaching.

diggerland17#448133 writes:

Had 2 start Stephens bc as soon as Crompton came off the sidelines 4 the 1st posession of the game as the starter he would have been greeted with 65000 people cascading boooooos!!!

rckymtngator writes:

Hope the change works, if not UT will be 2 & 4 after next week with no chance of winning the SEC East. Good Luck Vols.

This shows that Fulmer is a great coach and deserved his extension. Florida fans hope to see him on the UT sidelines for many years to come. (Had to throw some humor in)

RemembertheAlamo writes:

auttat.......we should beat this team by a least 2. With an average QB we would be 3-1 and with a great QB we would be 4-0. I am telling you we have one of the better teams that we have ever had, our play calling and QB play has held us down. I think we were better than Florida, and I know we were better than UCLA and Auburn. If Nick is our answer, you will be surprised at what we will be able to do.

thevoice writes:

in response to auttat:

"If we had started only a competent QB who made minimal mistakes (someone like Ainge), for the first four games we'd be at worst 3-1 right now and possibly 4-0."

Can someone please explain to me how any person in their right mind can think that UT had a chance to beat Florida? Please? I'm all ears!!!

Because, for the most part, our defense held Florida's offense. Minus the offensive (thanks Crompton) and special teams botches, the game's even. Despite what some people think, we have comparable talent to most all teams we face.

invisiblekid writes:

Now comes the bigger question in my mind, how much rope does Stephens get and will Crompton and Stephens split time on Saturday?

auttat writes:

in response to TommyJack:

My guess is that Clawson has been lobbying for this for quite awhile.

You have been on Volnation for too long, TJ.

I seriously want to signup for the site just so I can start a thread that JC threatened suicide if he didn't get the start tomorrow. People would honestly believe it.

D'Oh!! I think I just started a rumor.

By the way, a certain coach in "Oklahoma" is looking to purchase property on the Tennessee river. ;)

PennVol writes:

Fulmer: "Now let's don't cheer too loudly when Stephens is announced. We don't want to hurt Jonathan's dadgum feelings."

They always say the most popular guy is the back-up QB. We will do nothing to change that perception tomorrow nite!

Go Nick the Gunslinger! Welcome to the Neyland Corral!

Go Vols!

RemembertheAlamo writes:

auttat.....I can believe you wrote about the samething I did at the same time....Great

invisiblekid writes:

in response to tngeoff#226726:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

If we can't manage a first down in the 4th quarter against N. Illinois, I would have to take a hard look at taking a hiatus until Fulmer is gone.

tenmanjonez#561272 writes:

Could this be the next Peyton???

MOOREVOLS writes:

If you want to play the "ifs" and "buts" game I can make a case for the Florida game just being a 6 point spread Florida's way. We shouldn't have won the Florida game, but with an average QB we could have easily kept it within 10 points. With an average QB we have the talent to compete with if not beat any team on our schedule.

Moaninglikeheck writes:

in response to auttat:

"If we had started only a competent QB who made minimal mistakes (someone like Ainge), for the first four games we'd be at worst 3-1 right now and possibly 4-0."

Can someone please explain to me how any person in their right mind can think that UT had a chance to beat Florida? Please? I'm all ears!!!

Our defense held Tebow to the lowest numbers in his career if I'm not mistaken. Our offense drove down to the red zone and had plenty of chances to score. If we had only a slightly more competent QB, we might have scored early and prevented defensive scores for Florida that killed our momentum.

I'm certainly not claiming that we would have won, but we would have been MUCH more competive and there would have been no embarassment or shame in a loss...and save for punting the ball right into whatshisname's hands, we had as good a shot as anyone at beating Florida. Do you really think Ole Miss is better than UF or that much better than Tennessee????

Volchaz writes:

Could Vandy still pull a bigger crowd than UT, probably be close. I wish the kid luck..."The Gunslinger cometh"...lol

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