With a little more than a month before the start of fall practice, Tennessee quarterback Jonathan Crompton likes what his teammates have gotten done during voluntary workouts this summer.
And the senior especially likes the participation - especially from an unlikely source.
"It's really a good thing when we're doing 7-on-7 and the linemen say, 'Hey, I want to jump in.' That's kind of a different attitude than we've had in the past," Crompton said last week. "Guys coming out there and saying, 'Let's keep going. Let's keep going.' It's really, really enjoyable and it's fun to be around. The excitement here is so good."
That excitement was on display during Tennessee's 15 spring practices. But it hasn't waned much with players - despite turnover on the strength and conditioning staff during a critical stretch of the offseason.
Crompton said he was pleased with the way his teammates handled the transition from former strength coach Mark Smith to Aaron Ausmus, who began working with players last week.
"That's one good thing I'll commend our team on: I think we did handle that situation pretty well. Nobody knew what was going on. Nobody asked what was going on," Crompton said of the nearly month-long state of limbo surrounding Smith, whose contract was bought out by the university less than six months after he joined the staff. "We just shut our mouth and went in and did our work. That's a good thing when teams do that."
Crompton says it's a sign of maturity and strong leadership from upperclassmen.
"We've really got a mature team," he said. "Our senior class has been through a whole lot. We know how to handle pretty much any situation. Almost. Something could happen tomorrow. We're doing the best we can."
The effort already appears better than last year.
Starting in December 2007, several Vols were academically ineligible for the Outback Bowl and then the team endured a spate of offseason arrests during January and February.
This year, Tennessee has not had a player arrested in the offseason. And the Vols posted their best collective performance in the classroom since the fall semester of 2004.
During the summer months, Crompton says the learning hasn't stopped.
"I've pretty much taken it upon myself to make sure that everybody knows what they're doing," he said. "That's the thing the team's responded really good with. There's a few of us that are out there saying, 'OK, do you know what you're doing? Do you know what you're doing? Let's repeat it again to make sure that it's right.' Some more guys that are helping do that. All it's doing is helping make everybody better."
For Crompton, fellow quarterback Nick Stephens and UT's receivers, that means continuing to develop chemistry within a new offense. And although it takes time, Crompton said there's progress being made.
"Right now, we're not rusty but we're still trying to get the kinks out of it," Crompton said. "We've only had 15 (team) practices in the offense. Now as players, we're trying to reinstall it as much as we can. We're trying to make sure everybody remembers where to be on what routes and what plays.
"We're getting there. It only helps if I know where they're going to be and they know where I'm going to put the ball. That's one good thing that I would say we're getting out of it. We're starting to get to that point, and we're going to keep striving for it."
Drew Edwards covers University of Tennessee football. He may be reached at 865-342-6274.