Long-ball game comes up short

Clawson still has faith in Cromptom's 'very nice deep ball'

The Coaches' Take: Coaches Fulmer and Chavis talk about the D-line against UCLA


Ellix Wilson, Ramon Foster, Chris Walker and Ben Martin talk about the Vols' game against UCLA.

Ellix Wilson, Ramon Foster, Chris Walker and Ben Martin talk about the Vols' game against UCLA. Watch »


Coach Phillip Fulmer talks about Arian Foster's fumble in the game against UCLA.

Coach Phillip Fulmer talks about Arian Foster's fumble in the game against UCLA. Watch »


UT's offensive coordinator, Dave Clawson, talks about how the offensive line faired during the UCLA game.

UT's offensive coordinator, Dave Clawson, talks about how the offensive line faired during the UCLA game. Watch »

Peerless Price racing past Florida State to haul in a Tee Martin bomb in stride down the sideline.

Joey Kent catching a Peyton Manning toss over the middle then outrunning the Alabama secondary on the opening play of the game.

Those are two unforgettable images of Tennessee football at its 1990s best.

The deep ball. The bomb. The home run. By whatever name, it was a feared weapon.

In recent years, not as much.

As the Vols feel out a new offensive identity in 2008, the deep ball could and should be part of the picture.

At least coach Phillip Fulmer and new offensive coordinator Dave Clawson hope it will be.

The only evidence so far is limited to UT's 27-24 upset loss at UCLA 11 days ago. The next public viewing is Saturday when UAB visits Neyland Stadium for a 12:30 p.m. kickoff (TV: WVLT).

In Jonathan Crompton, Tennessee's staff believes it has a quarterback with plenty of arm.

"Jonathan throws a very nice deep ball,'' Clawson said.

"Not that you're going to go into a game and throw it (deep) 25 or 30 times. But you've got to be able to do that or people will just end up sitting on the shorter routes.''

A strong-armed quarterback is only one third of the equation.

Pass protection has to be sufficient to allow the deeper pass routes to develop. That didn't always happen at UCLA.

And the receivers have to get separation, either through sheer speed or crafty route-running.

The Vols connected on only one long ball at UCLA, a 41-yarder to Josh Briscoe that set up a touchdown on the next play.

They came close, but no cigar, on several other deep throws. And there's the rub.

"We know those are low-percentage throws,'' Clawson said. "But if you can hit one or two of those, I think it forces them to do different things on defense and that's really one of the failings in that game.

"We had a number of opportunities to get the ball down the field and didn't execute.''

The arrival of Clawson and the ascension of Crompton could bring the longer throws into more prominence.

"We don't count on the long ball,'' Crompton said, "but if it's there, we'll take a shot.''

The past two years, coordinator David Cutcliffe accented a shorter passing game with quarterback Erik Ainge.

Part of that equation was the issue of whether the receiving corps possessed home-run capability.

The Vols had 10 pass plays of 40-plus yards in 2007 - one of them a 49-yard TD pass by Crompton. However, the longest gainer involving one of UT's receivers was a 56-yard pass that Lucas Taylor threw to tailback LaMarcus Coker on a trick play.

Several others had nothing to do with receivers. Three were catch-and-runs by tailback Arian Foster and another was a 59-yarder to tight end Brad Cottam.

"I think in every offense you have to stretch people vertically,'' Clawson said. "The guys that are playing are playing because they're the best ones we have.''

There's no track-speed guys in the bunch. Fulmer said redshirt freshman Ahmad Paige "gives us one of those guys that could go get it, but he's just a little short on maturity right now.''

That doesn't mean the long ball can't be part of Tennessee's arsenal. At UCLA, the intent was evident but the execution wasn't.

"Let's wait and see what Jonathan's going to do in a game,'' Fulmer said. "But in practice he's shown the ability to get the ball down the field.''

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Comments » 129

GreerVol22 writes:

Maybe if Crompton had "stretched vertically" just a little more, those "nice balls" might have been on target.

wkjq#213863 writes:

I think we'll see some long balls Sat. Good post volfan.

txvolsfan writes:

Maybe if the line had protected and kept the UCLA line out of his grill he could have been more accurate also.

CoverOrange writes:

JC can keep the blitz out of his grill by connecting on over the middle under the coverage passes which he didn't do. He did have a pretty, deep ball that Austin let slip.

Does Ahmad throw temper-tantrums? What kind of maturity is he lacking? Even if he only knows one play, if he ain't covered and he can catch and run...

DennisVols writes:

"But you've got to be able to do that or people will just end up sitting on the shorter routes.''
Wow what a concept. For 2 years Vol fans have been screaming this same thought. It hurt our running game the last couple of years because there was not threat down field. Play up close and tight and make UT beat you with short passes. The secondary was already up on the line at the snap and if we penetrated the D-line they were already waiting to finish the deal.
If you do not spread a defense out you are limited.
I hope Crompton and the receivers can get their timming down. Jones can stretch the field for us.

PreventUT writes:

Turbo: Exactly my thoughts. Does immature mean under developed or inconsistent? He keeps saying these things and I have no clue what he's talking about. My only guess is that he thinks the kid has an attitude problem and a weak work ethic...

armyant1969#258249 writes:

Hello Vols Fans,

Please lay off the staff and the players! Let it end. GIVE THESE GUYS SOME CREDIT!!!!!! Let these guys play some ball before you throw them under the BUS. Do not for a minute think these players know how the fan base feels.... it hurts morale, and recruiting to hear such comtinued neg. talk!

We all, including staff, players and fans want the same thing every year.....championships. Well its not going to happen every year folks....but I think this team will turn out to be GREAT!!!!!!

orangesox writes:

"Not that you're going to go into a game and throw it (deep) 25 or 30 times. But you've got to be able to do that or people will just end up sitting on the shorter routes.''

Unless, of course, they coach defense at Tennessee. Then you can throw the short ball against them all you want.

xvolx writes:

"people will just be sitting on shorter routes". wasnt this what we should have been doing to ucla. appears tenn. has more problems than can be corrected in one uab game. off. line terrible blocking, running back fumbles to kill drive, rec. cant get open, qb cant read def. and no accuracy, corners cant press cover. I will say def. line looked good.'

xvolx writes:

volfan. sorry i wasted so many words. you covered it all.


JUST WIN !!! (by 29.5)

VOLKING writes:

armyant...."Let them play some ball before throwing them under the bus!!" Where have you been for the past 10 years while a once top-notch elite program has passed into mediocrity? No one says that trend is the players' fault...but the coaches have to be held accountable for their tired and uninspired play-calling. It hurts morale??? The fans' morale has been hurt by continuing to have coaches explain the losses to inferior teams. It hurts our morale to see our AD award a coach for winning 67% of his games!!! That's a D- for you and me...but our coach gets an extension of his $2.5 million dollar a year contract. We love our team and God Bless anyone who wears the orange and white, but being rah-rah for a coaching staff and AD that aspire to mediocrity and the same old excuses year after year is unacceptable. I support our team with season tickets and licensed merchandise...so tell me just how much longer do I just have to keep being positive with these coaches...10 more years??!!

xvolx writes:

volking. ck. out fulmers record against top 25 teams and you will see that 67% sink really low.

VOLKING writes:

xvolx...I know, I know...
I am still in shock that after the blowouts last season, Hamilton would extend his contract, give him a raise and say that if we reach 8 wins per year, then coach gets another year added. We squeaked out the end of our schedule last year to teams we should regularly take out with ease. I can't rant anymore. I love UT and always will...that's why so many are so upset...whichever side they are on about the coach.

hcjournals#206623 writes:

More negative. Thanks Volsquire. You just ruined a Vol experience for a lot of people. I hope you feel self important enough.

How many of these negative morons are we going to have to run off?

They say they are Vol fans.....If they are they need to shut up and stop ruining the football season for the rest of us.

Ya''ll want the coaching staff to go. We got it. Now please just let us enjoy the season. OK? Thanks............

WeLoveTennesseeVols writes:

People who talk negative do it all on their own. We do not endorse such behavior, bad behavior, cry babies who cannot get their own way. When we won the national championship, they said it was by luck. It was because of the hard work on the part of many many people and the loving and caring support of many many die hard fans. Look at the positive, believe, let yourselves be used for good things, and things will start working out for you and for yours.

bluetick writes:

It will always be the same no matter what. If we don't go undefeated including bowl games, we will suck to some.. coaches will suck and etc... Who wouldn't like to be undefeated each year and win championships every year but that isn't going to happen with any team. For those who say a 10-2 season is great, there will still be those who want 11-1 or 12-0.. and if not, we suck and the coaches suck. It's IMPOSSIBLE to make EVERYBODY happy! I'm not jumping up and down in excitement from last years record or loss at the SEC game, but the way I see it we could have had a worse record....in other words looking at the positive side. So what gives? What should be expected out of Rocky Top Football each year? Is there a certain win loss record each year that would make the negatives happy?

VOLKING writes:

hc and welovetn...how bad does it have to get? I am always going to cheer for UT...my dad went there, I went there and now we have season tickets. But change at the top is needed. The Rev. Jim Jones would have loved to have had the "all is well and good, so be happy or shut up" crowd. Someone should have shouted , "Hey my Kool-Aid tastes funny!" or"I think I hear gunfire from the airport!" Looking the other way while our coaches turn us into the 1970's Vols is not the answer either. You can be a 'yes ' man or a Vol fan...you guys are both. I'll see you at the game and I'll be cheering for our team while knowing our coaches aren't living up to their end. If you don't like other's opinions...I don't care. Go Vols!

BNR10 writes:

lets try running the ball more and limit the passes ya feel me? ucla?

BNR10 writes:

Oh and one more thing lets catch the short ones before we go long!!

MidTennVol writes:

Hmmm...as we all know, it takes much more than just a QB's strong arm to hit the deep pass.

Meacham could separate. So could Kent. Peerless could outrun most DB's and then catch almost anything thrown his way.

At times, it looked like Tee and Peerless were playing backyard ball -- "You go deep and I'll look for you" -- with Tee just hurling it up and Peerless finding a way to catch it.

Back in the day, when we were known as Wide Receiver U, we had track stars as receivers. They ran track and played football. They were fast.

Whatever happened to Trooper's "spotted ape," Kenny O'Neal?

I watched the entire Miami-FL game yesterday here in Europe. FL definitely looked vulnerable, especially its offensive line.

But I fear they will be much faster than us as a team, especially in the secondary against our receivers. I don't expect many long passes over the FL secondary -- simply because I don't think we have any receivers who can separate and who are fast enough.

Volunteer-Varmint writes:


JB Chandler, is that you nephew?

GreerVol22 writes:

WeLove...go ride a rainbow...

MidTennVol writes:

Sorry, Germany Vol -- I don't think we're related.

tnvolfnly writes:

I finally moved back to Tennessee and I've always been a Vols fan. Whatever (pick an expletive) is continuing to happen in our passing game (or lack of it) will change again I'm sure. But this (pick an expletive)about losing our home openers embarassingly has got to stop. Now that the generalities are over ..... my posts will have more, shall we say, meat on them after Saturday. GO VOLS!!!!

xvolx writes:

deep ball is "low percentage throw". we threw 3. I guess you think 19-41 is high percentage.

Vol13 writes:

"The Rev. Jim Jones would have loved to have had the "all is well and good, so be happy or shut up" crowd. Someone should have shouted , "Hey my Kool-Aid tastes funny!" or "I think I hear gunfire from the airport!"

LMAO!!!!! Great analogy, VOLKING.

dirtdobber1 writes:

The offense looked like it was in the MUSTANG PACKAGE last week against UCLA>

9krpms writes:

Crompton definitely has a nice long ball, there were two against UCLA that should have been hauled in by our receivers... they didnt. Biggest concern with Crompton, in my opinion, is his decision making & consistency. As far as throwing, guy has a cannon, just needs a bit of work on how to aim it consistently.

orangebloodgmc writes:

Thow deep.

SouthDakotaBob writes:

After that final win in 1998, and we became NC, I decided right then and there that coach Fulmer could be the man here as long as he wanted. We are competitive every year, and if u guys can remember how lucky we were at times in 98. I still have to wonder if that Raliff recovery against ARK wasn't some kind of divine intervention. How many of u feel the way that I do, and that is CPF can be just like JoPa and coach our boys until he retires?
Go big Orange!!!!!!

TommyJack writes:

Geoff: Groovy, right on and solid.

GoVol writes:

Talk is cheap...gotta do it against big time opponents during the game. That's the only time it really counts and means something!

Vol13 writes:

Johnny Majors last 50 games are much better than Fulmer's last 50. Fulmer and Battle are dead even on WP. It's 1970 all over again.

pdhuff#552644 writes:

"those people are the best we have". Thanks for the honesty, Clawson.

Just do the best you can in your situation, Coach C.

Intensity should step up.


Who would have thunk ol' TJ was such a hipster?

Tied dyed with a fro, listening to Purple Rain and All along the Watchtower.

Had a girl in our Ga operation told me once, "I've quit drugs, they just haven't quit me".


Timed_vol (Inactive) writes:

okay, wait, Paige can go get it but he is 'short on maturity'????

wow. brings back memories of jamal lewis sitting out the UF game because he wasn't a great pass-blocker yet.

maybe the damn kid can mature by playing?? austin rogers is 'mature', but he couldn't catch his nuts with a frekin' hoover vacuum (I'm not sure he wants to, but that isn't the point!!).

chad_t31 writes:

For all of the already JC bashers who don't wanna hear that the ol sucked azz against ucla....

When ANY qb can't take a two-step drop because dl are on top of him, there is no way in hell he can throw a 5-7 yard pass over the middle. This is big time football. This isn't playstation.

rbhobbs73#226545 writes:

For all of those who worship at the altar of Trooper Taylor and how it was unforgivable to lose such a dynamic recruiter and invaluable coach....see the first paragraph of the article about how we used to have receivers that could separate from the DB and catch the long ball. It mentions that Tennessee has been lacking that the last several years. Who coached WR and was supposedly a dynamic recruiter? Oh, yeah...Trooper.

In fairness, Gerald Jones and Paige may pan out yet....but the results of the last several years suggest it is a little early to act like he was Rodney Garner leaving.

Which brings me to the 3 worst personnel decisions Fulmer has made in the last 10 years...

1. Promoting Randy Sanders to OC.
2. Letting Rodney Garner go to Georgia. Should have paid him whatever it took and given him a fancy title to keep him.
3. Firing Mike Berry. Our OL hasn't been anywhere close to as good as when he was here.

TommyJack writes:

Hobbs: Good points. Especially the one about losing Rodney Garner. Huge.

rblakeh writes:

Rogers came up with many big catches across the middle last year on 3rd down that kept drives alive. His reward for those catches were hits that cleaned his clock every time. No one on this board has half the guts and grit he does. He's earned his spot on the field. Go find something else to do than trash an athlete (whether its Rogers or whoever) who does nothing but go out there and compete for you every Saturday in the Fall. You people make me sick.

Go Vols!

Sheepscape writes:


I'm not willing to excuse the line play completely, but the fact remains the offensive line is a proven commodity. The proof was last year with the lack of sacks. It's Crompton that was not proven. I've pointed out repeated before the year started that he was a sub 50% passer with modest numbers. The half-full types around here created this unwarranted mystique about #8.

I hope he gets better, and that I am wrong. Until his decision making skills and ball handling improve, we are in trouble. Neyland's first maxim comes to mind, and when the most important player on the team is prone to mistakes, we aren't going to be productive on offense.

rbhobbs73#226545 writes:

Now I can list the 3 worst personnel non-decisions Fulmer has made...

1. Not Firing John Chavis and his mustang defense after the 2001 meltdowns against Georgia AND LSU (with their back up QB and RB).

2. Not firing Larry Slade about 8 years ago.

3. Not hiring a special teams coach anytime in the last 7 years.

I know, maybe we can kill 2 birds with one stone...fire the OL coach, Fulmer goes back to coaching them and we hire a SPECIAL TEAMS COACH!

pdhuff#552644 writes:

mparker 9:44 - Jamal L is our most famous pine rider. Cooter is second.

Sheepscape writes:


Are you sure about your assertions? Really sure? You might want to go back and check the records and watch the games. I don't believe he had that impact you claim on 3rd down. After all, we haven't utilized the middle of the field in many, many years. We did pass more than we should on 3rd down...but most were short outs or those lousy screens. Very few receievers, Rogers included, went across the middle on any down, let alone 3rd.

johnlg00 writes:

Re: Paige's maturity or lack of same. He and Creer were shown on TV laughing and joking on the sidelines (that is to say, on the bench as far from the actual sideline as they could be) late in the UCLA game. Maybe they didn't care how we were looking since they didn't play, but maybe they didn't play because they weren't serious enough in practice. Either way, it looked like they thought it was more about them than it was about the team.
I certainly agree with sjt18 that getting open deep is not exclusively a matter of blinding speed. Even great speed usually isn't enough by itself at the higher levels of football.

rbhobbs73#226545 writes:

we only gave up 4 sacks last year because Ainge threw the ball no later than 2 seconds after receiving the snap. Hard to get sacked that way.

I look at our inability to run the ball in short yardage the last few years as a bigger indicator. The OL getting pushed around by UCLA defensive tackles doesn't exactly make them a "proven commodity".

O-Line needs to prove it to me against Florida. Until they do, they are suspect at best.

rbhobbs73#226545 writes:


I wasn't trying to say that Trooper wasn't a good coach or recruiter, but simply stating that he wasn't worth all of the crying and bellyaching about him leaving..IMO.

Time may prove me wrong, but I just didn't get that worked up one way or another about Trooper leaving. He wanted to be OC, we werent ready to give him that job and neither was OK State, but he got the title without the responsibility and jumped anyway. Not a huge loss IMO, but again...time could prove me wrong.

Vol13 writes:

For whoever asked about Battle from above.....

Battle's record his last 50 games at Tennessee:


Johnny Majors' record his last 50 games at Tennessee:


Phillip Fulmer's record his last 50 games at Tennessee:


Go4Two writes:

Here's my take on the state of Tennessee Football. We are going to win roughly 10 games per year. Some years slightly more some a bit less so our range is 8-11 wins. Tennessee must recruit nation wide but to be very successfull they must dive into Fla, Ga, Ala, SC, NC. all of the states and many more have spent millions on coaches in order to lock up their states recruits. Tenn. on the other hand does not have the amount of D1 recruits to pull this off. No other big time program has a weaker home state recruiting base. Compared to other programs it amazing what we have achieved

Sheepscape writes:


Was our offensive more effective last year with the 'throwing it away' approach or what you saw last week against UCLA? I know people love to bash Ainge, but the fact is he made an NFL roster. If my choice is getting rid of the ball early or taking sacks or throwing into traffic, then I will take the safe play. Again, sir, read Neyland's number one maxim.

The offensive line was indeed a proven commodity. If you honestly think that they didn't provide any protection and Ainge got rid of it early on every single pass, then I can't help you. You know as well as I do the truth is somewhere in the middle. I wrote earlier in these comments I wasn't completely willing to excuse the offensive line against UCLA, but the fact remains we know they are capable of decent pass protection. It's largely the same line as last year.

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