"He's done a really good job of that, getting back to his third and fourth progression and making sure the ball is going to the right people and not forcing it. We'll continue to work with him on that and I think he's going to play extremely well Saturday."
Coach Kiffin on Crompton
Some won't be able to believe what they are about to read: Jonathan Crompton is an astute student of football.
For those that questioned the senior quarterback's intelligence last season, snicker away. Crompton isn't the one trying to do the convincing.
He leaves that to Tennessee new coach Lane Kiffin, who said he's thankful that Crompton is there to correct his coaching mistakes.
Kiffin admits that he occasionally calls the wrong play. That's understandable when a coach heads up three offenses in four years. Terminology can trip up the directive. Crompton doesn't miss a beat.
"A lot of guys wouldn't catch it," Kiffin said. "He catches it every time. That's very valuable."
When Kiffin slips, it's all on Crompton. There's no NFL headset to use. Crompton is on his own as he steps to the line of scrimmage.
"For him to have the ability to change (wrong plays) and know what we want is very critical for us and saves us a timeout every once in awhile and gets us in the right play," Kiffin said.
For the doubters still out there before UT plays its season opener today against Western Kentucky, here comes another shocker. Crompton's progressions and his ability to read defenses are good too, according to Kiffin. Hard to imagine after UT's offense looked so confused and disorganized in 2008 under coordinator Dave Clawson.
"He's done a really good job of that, getting back to his third and fourth progression and making sure the ball is going to the right people and not forcing it," Kiffin said. "We'll continue to work with him on that and I think he's going to play extremely well Saturday."
That may be tough for some to believe. Perhaps Kiffin is just pumping up his quarterback up publicly.
Kiffin, who has vowed to protect his quarterbacks, took a preemptive strike this week. Kiffin said if there are issues with chemistry or timing, injuries and young receivers are more likely to blame than Crompton.
"There could be some timing issues a little bit with these guys," Kiffin said, referring to UT's three freshmen receivers who will play today.
Kiffin enters 2009 much like Clawson did last season, publicly dedicated to Crompton with Nick Stephens guaranteed a spot on the bench.
"We would never rotate quarterbacks," Kiffin said. "We will play Jonathan and go with him. We're excited to see him play in this offense."
Crompton said he feels much more prepared for UT's season opener than he did a year ago.
"It feels like night and day," he said. "Not to say last year I wasnt prepared or anything like that. It's just that this year I'm that much more prepaerd."
Perhaps that comes from the notebooks full of notes that Crompton carries with him. Perhaps it comes from a new, less complicated offense.
"This offense is very quarterback friendly," Crompton said. "You dont have to think a whole lot. You play. And that's a thing I really like.
"You've got to change protections and all that but at the same time, once the ball is snapped you just go from there and that's really fun."
Crompton 2.0 is being embraced by some. For proof, check out CityofCrompton.com, where one can pick up an orange "Crompton" shirt before UT eventually shuts the website down.
Crompton said he's finally his "old self" after four tumultous years at UT that included two losing seasons, three surgeries and four offensvie coordinators. Crompton is taking a nothing-to-lose approach, thanks to a conversation he had with his father after the 2008 season.
"Just let it all hang loose," Crompton said, recalling his dad's advice. "What do I have to lose? Nothing. (It's) just playing ball. Its still a game.
"It's a little higher level but its still the game of football. That's the game I chose as a little kid that I wanted to play. I love it and I'm passionate about it.
"It was really good after that conversation and then adding on how coach Kiffin and the coaches have reacted, it's just all come together."
Mike Strange contributed to this report.