Quarterback competition is 'extremely close'

Kiffin says choice won't be easy with one scrimmage left

Tennessee quarterback Jonathan Crompton, center, listens to instructions with quarterback Nick Stephens looking on during a time out
against Florida at Neyland Stadium on Sept. 20.

Photo by Michael Patrick

Tennessee quarterback Jonathan Crompton, center, listens to instructions with quarterback Nick Stephens looking on during a time out against Florida at Neyland Stadium on Sept. 20.

Head Coach Lane Kiffin with quarterback Nick Stephens during the first day of fall practice at the Haslam Field on the University of Tennessee campus on Tuesday.

Photo by Amy Smotherman Burgess

Head Coach Lane Kiffin with quarterback Nick Stephens during the first day of fall practice at the Haslam Field on the University of Tennessee campus on Tuesday.

After two weeks of practice and two scrimmages, first-year coach Lane Kiffin doesn't sound close to naming Tennessee's starting quarterback.

In fact, the only context in which the word "close" was used Monday was in describing the ongoing battle between Jonathan Crompton and Nick Stephens.

"It's extremely close,'' Kiffin said after Monday's practice at Haslem Field.

"They're grading out very close so it's good to see.''

Each started six games last season. Crompton edged ahead in the spring when Stephens was limited by a hand injury.

Crompton still gets most of the work with the No. 1 offense, both in practice and scrimmages. Kiffin, however, is staying on message that All-America safety Eric Berry is the only player who has nailed down a starting job.

Crompton had better numbers in last Saturday's scrimmage but after grading the videotape Kiffin cut Stephens some slack.

"Nick was very unfortunate with the number of (dropped passes),'' Kiffin said, "some plays that would have been very big third-down conversions.

"We had two third-down penalties so it was a group thing of guys not doing right which affected the quarterbacks.''

On the practice field Monday, both quarterbacks were intercepted once.

Cornerback Eric Gordon beat Nu'Keese Richardson for a Stephens pass.

Crompton threw one pass that linebacker Savion Frazier dropped. But moments later he rolled out of pressure and threw an interception to Dennis Rogan.

"He has not made many really big mistakes,'' Kiffin said of Crompton. "He had one today and that was unfortunate.

"We had been avoiding those decisions so that's one to learn from and make sure it's out of our system by the time we play.''

Crompton also threw a perfect strike for a 60-yard touchdown to Richardson.

The senior deflected a question about how he graded his scrimmage performance on Saturday.

"It's more about the team instead of individuals,'' he said.

Crompton said he is seeing the field better than at any point in his career:

"I've got to give the credit to Coach Kiffin and (quarterbacks) Coach (David) Reaves for showing me, 'Think this versus this.'

"It's really good to learn under them and it's really fun to play with our guys because they're going to be where I know they're going to be.''

Kiffin doesn't appear to mind that the competition remains neck-and-neck with only one more full-fledged scrimmage before the Sept. 5 opener.

"I know that you (media) guys want it to be easy and you'd think I want it to be easy,'' he said.

"But if it was easy that would mean one guy wasn't playing well. If that was the case we wouldn't be very good because you never know when you're going to need your number two.

"So I'm excited that they're both playing well.''

Kiffin wasn't exactly excited about the offense in the last scrimmage. But after reviewing the video he didn't feel as disappointed as he had initially.

"(Immediately) Afterwards I thought offensively we really got beat physically and mentally,'' he said.

"After watching the film it was not really a physical issue. The guys were playing with good effort. It was mental.

"It was the first time we'd gone out and had that many penalties and a bunch of missed assignments. There were three times as many missed assignments as the Saturday before.''

Strong Finish: The squad sent the boss off the practice field happy after a hot, physical session Monday.

Both the first and second offenses were successful in a kill-the-clock drill. The first offense scored on several nice Montario Hardesty runs. The second offense got a long run from Tauren Poole and ended with Stephens in the victory formation.

"Just like when a game comes to an end, you've got to do things when you're really tired in the fourth quarter,'' Kiffin said. "It was a good lesson for our defense and good to see from our offense.''

Freshman back David Oku and defensive tackle Andre Mathis showed spirit when they scuffled after a collision. Both were sent on a lap around the field.

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Comments » 65

TSNSD4UT writes:

Will someone please step up we need a leader.

Halls3 writes:

I doubt it neither QB is worth a darn I don't care what anybody says. I've seen a scrimmage and Stephens looks worse & Crompton is about the same.

Vols033 writes:

Crompton will start and he will have a great season. No I am not smoking crack. A bad offensive system will make any number of players look bad, but most football fans only see the obvious and since the qb has the ball every play, they blame him. I know Crompton had some obvious mistakes like fumbled hanoffs and such, but all of that stuff should've been corrected by our coaching staff last year during practice, but it wasn't. So once again, Crompton will have a great year this year, mark my word.

TonyGeist writes:

in response to Halls3:

I doubt it neither QB is worth a darn I don't care what anybody says. I've seen a scrimmage and Stephens looks worse & Crompton is about the same.

When you're out there at practice everyday watching both quarterbacks play, THEN you can make a judgment call.

jsm67vol writes:

The INTs are still a big concern, but I'm glad the competition is still close. I disagree that neither is worth a darn. They may not be up to what we expect at UT but at least they are having to learn full-speed with no green jersey. This will only help them in games. I don't know how many defenses they will face this year that are faster than our secondary. My guess would be 2-3 at most. So if I keep trying to see the bright spot at QB, maybe most of the defenses we face wont get the INTs that our D is getting. Hope springs eternal, lol!!! Go Vols!!

graphpro#231211 writes:

The quarterback position was really thrown under the bus with the last 6 years of decision making by you know who. It will take some time to get it above average.

Until then, we can only hope that the staff makes the play calling idiot proof.

Also, tons of pressure on the new playmakers to pick up the slack or lack of a talented and smart quarterback.

It is refreshing to know there are difference makers on offense. It's been so long since we had that caliber of player (aka Nukese, Oku, and Brown). Also, a healthy Hardesty.

THE ONLY WAY TO GO IS UP, UP, UP....

PlaidinOrangeandWhite writes:

The good thing is that we still have over two & a half weeks to go before the first game and then we have a tune up against Western Kentucky. This gives our starting QB ample time to be prepared for UCLA. I don't think Kiffin will ask to much out of the QB's. They will have to make some throws to keep the defense honest but that is it hopefully.

chestnutglade writes:

Crompton threw one pass that linebacker Savion Frazier dropped. But moments later he rolled out of pressure and threw an interception to Dennis Rogan. Enough said.He is really seeing the field better.

volcycle writes:

Judging by the comments, I think I missed something. I thought Kiffin said both quarterbacks were playing well. He's the coach. I trust HIS assessment...

chad_t31 writes:

"extremely close"

Not sure if this is a good thing or cause for grave concern. One poster said we have two and a half weeks and that's a good thing. Not so sure. These two have had all spring and summer to distance themself from the other. Time for someone to step up and take it.

gcscvol writes:

in response to Halls3:

I doubt it neither QB is worth a darn I don't care what anybody says. I've seen a scrimmage and Stephens looks worse & Crompton is about the same.

We sure are wasting a lot of money on coaches when we have a hero like you who can give us so much more info without even being there.

Halls3 writes:

in response to gcscvol:

We sure are wasting a lot of money on coaches when we have a hero like you who can give us so much more info without even being there.

When you've actually gone to a scrimmage and seen the QB play you may then criticize my assessment.

buxavol writes:

in response to TonyGeist:

When you're out there at practice everyday watching both quarterbacks play, THEN you can make a judgment call.

Kiffen has repeatedly said he's going to protect his QB's. He "has their backs". With that understanding, I'm not sure he's as pleased with them as he presents.
You're correct, none of us are at the practices, so all we know is what someone else-coach or media observer-allows us to know. However, it seems I hear the word "interception" as much this fall as I did last fall.
WE will know, probably by the conclusion of the UCLA game, just how good or bad we are at the QB position.

buxavol writes:

in response to buxavol:

Kiffen has repeatedly said he's going to protect his QB's. He "has their backs". With that understanding, I'm not sure he's as pleased with them as he presents.
You're correct, none of us are at the practices, so all we know is what someone else-coach or media observer-allows us to know. However, it seems I hear the word "interception" as much this fall as I did last fall.
WE will know, probably by the conclusion of the UCLA game, just how good or bad we are at the QB position.

Kiffin-not "Kiffen has repeatedly"-give me a break, it's late...

RespectTradition writes:

We'll all know come gameday. Go Vols!

FWBVol writes:

If Kiffin is pleased who are all of the armchair coaches to doubt him? Do any of you really know what Kiffin is looking for in a quarterback as opposed to what you think a QB should be?

pdhuff#552644 writes:

We should roll big in this opener.

I'm talking 65-9 territory. One betting service had WKU as the 120th rated team in D-1.

Geezsus.

DennisVols writes:

Int's are going to happen, plain and simple. The key will be limiting them along with other turnovers that killed this team last year.
Right now our defense has a slight advantage that our opponents won't have this year. They KNOW the offensive plays.
"So I'm excited that they're both playing well.''
That came from Kiffin, who by the way,has yet to hesitate calling a player out who was not preforming up to expectations.
I know many of us are nervous following last years results, but we have to keep telling ourselves: This is not last year, this is not a Fulmer coached team, this is not the claw(less)fense.
It will be better, how much we won't know until the final snap of the season. Following last years fallout the biggest thing I felt Kiffin had to address was player confidence. They never had confidence in coach Clawson's system and by the end of the year had lost all confidence in themselves. I have seen many stories regarding the in-fighting that was taking place amoung the players, the lack of leadership from top to bottom that failed to take responsibility or accountability lead to the worst season most of us can remember (not just the record).
What we have seen since Kiffin accepted the position is a coach that has pushed this team, installed competition, and practiced at a much higher level both mentally & physically. Seperating the boys from the men.
It will take more than this year to get UT back to where the real fans want them to be.
The best thing we can do is support whoever starts at whatever position. Face it the choices are few at many positions as far as depth. Don't get suckered in to the name calling, booing, death threat stupidity our opponents want us to do. It only helps them out and is of no benefit to our university or our team.
Keeping it Real
Go Vols!!!

RockinTop writes:

I figure CLK is still getting into the heads of Gators....it's obvious he's in some of these poster's heads....so I figure it's all good...

Go Big Orange!

madcountyvol writes:

in response to BolivarBob:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

yeah you better get another bull... thats a trip

elainesguyisanidiot writes:

in response to BolivarBob:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I want to find the last four feet of an alligator and take it to a bbq.

xvolx writes:

Everything has to work together. the off. line has to block. The receivers have to run correct routes. The qb has to make good reads and good throws. It's a team. With some of these fans, UT doesn't need any enemies.

madcountyvol writes:

vols 49 wk 0

madcountyvol writes:

Can you castrate an alligator?

elainesguyisanidiot writes:

in response to DennisVols:

Int's are going to happen, plain and simple. The key will be limiting them along with other turnovers that killed this team last year.
Right now our defense has a slight advantage that our opponents won't have this year. They KNOW the offensive plays.
"So I'm excited that they're both playing well.''
That came from Kiffin, who by the way,has yet to hesitate calling a player out who was not preforming up to expectations.
I know many of us are nervous following last years results, but we have to keep telling ourselves: This is not last year, this is not a Fulmer coached team, this is not the claw(less)fense.
It will be better, how much we won't know until the final snap of the season. Following last years fallout the biggest thing I felt Kiffin had to address was player confidence. They never had confidence in coach Clawson's system and by the end of the year had lost all confidence in themselves. I have seen many stories regarding the in-fighting that was taking place amoung the players, the lack of leadership from top to bottom that failed to take responsibility or accountability lead to the worst season most of us can remember (not just the record).
What we have seen since Kiffin accepted the position is a coach that has pushed this team, installed competition, and practiced at a much higher level both mentally & physically. Seperating the boys from the men.
It will take more than this year to get UT back to where the real fans want them to be.
The best thing we can do is support whoever starts at whatever position. Face it the choices are few at many positions as far as depth. Don't get suckered in to the name calling, booing, death threat stupidity our opponents want us to do. It only helps them out and is of no benefit to our university or our team.
Keeping it Real
Go Vols!!!

In the words of the late, great 'Smokey' Robinson, "I second that emotion!".

PoochPuntOn3rdDown writes:

If any of you are on twitter and want to follow someone that gets the info on practice that you want to hear, follow @wesrucker.

If you're not on twitter, it would behoove you to join and follow this guy. He gets it done...

elainesguyisanidiot writes:

in response to PoochPuntOn3rdDown:

If any of you are on twitter and want to follow someone that gets the info on practice that you want to hear, follow @wesrucker.

If you're not on twitter, it would behoove you to join and follow this guy. He gets it done...

It didn't work out well the last time I tried that stuff. Seems I twatted when I tried to twit.

OhioVol3 writes:

Let's call a spade a spade...these QB's don't inspire a lot of confidence. If they don't scare the sh!% out of you, they should.

madcountyvol writes:

in response to OhioVol3:

Let's call a spade a spade...these QB's don't inspire a lot of confidence. If they don't scare the sh!% out of you, they should.

Okay man your're a the deuce.

elainesguyisanidiot writes:

in response to Witch_Doctor:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I enjoy all your posts, your humor is priceless. Most of your insights I think are TDC.
However, I do not think that Coach Kiffin is looking for any reason to start young Mr Stephens. He will do that simply because he is the better quarterback. What our young coach is looking for is any way he can find to keep young Mr. Cromptons' head in the game as long as he can.

elainesguyisanidiot writes:

in response to BolivarBob:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Sage advice indeed. I put it right up there with 'Don't do anything untill you have too (that way you may not have too}.'

SeaBass writes:

in response to elainesguyisanidiot:

I enjoy all your posts, your humor is priceless. Most of your insights I think are TDC.
However, I do not think that Coach Kiffin is looking for any reason to start young Mr Stephens. He will do that simply because he is the better quarterback. What our young coach is looking for is any way he can find to keep young Mr. Cromptons' head in the game as long as he can.

i stated in another thread that who you see now starting the first game may not be our starter for the year.i think you will see both no matter who starts and it will still be close going into the UCLA game time until the starter for the year is crowned.i think that this is the way it will get played out to give stephens a fair shot at winning the starting position.in the end i feel that stephens will win the job.now,this is just my feeling on the matter.

SeaBass writes:

in response to Witch_Doctor:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

ditto.read my above post how i see that it's played out and what i feel comes of it.your bones are on to something in my opinion.hahaha

madcountyvol writes:

I think the whole mindset of this team is almost about a 360 as you can get from last year. CLK, the new staff, and the new recruits has fired up this team and the vol nation to where it should be! I can't wait for this year and like I said before this team is going to upset some folks! GO BIG ORANGE and I'm sorry WK.

elainesguyisanidiot writes:

in response to SeaBass:

i stated in another thread that who you see now starting the first game may not be our starter for the year.i think you will see both no matter who starts and it will still be close going into the UCLA game time until the starter for the year is crowned.i think that this is the way it will get played out to give stephens a fair shot at winning the starting position.in the end i feel that stephens will win the job.now,this is just my feeling on the matter.

I have read many of your posts and share (to a point) some of your concerns. I was serious when I wrote that young C.L.K. is trying desperatly to keep young MR.Crompton from folding his tent. J.C. may well start the opener for that very purpose. However, N.S. is the better qb and will be in the line-up before the end of the first half against W.K.
If I am wrong, you can kick my rear.
It will be located @ Kneyland Stadium,sec.MM,row 18,seat #1, on 9/5.

UTahVOL writes:

in response to Vols033:

Crompton will start and he will have a great season. No I am not smoking crack. A bad offensive system will make any number of players look bad, but most football fans only see the obvious and since the qb has the ball every play, they blame him. I know Crompton had some obvious mistakes like fumbled hanoffs and such, but all of that stuff should've been corrected by our coaching staff last year during practice, but it wasn't. So once again, Crompton will have a great year this year, mark my word.

crompton, o line, recievers, special teams, all had a terrible year last year. Yes, that is on coaching.

GO VOLS!!!

TWhite11 writes:

I think some of you guys will be very suprised, when you see how much better a quarterback can be under better coaching.

madcountyvol writes:

in response to elainesguyisanidiot:

I have read many of your posts and share (to a point) some of your concerns. I was serious when I wrote that young C.L.K. is trying desperatly to keep young MR.Crompton from folding his tent. J.C. may well start the opener for that very purpose. However, N.S. is the better qb and will be in the line-up before the end of the first half against W.K.
If I am wrong, you can kick my rear.
It will be located @ Kneyland Stadium,sec.MM,row 18,seat #1, on 9/5.

As crazy as it sounds I still think JC is the better QB. IMO he is the better athlete and will gain the confidence he needs to lead this team. He doesn,t need to do much, just control the ball and make a pass when he needs to. The defense of this team is going to make it very difficult on every opponent. GBO!!

SeaBass writes:

in response to elainesguyisanidiot:

I have read many of your posts and share (to a point) some of your concerns. I was serious when I wrote that young C.L.K. is trying desperatly to keep young MR.Crompton from folding his tent. J.C. may well start the opener for that very purpose. However, N.S. is the better qb and will be in the line-up before the end of the first half against W.K.
If I am wrong, you can kick my rear.
It will be located @ Kneyland Stadium,sec.MM,row 18,seat #1, on 9/5.

agreed,no kick in the rear needed.hope that my post doesn't offend you or anyone else.it's a great thing to have isn't it[an opinion].i really think that it could come down to being that way because of the current situation and the first game that we play against.not a season ticket holder now as i once was years back and i nearly found myself buying into the new expansion[club seats],but now with a new career and business things change a little bit with my priorities

elainesguyisanidiot writes:

in response to madcountyvol:

As crazy as it sounds I still think JC is the better QB. IMO he is the better athlete and will gain the confidence he needs to lead this team. He doesn,t need to do much, just control the ball and make a pass when he needs to. The defense of this team is going to make it very difficult on every opponent. GBO!!

I agree when you say that J.C. is the best athlete. However, I do not think he is the best qb.
I don't believe C.L.K. thinks so either.
Point in case:
Nick Stevens stated openly that he had a bad practice, had not thrown well, and would do better.
After young Mr. Crompton was questioned about a bad day, he said it was more about a team effort.
Coach K. will not throw a Vol under the bus, but I don't think he will sacrifice an entire unite for the sake of 1 lost cause either.

Slimjim_Vols writes:

Has nobody else noticed that both QBs aren't exactly playing bad and are going against one of the top Ds in the country everyday?

IMO I think we will be fine and that these QBs will get the job done.

I know the year we had last year raises the brows in question on what these QBs can do, but look at the 3 big teams who had players to run a pro-style offense but instead ran the spread last year..... Tennessee, Auburn, and Michigan. I dont think we can shrug these QBs off for what happened last year as nobody on the offense got "It". I mean look at the O-Line who pretty much returned everyone from a 4 sack season the year before to what happened last year.

IMO Kiffin has a trick up his sleeve that he isn't letting out. We have all seen a UT QB have a bad season the year before, just to get better coaching and a vote of confidence the following year and lead the team epically. Remember Ainge from 05-06. I say if UT burys WKY and UCLA, the QBs will have the confidence to beat FLA and then things will become very interesting in the NCAA.

This team is classic for doing their best when not given a chance, 06 nobody thought they would be as good as they were coming off the 05 season and look what happened, and for a classic case, look at 98 when everyone said Tennessee was going to be just another team with Peyton gone. I think that EB will lead this team the way Al Wilson used to do and "WE WILL BE SINGING ROCKY TOP ALL NIGHT LONG!"

volfan2002 writes:

The Quarterback that wins the job will be on a short leash. Really no doubt in my mind that we will again see both QB's start and also play a lot. I expect Crompton to get the call for Western Kentucky and he will have to play well from that game on to hold the job.

PennVol writes:

Sounds like we might be in for Hardesty left, Brown right, Oku up the middle...Repeat.

I think either QB is fairly capable provided they can stop making stupid mistakes. But it's sad that taking the sack instead of throwing the INT distances you from the other guy.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to DennisVols:

Int's are going to happen, plain and simple. The key will be limiting them along with other turnovers that killed this team last year.
Right now our defense has a slight advantage that our opponents won't have this year. They KNOW the offensive plays.
"So I'm excited that they're both playing well.''
That came from Kiffin, who by the way,has yet to hesitate calling a player out who was not preforming up to expectations.
I know many of us are nervous following last years results, but we have to keep telling ourselves: This is not last year, this is not a Fulmer coached team, this is not the claw(less)fense.
It will be better, how much we won't know until the final snap of the season. Following last years fallout the biggest thing I felt Kiffin had to address was player confidence. They never had confidence in coach Clawson's system and by the end of the year had lost all confidence in themselves. I have seen many stories regarding the in-fighting that was taking place amoung the players, the lack of leadership from top to bottom that failed to take responsibility or accountability lead to the worst season most of us can remember (not just the record).
What we have seen since Kiffin accepted the position is a coach that has pushed this team, installed competition, and practiced at a much higher level both mentally & physically. Seperating the boys from the men.
It will take more than this year to get UT back to where the real fans want them to be.
The best thing we can do is support whoever starts at whatever position. Face it the choices are few at many positions as far as depth. Don't get suckered in to the name calling, booing, death threat stupidity our opponents want us to do. It only helps them out and is of no benefit to our university or our team.
Keeping it Real
Go Vols!!!

Good post! Agree with all! Tough as it may be for the die-hards, we MUST show patience with this staff and team. I'm afraid some of those predicting double-digit wins this year are setting themselves up for bitter disappointment, which they will then take out on the team. This year and next we will have to be satisfied with improvements in spirit, hustle, execution, and competitiveness. After another recruiting class or two, we will be right there with the big boys. We just need to, uh, er, stay the course(;-P)!

johnlg00 writes:

in response to madcountyvol:

I think the whole mindset of this team is almost about a 360 as you can get from last year. CLK, the new staff, and the new recruits has fired up this team and the vol nation to where it should be! I can't wait for this year and like I said before this team is going to upset some folks! GO BIG ORANGE and I'm sorry WK.

I hope they have made a 180; doing a 360 means that one spins completely around and winds up heading in the same direction as before, only dizzier(;-P)!

sampears writes:

in response to Witch_Doctor:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Man, I hope you are right, doctor...: P

gnm53108 writes:

in response to Witch_Doctor:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

gnm agree with doctor.

GainesvilleVol1 writes:

I think we are looking at a two qb system for the opening game. Eventually one will have to assume the leadership role. I think Stephens is the best chance for us to succeed this and next year. Not throwing bones at Crompton, but just my opinion.

GO VOLS!!

GreerVol22 writes:

We know how about 20% of the crowd will react but the bigger question is how Crompton will react, not if, but when he completes that first bounce pass....I know Kiffin has him in rehab but the mind is a terrible thing and JC might be quick for the clipboard. Stephens...you have 2 weeks....don't waist it.

PennVol writes:

in response to FreeTDTN:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Too funny! I can see referee Steve Shaw now:

"The ruling on the field was that the ball bounced twice, therefore it was ruled an incomplete pass. The play is under review."

"After further review, video evidence confirms the ball bounced only once. The call is reversed, the result of the play is a Tennessee touchdown."

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