Scrimmage is likely crucial for Stephens

Trip down memory lane with the Geralds

Saturday, Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin promised, will be "a gigantic day for everybody.''

Nobody knows that better than Nick Stephens, who is battling Jonathan Crompton to be named starting quarterback for the Sept. 5 opener.

Saturday will be a game-simulation scrimmage, from the Vol Walk to the locker-room music to the football played between the opening kickoff and the final horn.

"This is the last chance to go out there and show the coaches what you can do,'' Stephens said Thursday after a full-contact practice.

That's because the Vols' final scrimmage (Aug. 29) will be more of a walk-through and special-teams drill. Saturday is full speed and the most important of UT's four preseason scrimmages, Kiffin said.

Once upon a time, such a pressurized scenario might have made Stephens tense up and prone to try to do too much to impress the coaches. That was especially true at the start of fall camp considering he had missed most of spring practice due to an injury.

But not any more, he said. Beginning with last week's scrimmage, Stephens said he has had a mental breakthrough.

His mantra: relax.

"I think at the beginning I was pressing and trying to make too much happen,'' he said. "I realize that's not going to win me this job.

"Winning the job is showing that I know when the deep ball is not there you check it down and that's what I've done the past week and I feel good about it.

"I've just been relaxed in my mind. I've been playing football a long time. Just let it come.''

He's seen the benefits of his peace of mind this week in practice:

"I think I've done a pretty good job of minimizing mistakes and at the same time I think I've been making plays. ... That's what the quarterback position is all about.''

Kiffin expects to name a starter shortly after grading the scrimmage. That translates into early next week.

To get a true evaluation - not just at quarterback but all positions - Kiffin said the staff has pulled back on installing new portions of the offense.

"We want there to be no excuses for an evaluation,'' he said. "We don't want to have a better kid and not give him a shot because we've installed stuff, especially the young guys.''

The coaches on Saturday will be divided between the field and the press box. And Kiffin will be on the sideline, not in the huddle.

"The (quarterbacks) are going to have to manage the huddle and manage the offense,'' he said, "and that will be a challenge for them.''

Cast Away: Receiver Gerald Jones looks forward to the day he'll play without a cast on his left wrist.

He began camp with a hard cast to protect his wrist surgery and has since transitioned to a soft cast that he wears only at practice.

"Even though it's slowed me down,'' Jones said, "it's actually helped me out a lot with my fundamentals ... like looking the ball in.''

Jones has become adept at some impressive one-handed catches.

Injury Report: Thursday's personnel was pretty much the same as Tuesday, prior to the day off. Josh McNeil and Wes Brown worked with the No. 1 offensive and defensive lines, respectively.

Hardesty Ahead: Kiffin confirmed senior Montario Hardesty is the No. 1 tailback. As for sophomore Tauren Poole and freshmen David Oku and Bryce Brown?

"We need to see this Saturday before we can figure that out,'' Kiffin said. "But it's not like there is a big difference. They're right on Hardesty's tail.''

Vol Calls Coming: The "Vol Calls'' radio show returns Monday at 8 p.m. for a 36-week run through April.

Kiffin will be available on the one-hour show originating from Texas Roadhouse beside West Town Mall.

The show can be heard on the 70-plus stations of the Vol Network.

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Comments » 82

smashmouth98 writes:

I can't wait to see how RB battle shakes out!!

mdvol writes:

Is it open to the public?

Greer_Vol_22 writes:

When he's healthy Montario ran harder than anyone so these backups much be really good! And may the best QB play!

mdvol writes:

in response to Witch_Doctor:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I think the bones are wrong this time, WD. Look for JC to take the first snap against WKU.

NeylandLives writes:

"The (quarterbacks) are going to have to manage the huddle and manage the offense,'' he said, "and that will be a challenge for them.''

It will be interesting to see if either of them "tense up" like they both had a tendency to do last year when the training wheels come off and the pressure comes on. GO VOLS!!!!

vol_chaz writes:

both qb's started 6 games last year. Its really a toss up. Montario is our starter, but he's yet to stay healthy. Rb's, keep your helmet strapped..

thevoice writes:

in response to Navalorange:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I find it interesting only JC has scrimmaged with the first team, at least as far as I know.

RockyTop_Tampa2 writes:

I just hope one of them steps up and takes it. They dont have to be second coming of Peyton, just dont make mistakes and give the games away. Be really good at handing off to the playmakers and throw a few to keep D's honest.

voltan writes:

Sounds like NS has finaly got it. Let it come to him. Take whats there. Avoid mistakes. Manage the game. Be consistant. That goes for you too JC. For those of you who can't forget last yr., I feel your pain, but lets support both of these guys. We need them both. May the best man win the starting job. Go Vols and Titans so says Voltan

balloonman writes:

Grade the scrimage?.....you mean superman needs to look at the film?......nah....he'll name the starter from the huddle saturday!

volcycle writes:

Crompton will start. He has a lot more going for him. If you go back to his freshman year, he showed incredible composure against LSU in a offensive system that was more like our current one and not like the complicated one of last year. Stephens may have finally figured it out, but he will need more time for that to be his permanent mantra. This will be interesting to watch!! Go Vols!!!

QB_10 (Inactive) writes:

Nick: i commend you for your ability to fight, scratch and claw your way back from an unfortunate hand injury in the spring- your fight to not give up, i want to see #17 lead this team for the next 26 games...Now this is what you have waited for a true fair shot-Now go earn it and take it--and keep getting better--
I must agree with the Witch Doctor his Bones never Lie

AceVentura writes:

in response to Witch_Doctor:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Crompton has a way better arm than Stephens. Also I hate Ray Finkle

douglasawilliams#582863 writes:

in response to Navalorange:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

That's the problem, neither qb is a clear cut starter. Even CPF didn't like to rotate qb's but in 2005, Ainge wasn't playing well in preseason and early games and in comes Rick Clausen to stir the pot (especially when he got benched). With the right mentor(Cutclife), Ainge did develop into a decent qb. Like it or not both qb's will play this season I'm afraid. A reporter from SI wasn't impressed with either qb at a scrimmage and maybe that's an unbiased opinion that's realistic. It would be great to already have our qb set but CLK did say its all about competing for the starting role. We all watched both play last season and it really wasn't a good performance for either qb. If we didn't lead the nation in 3 and outs we had to be close. Something tells me Crompton has more God given talent but he is a choke artist. Too many bobbled snaps and handoffs for me to think he could lead UT on a must have drive to win. Because of the pathetic fan who gave him a death threat last season I hope he proves me wrong (and most UT fans). The sad fact of both qb's is that between them last season they threw more interceptions than TD passes. Enough of this GO VOLS!!!!

bluetick writes:

If Crompton begins throwing off of his back foot again and throwing high this year I think I am going to go postal! I wish there was a coach there that could help them with their form more. ( like I'm a pro or something, lol)....just an observation I had from last season, that's all.

givehim6 writes:

Can't wait to see Jones catch a one handed TD!

xvolx writes:

in response to mdvol:

I think the bones are wrong this time, WD. Look for JC to take the first snap against WKU.

this bones thing is getting really old. Crompton will start.

UCFgradVOLatHEART writes:

What happened to Rozier. I read he left the program. Does anyone know why?

thevoice writes:

in response to UCFgradVOLatHEART:

What happened to Rozier. I read he left the program. Does anyone know why?

I heard herpes.

jbc writes:

I think Stephens was noticeably better last fall. He got a very quick hook when he made a mistake. From what I saw last fall he also had the better arm. There was some issue with Stephens besides his play was my impression.

tnqball writes:

Stephens had a problem of really getting on his receivers last year. They were fighting on the sidelines. He was pulled from a game because of that reason. JC will probably get the starting nod just because the receivers would probably rally around him better. Hopefully Stephens learned something from that.

GR82BaTennesseeVOL writes:

in response to xvolx:

this bones thing is getting really old. Crompton will start.

I disagree...that the "bones thing is getting really old." Classics never get old, and Witch_Doctor's posts and Bones are Classics!

utmichael20#546617 writes:

Vote for Neyland Stadium on USA TODAY.com
http://www.usatoday.com/travel/destin...

elainesguyisanidiot writes:

in response to givehim6:

Can't wait to see Jones catch a one handed TD!

A one handed catch can be a beautiful thing.
I'm more into substance than style myself and if he catches it with his feet or his face mask, a td catch is still six points.

footballfan writes:

I don't care which QB starts, as long as he can do what is asked of him I am happy. However, it is a bit odd to read the comments of Stephens these last 6 months. Everything has been about what he is doing and what he feels like and what he needs to do have success. He doesn't often mention himself in conjunction with the team but apart as a separate individual. I cannot say what the reasoning is behind that or if it bothers anyone else. But it seems to me that a team leader should be doing more talking about his performance in addition to that of the rest of the team as opposed to things seemingly being just about him. It gives off that air that maybe he is more concerned about himself than the team. True or not, I wish he would have more to say about what his teammates can do to help him than what he can do to help himself. At any rate, get the best one on the field and let that be that.

pdhuff#552644 writes:

After last season, a good game from a QB would be a beautiful thang.

Just bring it!

dvhill100 writes:

I don't care which one LK picks. I believe he'll pick the better one, based on physical abilities and the mental intangibles that make an average QB a very good to great one. LK has no vested interest in either one except for winning games. All else is a distant, secondary concern.

While neither QB was fully functional last year, it was last year with a different staff and scheme. Sit back, let the coaches do their job, and we can grade them on the only place it really matters, the playing field. Should be a very fun and entertaining year, not necessarily a successful one in wins and losses.

iowavol writes:

Both QBs have to come a long way for us to be mediocre at that position. Clearly they have physical talent but the mental part was just not there. And with Kiffin saying managing the huddle will be a challenge for them tells me they are still not there. IF and it's a big IF, we could just manage the center and running back exchanges without any errors it would be a huge improvement. Now isn't that a sad testament.

GainesvilleVol1 writes:

in response to Witch_Doctor:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I think Crompton will start, just because he's had more reps with the first team offense. I still say we will have a two qb system, at least for the first two, or (gasp!) three games. It will take real game situtations, not scrimmages to really show who is most ready. Hopefully, both! No disrespect to the bones intended.

GO VOLS!!

Coach_Joe writes:

in response to xvolx:

this bones thing is getting really old. Crompton will start.

Dude, It's just a post that hasn't bashed or said anything negative toward you or anyone else.

GET OVER IT!

PennVol writes:

Maybe Kiffin is just seeing how Cromptom reacts to the pressure of saying the starter is based on the scrimmage. If he throws 1-2 pics and some one hoppers, I think Stephens will be the guy. Stephens definitely handled the pressure better last year (IMO).

QB_10 (Inactive) writes:

Volunteers break the huddle, Richardson spreadout wide, Moore on the short side, Stephens in the shotgun, the O line is doing a good job giving Nick time...Stephens sees Richardson, he's going deep, great route by the freshman and a perfect strike into the hands, what a great way to dance on the checkerboard..Stephens is just playing with so much confidence....it is great to see this Tennessee offense really gel, who knows maybe an 8 win season is on the horizon

Good Luck Nick go win the job you won last year in the spring and fall

1974Vol writes:

Crompton starts WKU game, both QB's play. Real starter will be who takes first snap in UCLA game.

1974Vol writes:

in response to chuck0303#1342365:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

We talk about OL or QB or WR play as if it were an independent element of the game. They are not. It’s all integrated and interdependent. The '07 OL gave up 4 sacks all year..in '08 that looked like the per game average; receivers ran the wrong routes; QB's threw to the wrong spots. Because the "O" never got confident in what they were doing no one ever really got into the flow and turned it loose. The best the "O" looked all last year was last 2 games against Vandy & KY and that was because they went back to pre-Clawsen stuff. I know we haven't run a play yet but I just believe the "O's" performance will be a total 180 from last year; not because of QB, WR, or OL play, but because the team will be going full speed because they won't be thinking about what they are doing. You can't think and perform at the same time. You review your assignment on the way from the huddle to the line of scrimmage, but once the balls snapped its all sub-conscious mind or you get beat.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to footballfan:

I don't care which QB starts, as long as he can do what is asked of him I am happy. However, it is a bit odd to read the comments of Stephens these last 6 months. Everything has been about what he is doing and what he feels like and what he needs to do have success. He doesn't often mention himself in conjunction with the team but apart as a separate individual. I cannot say what the reasoning is behind that or if it bothers anyone else. But it seems to me that a team leader should be doing more talking about his performance in addition to that of the rest of the team as opposed to things seemingly being just about him. It gives off that air that maybe he is more concerned about himself than the team. True or not, I wish he would have more to say about what his teammates can do to help him than what he can do to help himself. At any rate, get the best one on the field and let that be that.

I see what you're saying, but it may just be that he is being asked how he thinks he is doing, not what he thinks about the team. A secure #1 QB can and should talk about the rest of the team, but Stephens is still fighting for the job. There is some history suggesting that he is a bit too uptight and self-involved, as another poster noted, but maybe he has improved on that as he stated in the article. On that basis, I also agree with another poster who said that there is more than just individual talent that goes into making a starting QB.

rockytopatl writes:

in response to GR82BaTennesseeVOL:

I disagree...that the "bones thing is getting really old." Classics never get old, and Witch_Doctor's posts and Bones are Classics!

Agreed. The Doc and his posts rule. Always good for a smile and sometimes a LOL.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to 1974Vol:

We talk about OL or QB or WR play as if it were an independent element of the game. They are not. It’s all integrated and interdependent. The '07 OL gave up 4 sacks all year..in '08 that looked like the per game average; receivers ran the wrong routes; QB's threw to the wrong spots. Because the "O" never got confident in what they were doing no one ever really got into the flow and turned it loose. The best the "O" looked all last year was last 2 games against Vandy & KY and that was because they went back to pre-Clawsen stuff. I know we haven't run a play yet but I just believe the "O's" performance will be a total 180 from last year; not because of QB, WR, or OL play, but because the team will be going full speed because they won't be thinking about what they are doing. You can't think and perform at the same time. You review your assignment on the way from the huddle to the line of scrimmage, but once the balls snapped its all sub-conscious mind or you get beat.

Excellent post. You and Chuck both made some good points. I think some people underestimate how the simple reduction of unforced errors can make a world of difference in offensive efficiency. We may not be flashy on offense this year but we can hardly help being more effective.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to BolivarBob:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Thanks again for turning us on to Wes Rucker! He is clearly an outstanding writer and reporter.

VolunTampa writes:

in response to HomesickVol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Agreed, Witch Doctor, is the man. Keep reading those bones and keep the insightful posts coming. GBO!

VolFanNC writes:

In reality my preference would have been that Stephens outshine crompton in a big way, so that I know we have a QB for next season as well., but unless Crompton really sucks in the scrimmage, he will start against WKU. Stephens will get reps late in the 3rd and 4th quarter after the game is out of reach.

Again, unless Crompton really sucks against WKU, he will start against UCLA. It is really the UCLA game that will determine the rest of the season.

The good part about all these physical scrimmages and practices is that we shouldn't worry as much about fumbles and turnovers in the beginning. Hopefully that is the case.

We'll find out in 2 more weeks!!

footballfan writes:

in response to johnlg00:

I see what you're saying, but it may just be that he is being asked how he thinks he is doing, not what he thinks about the team. A secure #1 QB can and should talk about the rest of the team, but Stephens is still fighting for the job. There is some history suggesting that he is a bit too uptight and self-involved, as another poster noted, but maybe he has improved on that as he stated in the article. On that basis, I also agree with another poster who said that there is more than just individual talent that goes into making a starting QB.

I had considered the idea that a lot of what Stephens says is a result of the questions he is being asked. Certainly, that would make some of his comments an easier pill to swallow. Unfortunately, what the facts may be tend to get overshadowed by what is perceived to be the truth. Again, I really don't care about who plays, so long as they have the team behind them and can do the things needed to make this team successful. On another note, I am really anxious to see what each QB has learned from this new staff once the season kicks off. Trying to read an article online or comments from people that have been to practices has gotten downright painful. Seems two people watch the same practice and come back with two different view points based on their bias (intentional or not) as to who the better QB of the day was. I am excited to put opinions behind and let the pads do the talking. Lastly, the BB suspension issue is absolutely ridiculous. Regardless of innocence or guilt, a 1 game suspension doesn't teach anyone anything. Either punish the kid for something he did wrong (which it doesn't seem he even knew he did, if he did) or just leave it alone. This one game mess is a waste of everyone's time. In the end, the Vols win opening day and don't look back.

Bearwuzacheater writes:

in response to AceVentura:

Crompton has a way better arm than Stephens. Also I hate Ray Finkle

Laces out Dan! Laces out!

VolFanInAtl writes:

I'd like to see this scrimmage
It could get bigger than the Orange and White game

Crompton's inconsistency drives me insane. We may play brilliantly Saturday, win the starting position then melt down against UCLA. With him, that fear is always lurking in the back of my mind.

musicjl#606296 writes:

in response to footballfan:

I don't care which QB starts, as long as he can do what is asked of him I am happy. However, it is a bit odd to read the comments of Stephens these last 6 months. Everything has been about what he is doing and what he feels like and what he needs to do have success. He doesn't often mention himself in conjunction with the team but apart as a separate individual. I cannot say what the reasoning is behind that or if it bothers anyone else. But it seems to me that a team leader should be doing more talking about his performance in addition to that of the rest of the team as opposed to things seemingly being just about him. It gives off that air that maybe he is more concerned about himself than the team. True or not, I wish he would have more to say about what his teammates can do to help him than what he can do to help himself. At any rate, get the best one on the field and let that be that.

Good point footballfan. Crompton's interviews have been much more team-oriented..... And, the team interviews I've heard in regards to their thoughts on Crompton have been very favorable. I don't recall a lot of positive team reaction in regards to Stephens......But I guess I could have missed it, too....

Waldorf writes:

What time is the scrimmage and is it open to the public?

musicjl#606296 writes:

OK. I want some honest feedback, from TN fans please (no interlopers). Am I just wearing orange-colored glasses here to think we can pull off an 8-win season here? Any feedback outside the TN world says our offense will stink. But I honestly think they haven't taken the time to compare the horrible system Clawson tried to put in place with the new coaches and system CLK has put in place. And, I know our QBs neither one are a Tim Tebow/Jevon Snead caliber but, neither was John Parker Wilson. They just have to be consistent, and not lose games. IDK, it just seems that we were one turnover or mistake away from 3 more wins last year, and, with new coaches, a new attitude where they will actually BELIEVE they can win, and some fresh new blood, I believe we could definitely win 8 games, and maybe even pull a miraculous upset against GA or AL....... Anyway, that's my humble opinion, but would love to hear more thoughts from TN fans, or even 99 Gator because I know he posts thoughtfully and sensibly....

VolFanInAtl writes:

in response to Waldorf:

What time is the scrimmage and is it open to the public?

"Saturday's scrimmage, which begins at 12:20 in Neyland Stadium, is open to UT students. Gates will open at noon, and students need their UT IDs for admission at Gates 1, 2 and 3."

Docrok writes:

in response to douglasawilliams#582863:

That's the problem, neither qb is a clear cut starter. Even CPF didn't like to rotate qb's but in 2005, Ainge wasn't playing well in preseason and early games and in comes Rick Clausen to stir the pot (especially when he got benched). With the right mentor(Cutclife), Ainge did develop into a decent qb. Like it or not both qb's will play this season I'm afraid. A reporter from SI wasn't impressed with either qb at a scrimmage and maybe that's an unbiased opinion that's realistic. It would be great to already have our qb set but CLK did say its all about competing for the starting role. We all watched both play last season and it really wasn't a good performance for either qb. If we didn't lead the nation in 3 and outs we had to be close. Something tells me Crompton has more God given talent but he is a choke artist. Too many bobbled snaps and handoffs for me to think he could lead UT on a must have drive to win. Because of the pathetic fan who gave him a death threat last season I hope he proves me wrong (and most UT fans). The sad fact of both qb's is that between them last season they threw more interceptions than TD passes. Enough of this GO VOLS!!!!

Actually Crompton did lead the team on must have drive in the first game against UCLA! Not that I am pulling for either one I just want the one that gives UT the best chance to win. Crompton led TN on field goal drive with like less than minute in the first game, but the entire game had been a pretty poor performance by the entire team! Crompton went downhill from there! I think whichever QB wins the starting job will have earned it!

the10sevol writes:

in response to VolFanInAtl:

"Saturday's scrimmage, which begins at 12:20 in Neyland Stadium, is open to UT students. Gates will open at noon, and students need their UT IDs for admission at Gates 1, 2 and 3."

anybody know a good forger who can make me a student id, really quick?
GBO

TunnelHillVol writes:

in response to musicjl#606296:

OK. I want some honest feedback, from TN fans please (no interlopers). Am I just wearing orange-colored glasses here to think we can pull off an 8-win season here? Any feedback outside the TN world says our offense will stink. But I honestly think they haven't taken the time to compare the horrible system Clawson tried to put in place with the new coaches and system CLK has put in place. And, I know our QBs neither one are a Tim Tebow/Jevon Snead caliber but, neither was John Parker Wilson. They just have to be consistent, and not lose games. IDK, it just seems that we were one turnover or mistake away from 3 more wins last year, and, with new coaches, a new attitude where they will actually BELIEVE they can win, and some fresh new blood, I believe we could definitely win 8 games, and maybe even pull a miraculous upset against GA or AL....... Anyway, that's my humble opinion, but would love to hear more thoughts from TN fans, or even 99 Gator because I know he posts thoughtfully and sensibly....

Yes,it's realistic to expect an 8 win season.Last year the players gave up in a sea of confusion that cost PF his job.If you've noticed we have several 5th year seniors.This is their last chance before they leave the hill.If we can #1 Avoid injuries,especially to key starters on both lines and get an occasional lucky bounce aka. turnover(something LK puts great emphasis on)I think it is very possible to have an 8 win season.I don't think we have the depth yet to go toe to toe with Al. or Fl.,but everyone is beatable including those two.I'm sure you won't see ANY quitting under this staff.Also the little things will make a difference, like starting Saturdays scrimmage at the same time as the first game.Go Vols !

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