UT position previews: Quarterbacks

Stephens gets chance against Crompton

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.

Kiffin: 'I don't talk (to QBs) about last year'

Coach likens Crompton's '08 season to a ...

This summer, Tennessee's quarterbacks have been busy with formal 7-on-7 workouts three days a week. But it's been a pretty common sight in the Neyland-Thompson Sports Center to see junior Nick Stephens or senior Jonathan Crompton - or both - putting in plenty of extra work.

Both are trying to get comfortable in yet another new offensive scheme, and every minute is precious.

"You can't throw enough balls with receivers," Stephens says. "It comes down to reps. The more you throw, the better you're going to get."

For Stephens, those throws were severely limited this spring because of a broken wrist on his throwing hand. A month after UT's spring game marked the end of spring practice, Stephens said his wrist finally felt healthy.

But all that missed time made summer an even more critical time for Stephens, who will split practice snaps with Crompton until new UT coach Lane Kiffin names a starter in fall camp.

Not only healthy, Stephens says he's found a comfort zone within Kiffin's pro-style offense.

"Something clicked with me this summer," Stephens said. "One of the things with this offense is timing. It's a huge thing to take a five-step drop and know where they're going to be. The more you do it, the better it comes to you. I think it's coming to me right now, and I'm ready to go into August."

Crompton, who left spring practice as the starter due in part to Stephens' absence, enters his final season with the Vols seeking some level of confidence.

Last season wasn't kind to either player.

Stephens, who started six games, completed 63 of 130 passes for 840 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions. Crompton, who began and ended the season as the starter, didn't fare much better. The one-time Parade All-American completed 86 of 167 throws for 889 yards, four touchdowns and five picks.

While healthy heading into fall camp, Crompton is still trying to heal. Fans were hard on the fifth-year senior and things turned ugly at times off the field.

"I can see in Jonathan what has happened before and around here - and I don't know if this is a good comparison - it's like a bad relationship. He's hurt," Kiffin said. "You can tell when things go bad a little bit with him that he kind of freezes up a little bit because he's been beat up for so long. That's very obvious for me to see.

Coach: David Reaves.

Lettermen Lost (1): B.J. Coleman (transfer).

Projected Starter: Jonathan Crompton (Sr., 6-4, 228) or Nick Stephens (Jr., 6-4, 227).

Watch For: Green jerseys. The departure of B.J. Coleman after spring practice makes depth a real issue, and the coaching staff may opt to protect the quarterbacks from live contact this fall, unlike spring practice.

Key Stat: The Vols weren’t very productive in the passing game last season, but the numbers are shocking. Only twice last season (Georgia and UAB) did the Vols have a 200-yard passer.

"I've worked very hard about getting him out of that by conversations and to understand and not worry about what happened before. Like everybody else, we're focused on the future. I think he's getting a lot better at that."

The Vols are hoping the numbers get better this fall. UT's 1,750 passing yards in 2008 marked their lowest output since 1981. Individually, Crompton (UAB) and Stephens (Georgia) topped 200 yards passing in a game just once.

Kiffin, who is very active with UT's quarterbacks along with offensive coordinator Jim Chaney and quarterbacks coach David Reaves, wants his players to forget last year's struggles and focus on what's ahead.

"I don't talk about last year to them at all," he said. "I talk about what we're doing and our future here. They understand I'm going to protect them. Quarterback's different than everybody else. I'm going to protect them in the way that I call games. I'm going to protect them in the way that I talk to the media about them as well. I got their back, and they need to understand that."

The back-ups, however, could be a different story.

Behind Stephens and Crompton, the Vols' depth could be a concern. Crompton battled an ankle injury last season, while Stephens is coming off a broken wrist.

The departure of B.J. Coleman after spring practice left the Vols with just two scholarship players until junior college transfer Nick Lamaison signed in July. Walk-on Mike Rozier, a former minor league baseball player, also is a fresh face this fall, however the quarterback battle is essentially a two-man race.

And Kiffin hopes to have that number dropped to one - and only one - soon rather than later.

"Definitely want to have one," Kiffin said. "I don't believe in rotating quarterbacks."

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

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Comments » 72

ULTIMATE_VOL_WARRIOR writes:

First or not....we need a qb. Maybe we can be like the Ravens that won the SB. Have a qb that can manage the game and let the D and run game carry us.

BasketVols writes:

Long live Bipolar_Bear! May he rise from the ashes, again...

TommyJack writes:

in response to BasketVols:

Long live Bipolar_Bear! May he rise from the ashes, again...

Is Bipolar gone?

BasketVols writes:

in response to TommyJack:

Is Bipolar gone?

He got the boot last night. See the 13th comment on this article. His name's in black and there's no proceeding to comment to the response...

http://www.govolsxtra.com/news/2009/j...

DrJCrown_theMagicMan writes:

I think the QB's will shine in an offense like this.
The Clawfense never should have been implemented with the players we had.

We need great play out our WR's this year and if the offensive line can stay healthy and block, it could be a big year,,,REALLY BIG!

golfballs03 writes:

I saw this headline and i almost threw up

FWBVol writes:

It's going to be an interesting August is all I have to say.

DennisVols writes:

Last year there were 2 teams that tried to implement a "Spread" offense using players who were meant to play in a "Pro-Style" offense.
The results were the same, a total disaster.
Too much blame has been placed on Jon and Nick for the results the QB's had. The offensive system was not meant for the type of players we had, the scheme itself with the flip-flopping of the linemen into new positions, QB's were REQUIRED to make a minimum of 5 reads on each pass play (the line never gave them enough time to do that). It was just messed up. Fulmer didn't have the guts to pull the plug on the clawfense and it only got worse as the season played on the the confidence level dropped.
I expect better things this year from both Jon & Nick. Kiffin's offense will not put them into bad situations that forces them to have to try and win the game on their shoulders.
We will pound the rock and wear others defenses down. The surprise element will also play a role.
Keeping it Real
Go Vols!!

TommyJack writes:

in response to BasketVols:

He got the boot last night. See the 13th comment on this article. His name's in black and there's no proceeding to comment to the response...

http://www.govolsxtra.com/news/2009/j...

Wow. Thanks. He will be back.

jabark1982 writes:

It's long and detailed, but it's worth the read. Check it out and let me know what you think.

http://bleacherreport.com/articles/22...

lt4vols writes:

Hey guys, I heard Spurrier was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease and because of that, voted for Danny Weuffel instead of Teblow for All SEC

UTfan4life2 writes:

I want to cry...

bluetick writes:

One of our QB's might have a pleasant surprise for us this year. Here is to hoping so. I think it is human nature for people to feel they can get things done especially when the world is against them. Oh so close now. Can't wait. Samuel Adams, baby back ribs or thick ribeye steaks and a bong. :)

xvolx writes:

show the young man some support. many of crompton's problems was fulmer and clawson, receivers running wrong routes. the program was in disarray. so long fulmer.

99gator writes:

while clawson may be able to be blamed for some things.....

he can't possibly be responsible for his qb's not being able to hand the ball off or complete a five yard hook route.

crimsonviper writes:

in response to BasketVols:

He got the boot last night. See the 13th comment on this article. His name's in black and there's no proceeding to comment to the response...

http://www.govolsxtra.com/news/2009/j...

Somebody needs to lighten up.What he said was just a joke,and a good one at that.After all the junk that has been allowed for the last year,he gets zapped for that?..WOW...Chill out and free Bipolar....please

gcscvol writes:

in response to 99gator:

while clawson may be able to be blamed for some things.....

he can't possibly be responsible for his qb's not being able to hand the ball off or complete a five yard hook route.

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

FeelVol writes:

I'm looking for Nick Stephens to have a break out year!

99gator writes:

in response to gcscvol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

i'm glad you used all caps. it lets me know you are extra serious.

NoogaVol55 writes:

in response to crimsonviper:

Somebody needs to lighten up.What he said was just a joke,and a good one at that.After all the junk that has been allowed for the last year,he gets zapped for that?..WOW...Chill out and free Bipolar....please

I agree, i thought his comment was pretty funny....I guess it was a little too risque for KNS morality police.

NoogaVol55 writes:

in response to 99gator:

i'm glad you used all caps. it lets me know you are extra serious.

FOR WHATS ITS WORTH 99....I DONT THINK YOU ARE A TROLL....ACTUALLY YOUR COMMENTS ARE FAIR AND A FRESH POINT OF VIEW...UNLIKE THE OTHER UF TROLLS ON HERE....TAKE THIS COMMENT SERIOUS!!!!

gcscvol writes:

in response to gcscvol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

volsfannsc writes:

While I dont blame Crompton & Stephens for last year's demise, (Clawson should be whipped, tarred and feathered in town square- Fulmer for hiring him)one has to wonder how shell-shocked they are from last year's disaster. They may come out of the gate looking great, but what happens to them after a pick? What happens after a bad exchange? Do they fall into the post-traumatic stress abyss? I just don't see these two turning all this around in one year, Kiffin or no Kiffin. I wish these two the best but I can't help but feel the damage has been done. I actually envision a dark horse on the bench becoming the guiding light for our beloved Vols. Although Kiff & Co. don't talk about last year, it's affects will linger this year. Scars tend to remind one of past injuries.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to gcscvol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

99gator has been on this site a lot longer than you have, unless this is a new screen name for you. He is one of the most civil posters on this whole site, even if he does pull for the "enemy". Goodness knows, there are plenty of OTHER interloping trolls who deserve all the scorn any of us can muster, but, IMHO, 99gator is not one of them. In fact, most of the UF trolls insist that he can't be a real Florida fan because he doesn't talk trash about UT all the time, or ever, really.

douglasawilliams#582863 writes:

in response to ULTIMATE_VOL_WARRIOR:

First or not....we need a qb. Maybe we can be like the Ravens that won the SB. Have a qb that can manage the game and let the D and run game carry us.

Its a nice thought, but don't think a dominating rushing game is in for 2009. Even with Bryce Brown the OL doesn't have a dominating player to open holes consistently against good teams. Don't get me wrong, the offense will be better, just we will still have to throw to win some games. This is especially true against Alabama, Florida and Ole Miss who will have dominating defenses. Bryce Brown will be a factor this season, just can't hang all our hopes on averaging 180 yards rushing per game for the bulk of our offense.

VolsFanInNC writes:

in response to TCHDWN10C:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

And then pick the other one.

douglasawilliams#582863 writes:

The photo of Crompton and Stephens headlining this blog gives me pause for concern. JC looks confused talking with the coordinator. There is a new sheriff in town and hopefully he can make either JC or NS a field general that could lead an offense on a must have points drive during an important SEC game late in game. Cutcliffe was able to install some confidence back to Ainge and maybe CLK can do the same with our 2 qb's. Could Rosier or Lamaison be dark horses off the bench? Its possible but not likely given the experience level. I remember Ainge during the 2004 season leading the VOLS into field goal range to beat Florida in Neyland Stadium? Think that was the last great victory at Neyland Stadium, beating Florida on a 50 yard field goal late in the game. Don't totally blame these qb's for the pathetic performance of the offense last season. Lucas, Rogers and Briscoe had more than their share of dropped passes and the OL had poor protection at times. With a pro set offense these qb's could flourish and we could say average 200 yards a game passing and maybe 140-150 rushing. That should translate into 8 or 9 wins and a decent bowl game. That is if the defense can play as well as last season and improved special teams play which I am betting we will be much better at.

blitzshoot writes:

in response to UTfan4life2:

I want to cry...

I have been traveling the last two weeks. Any word on Scroggins?

oldsmokey67 writes:

Hey blitz.He's going to usc.

camoman270#222859 writes:

in response to 99gator:

while clawson may be able to be blamed for some things.....

he can't possibly be responsible for his qb's not being able to hand the ball off or complete a five yard hook route.

sad, but so true.
fundamentally the 2008 team was one of the all time worst.....and i watced the ut/fl game in person till the very very end.....

utwick writes:

in response to 99gator:

while clawson may be able to be blamed for some things.....

he can't possibly be responsible for his qb's not being able to hand the ball off or complete a five yard hook route.

True, but the fact that they weren't able to perform consistently was indicative to some degree of how far their confidence had been eroded. If the head is not "right", the rest will suffer.

GainesvilleVol1 writes:

Although the QB play was terrible last year, they got no help from running backs who fumbled in critical situtations, a new OC who adjusted an o-line that had gone to the SEC Championship the prior year, and suddenly couldn't block any team. The recivers dropped the few passes that came their way, so all in all the offense not just the QB play was horrible. I agree teams will stack the o-line and make us pass. Hopefully we can use BB and our Freshman WR's in slants to get the passes off quickly, and make the opposition respect the pass, even if it's only somewhat. I do think Stevens has the better arm, and quicker release. I don't expect many deep routes early on this season. Our defense will keep us in games for at least the 3rd quarter, unless like last year, we implode on offense. Let's get off to a good start, go into Florida undefeated, and play with some confidence. Stay healthy Vols, pratice hard, and I look foward to the rapidly approaching season. Let's all survive the dog days and sweat it out till it's "FOOTBALL TIME IN TENNESSEE"!

GO VOLS!!

GAVol21 writes:

Remember this guy? Check out 1:20. I think this guy is still there. Only question to me is whether or not he can mentally recover from last year. Sorry to disagree Witch Dr, I think JC is our man.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDmxpv...

btw - we got robbed this game, but good one.

Go Vols!

GAVol21 writes:

OK After watching a few clips from EB on Youtube, I'm feeling giddy about this year...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0fpIMx...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qlM6sA...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kk7Oj8...

EB for President, screw the Heisman!

Go Vols!

TommyJack writes:

in response to logansdad:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

99 doesn't get under my skin.

leedsvol2007 writes:

in response to volsfannsc:

While I dont blame Crompton & Stephens for last year's demise, (Clawson should be whipped, tarred and feathered in town square- Fulmer for hiring him)one has to wonder how shell-shocked they are from last year's disaster. They may come out of the gate looking great, but what happens to them after a pick? What happens after a bad exchange? Do they fall into the post-traumatic stress abyss? I just don't see these two turning all this around in one year, Kiffin or no Kiffin. I wish these two the best but I can't help but feel the damage has been done. I actually envision a dark horse on the bench becoming the guiding light for our beloved Vols. Although Kiff & Co. don't talk about last year, it's affects will linger this year. Scars tend to remind one of past injuries.

I think Kiffin and his staff are smart enough to do what Majors, Cucliffe, and Fulmer did with their quarterbacks when they became starters.

They did not force them into plays they were not proficient in period. The offenses evolved as the quarterbacks evolved.

Initially whoever is the quarterback he needs successes to build on to get the garbage from last year out of his head.

I think Crompton mentally has the toughest challenge and Stephens needs better mechanics to be more effective. Spring for Crompton was an excellent start and it is my understanding Stephens is working on his mechanics.

Both of these guys have excellent physical tools let's hope one of them has a lot of success early.

A number of years ago Auburn had a similiar situation with Ben Leard. He was awful as a sohomore and then was All-SEC caliber the next year. We also saw Erik Ainge suffer mightily as a sophomore to become outstanding as a junior and senior.

My guess if they have success early we will be OK.

blitzshoot writes:

in response to oldsmokey67:

Hey blitz.He's going to usc.

I hope there is a good one under the radar somewhere.
Thanks!

RockyTopBoy writes:

Nick will be the starter. Now that it is clear we are not going to get a four or five star QB in 2010, CLK will give Nick a legit chance. In my short conversation with Nick at the Orange and White pre-game, I could tell he is a good guy. Can't wait for the season to begin.

reidtownriverrat writes:

dont waste time on last years mess. bring in lamaison

Realist writes:

Maybe we (the fans) need to give Stephens and Crompton a clean slate. Blame their prior problems on last years new offense of scheme or last years coaches failure to develop players. Maybe Kiffin will make one or both of them viable this year.

We definitely saw some of the craziest mistakes last year from Crompton. But our coaches forced him to throw 40 plus times his first true game. That was ridiculous to me. He never caught a break and never had momentum to build up any confidence. Give Kiffin a chance to see what he can do with them. Whether it is Jonathan, Nick, or Nick, we might be surprised to see how a different coaching strategy can make a difference. Anyways until 2010, we really don't have a choice!

invisiblekid writes:

Throw Stephen Kaiser, currently an SMU commit, into the mix for the future Vol QB prospects.

RoadTrip writes:

in response to BolivarBob:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I am with you on this one BB. KNS is looking for something new to say on the same subjects instead of doing some research on guys we never hear anything about that are just as important to the team's success. I also agree on your projected record - same as I said before NSD. We had some really good talent already here, they just had not been coached up, shaped up and instilled with discipline like they should. The players have said as much since January.
Zero arrests, early morning work-outs, upward GPA's, class attendance up, Ausmus, strong voluntary work-outs, etc. - these are all game changers in anybody's book. Now add in improved schemes and play calling on both sides of the ball plus stronger emphasis on special teams play. 5-7 is already a vague memory in my head.

IMHO if both were equal coming out of fall practice I would go with Nick. He is one tough hombre with the most upside that can give you time to season the newcomers over the next couple of years. However, the present coaches know far more than I do so I defer to them.

GAVol21 writes:

in response to listentothemusic:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

You Dip Stick. Turn down the music! It has obviously impaired your brain cells to match the rest of your pathetic existence. TN is not motivating the FL team to win. I guess they were planning on losing to TN until Kiffin came along? Are they really afraid of a 5-7 team? Cool. Oh. I guess they aren't motivated to win every game or revenge their only loss from last year or by any of the other SEC schools or to make history with another NC or to help Mr Tebow win another Heisman. Yep. You are retarded, but I do like your line thinking. It's just slightly wrong. We do pose a threat.

However I, like KNS, do enjoy you and all your siblings' posting comments on our board. It actually accomplishes two things: 1 - It makes ANY other comment sound like genius and 2 - It helps support the TN economy. Thanks.

Is it football time in TN yet? Can you tell I'm bored? Go Vols!

blitzshoot writes:

This was posted today on the front page of the orlando sentinel, but the headline on the sports page was " Vols Send A Horrible Message". This is the on-line version. Though some of you would be interested.

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/sports...

blitzshoot writes:

in response to BolivarBob:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I agree Bob. pathetic. He had two different titles for the same article. He never mentioned how old Hood was when the crime was committed, never mentioned that if he was going to UF, the Headline would had been, Urban gives a kid a second chance."

reidtownriverrat writes:

dont waste time with last years mess. bring in lamaison.

blitzshoot writes:

in response to Lostballnhighweeds:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

LostBall,
Im not a UF fan. I was demonstrating the spin the Florida media uses to appease the Urban-mites locally.
I am a big Vol fan. It just aggravated me that if this kid was headed to Gainesville the spin would had been how Saint Urban gave him a second chance. I apologize for the misunderstanding. Just trying to catch up on being gone 3 weeks.

blitzshoot writes:

in response to BolivarBob:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Black jerseys and pants would be interesting, maybe with an orange stripe on the pants and the ornage numbers on the jerseys. I don't see anything wrong with trying it for a game, especially if the players are good with it. Just don't see the harm, especially since the players are the ones making it happen on the field, but I feel a big "push-back" from the stuffed shirts.

TommyJack writes:

in response to blitzshoot:

Black jerseys and pants would be interesting, maybe with an orange stripe on the pants and the ornage numbers on the jerseys. I don't see anything wrong with trying it for a game, especially if the players are good with it. Just don't see the harm, especially since the players are the ones making it happen on the field, but I feel a big "push-back" from the stuffed shirts.

OK, here's a big push back. Why am I a stuffed shirt simply because I disagree with you? One last time...black is not one of our school colors.

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