Strange: Numbers show Kiffin is conservative candidate

Mike Strange

Not that he needs any reminders, but there it is in black and white. Taped on the back of his office door. He can't miss it.

Someone posted the NCAA statistical rankings for Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin to see.

Ranked No. 73 in total offense, there sits Tennessee this week. One notch above Temple, at least.

"I have to see it every morning and ever night,'' Kiffin said Tuesday.

He didn't mention who posted the rankings.

Was it Mike Hamilton, his boss? Offense sells tickets, they say.

Was it his dad, Monte, coordinator of the nation's fifth-ranked defense? Come on, son, get it in gear.

Was it Florida coach Urban Meyer, sending one more jab at Tennessee's lack of "urgency" in the fourth quarter at The Swamp.

Was it Dave Clawson? Hey, Bowling Green is No. 65.

The Vols (1-2) are averaging 358.3 yards a game. But that figure is inflated by the offensive orgy against Western Kentucky on opening day.

The past two weeks have been slim pickings: 208 yards against UCLA and 210 against Florida.

Starting with the second quarter of the second game (UCLA), something went off track and it has affected the way Kiffin has approached calling plays.

There's another ranking that tells the tale. UT is tied for 118th in throwing interceptions.

In the first three games, Jonathan Crompton has fired seven passes to the other guys. Of 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams, only SMU (eight) has thrown more.

Thus, Kiffin's preference to pound the rock rather than chuck it around. That's what he tried to do in the second half against a good UCLA defense. The Vols came up a yard short in a 19-15 loss.

He took it to the extreme against a great Florida defense, losing 23-13, and drawing a charge from Meyer that UT was trying to shorten the game rather than actually win it.

Not playing to win is about as serious an insult as a coach can imagine. Kiffin didn't appreciate it. I'd bet that's why he fired back Monday about the flu bug, among other things.

"It's not fun to play that way,'' he said Tuesday of his ultra-conservative game plan. "But that's what we had to do in that situation, in that stadium, versus that team, at this stage of our team.

"I hope not to have to do that, but I don't know that yet. We'll see how this week goes.''

This week is Ohio University. The Vols are favored by three touchdowns.

Surely the game plan expands this week. Surely the receivers are back in play.

Surely might be too strong at this point. Come Saturday night, Kiffin will see how it goes and play-call accordingly.

With Auburn and Georgia up next, the offense needs to find its mojo against the Bobcats. Kiffin said he's a positive thinker. He believes Crompton will have a good game.

And it will take Crompton having a good game - rather than another bad one - for backup Nick Stephens to see the field.

Lots of yards, lots of points. Big lead.

"I don't envision another scenario happening where Nick plays,'' Kiffin said.

In short, there won't be a repeat of 2008, when Stephens replaced Crompton after four games, held the job for six and lost it back the final two.

Kiffin doesn't believe in a short leash. He won't get the yanks. He said he told the quarterbacks as much when he arrived in December to replace Phillip Fulmer.

"I don't think that works,'' Kiffin said. "It's hard to rebuild confidence when you start doing that.''

If you're looking for encouragement, there is this: Florida and UCLA are two of the best defenses Tennessee will face this year.

Yes, there's still Alabama to go. But that's a month away.

In the meantime, it's vital that Tennessee's offense - and its quarterback - produce some happier numbers to post on Kiffin's door.

Mike Strange may be reached at strangem@knoxnews.com or 865-342-6276.

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Comments » 35

VolinCalif writes:

The Off will stand up soon. Maybe starting this week.

Cldvols1 writes:

JC has had a buttload of opportunities to showcase his skills. Unfortunately they're not too good and I'm sure the Big Orange Nation is getting sick of the ample chances, I know I am! With that said, if CLK plays him I'll once again pull for his play but I gotta admit it's getting verrrrryyyyy tiring! Go Vols

VolinCalif writes:

OK where is my post? I thhink our Off is going to step foward and start playing good. The Rec's are there , just need a little playing time.

VolinCalif writes:

in response to Cldvols1:

JC has had a buttload of opportunities to showcase his skills. Unfortunately they're not too good and I'm sure the Big Orange Nation is getting sick of the ample chances, I know I am! With that said, if CLK plays him I'll once again pull for his play but I gotta admit it's getting verrrrryyyyy tiring! Go Vols

Yes. I agree. But the ways things have played out for JC one has to feel a little sorry for him. I do believe if JC had picked any other school to play for he would have been a high light QB. The CPF days were a real blow to JC's delelop. I think Lane still remembers all the high school film when he was rec. JC for So. Calif. He believes the kid should have been very good.

CRFVols writes:

I respect and like Kiffin's reasoning as far as the QB situation, but if Crompton has another horrible game......It's Time! Give someone else a chance.

VolinCalif writes:

in response to reyem060809:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Come Come Rey. is there any question. This should be the last Scrim. before things get serious for the rest of the season. This staff is not going to play to just be in games. They want to have a great season and a bowl game with the guys CPF left them. It shows their coaching ability and they neen to let it hang out for the up and coming recruits

jdpvol writes:

JC is not going to be a great qb, probably not even a really good one, three seasons give evidence of this, but I really like the way CLK is handling him at this point in time , and Saturday was a good day for the Big Orange and JC, I believe,(am hopeful)that as the season plays out he is going to improve each week. How much we will have to watch and see, I also think that someone has to step up at receiver along the way , It's not all Jonathon's responsibility, but it does start there.

rockytopatl writes:

Hey Strange, don't call me Surely.

CoverOrange writes:

UCLA's defense is better than Alabama's? Who'd uh thunk it. Do tell, Mike.

Oh, and reyeM0608, don't be so quick to claim 09 just yet. Long way to go.

orangetothebone writes:

You guys call yourselfs orange? The coaching staff is designing the game plan to the talent we have. The defense may be shallow but awesome.
The offense has skills but shallow. Is it the players falut? Is it the coaching staffs falut?

Get a grip guys. Everyone in this program is giving thier all. Is it too much to ask that we do the same?

Pullingguard writes:

Play the conservative route and the vols will lose every SEC game maybe except Vandy... Who can they beat averaging 205 yards per game and the coach (Kiffin) throwing jabs at everyone except his QB... Why after 3 games, 5 picks and no TD's in last 2 games does he not at least give someone else a chance at QB..

west_tn_volfan writes:

in response to Cldvols1:

JC has had a buttload of opportunities to showcase his skills. Unfortunately they're not too good and I'm sure the Big Orange Nation is getting sick of the ample chances, I know I am! With that said, if CLK plays him I'll once again pull for his play but I gotta admit it's getting verrrrryyyyy tiring! Go Vols

I would agree, it is getting old but the only thing I can remember about Stephens is when he walked off last year while Fulmer was trying to talk to him during the Northern Illinois game which got him benched. Maybe he just has an attitude problem, but I am tired of cringing eveytime we attempt a pass.With a good qb,we are at least 2-1 with a good chance of being 3-0.

west_tn_volfan writes:

in response to Pullingguard:

Play the conservative route and the vols will lose every SEC game maybe except Vandy... Who can they beat averaging 205 yards per game and the coach (Kiffin) throwing jabs at everyone except his QB... Why after 3 games, 5 picks and no TD's in last 2 games does he not at least give someone else a chance at QB..

The other guy had a chance last year this past spring and in summer camp and couldn't get it done. Lets face it, we just don't have a decent QB on the roster.

mattnchatt writes:

I don't understand the play calling. If you have no confidence in your QB to open things up, then he must sit. I do understand the game plan vs. FLA, but it was time to adapt that game plan in the fourth when the original plan wasn't going to be practical with the limited amount of time remaining.

MarbleVol48 writes:

He has to protect a 6'4" - 228lb QB who refuses to tuck the d*** ball and run for first downs and in the UCLA game he could have sprinted to his right untouched for a TD. When Coach K calls the play he is just not sure which Crompton he is going to get. At Waynesville, NC he ran like a TB. When he did the slide short of the first down and in front of a 6'0. 170 DB that should have told everyone which Crompton we had the remainder of that game. This is his last season of football. for goodness sake he should be doing whatever it takes to win ball games.

QB_10 (Inactive) writes:

Put Nick Stephens in at QB, confidence of the team goes off the chart, Offense looks better and recruiting starts getting jiggy

Razzle writes:

in response to smokeybones:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Kentucky hasn't played Ohio.

asleep#212036 writes:

in response to Pullingguard:

Play the conservative route and the vols will lose every SEC game maybe except Vandy... Who can they beat averaging 205 yards per game and the coach (Kiffin) throwing jabs at everyone except his QB... Why after 3 games, 5 picks and no TD's in last 2 games does he not at least give someone else a chance at QB..

I'm not so sure. We won't be playing front 7's as talented as Florida or UCLA, except in Tuscaloosa. Have you seen how many points Georgia, South Carolina, and Kentucky are giving up? Even JC can have a decent game against those defenses. Ole Miss still hasn't played a respectable team, Auburn's run defense seems unusually suspect which will play to our advantage, and Vandy and Memphis, well, you know. Don't get me wrong - Kiffin hasn't won a game against a decent team yet either, and won't this weekend (the decent part, that is) but the rest of the schedule outside of Alabama is doable, even with JC at quarterback. I guess we'll just have to wait and see but Kiffin really doesn't want to lose any big qb recruits (that he has promised a chance to start as a freshman) by playing a junior unless he just has no choice. Right now, he still has a choice so....good luck, JC and the Vols!!!

PlaidinOrangeandWhite writes:

in response to smokeybones:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Kentucky beat Miami of Ohio, not Ohio University. Get a pick six this weekend Berry!

Razzle writes:

Speaking of Kentucky... I looked at their message board to see if they think they have a shot at the Gaytards. Seems as if all they are talking about is the Tennessee Vols.

paul5170 writes:

Put Nick Stephens in;Put Nick Stephens in;Put Nick Stephens in;boy that's getting old.Last time I checked L.Kiffin was still UT's coach.Most of our die hard fans thinks he's doing a great job...So Zip it..!!!!!GBO

rockytop#413695 writes:

in response to MVuniv:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

The only person "taking a knee" was James, when Jackson clobbered him in the endzone. What game were you watching?

FWBVol writes:

OK, everyone that wants to see Stephens as the starting quarterback had better just get use to the fact that Crompton is the guy. Kiffin has stated emphatically that he won't change quarterbacks because Crompton isn't playing up to the standard we fans think he should.

I like the idea behind staying with Crompton because it sends a message to QB recruits that there won't be any side shows like Spurrier had at Florida when he was rotating quarterbacks every down.

Tennessee is paying Lane Kiffin and his staff big money to make the decisions about this football team. Turning around the program won't happen over night just like we didn't get bad over night.

Give them time and in the next couple of years we will all be proud.

vol_chaz writes:

on a positive note, our kicking game has improved dramatically, great job coach grann. Sure would like to see Teague and BWarren catch some more passes..

RockinTop writes:

in response to tweetdriver63#346474:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

LOL!!!!

While I agree that the coaches have more detailed videos to watch of replays, and I agree everyone can always improve including recievers, but I can tell you, there were many times that there were WIDE OPEN RECIEVERS FOR TD's both in the UCLA game and Florida game and Crompton was so locked in to one reciever he never saw them! At FL Jones was open in the endzone but Crompton held the ball too long....an average QB would have fired that ball before Jones was finishing the route.

Kiffin's stubborness about Crompton is now baffling. I predict if we do air it out Saturday he will likely throw 3-4 more. Everyone in the country knows that he is terrible....and dont think for a minute Ohio isn't working on accomplishing 3-4 interceptions.

Anyway, I just posted this on another thread...it's fitting for this one:

Yaaawwwns.....the proofs in the pudding gents.

The proof is: 3 games, 7 INT's - Wide open recievers missed for TD's (yes I have watched the games more than once)....and we are 1-2 with very little passing offense and the coach CLEARLY doesn't trust him. (Now insert this writers article of statistics)

I got ripped by someone on here for this who has since changed their tune, but as for Crompton, he will either do the job or he will not. The facts clearly show he is not getting it done.

You can tell me to go cheer for another team but that ain't going to happen. I will always be a Vol but the truth is hard to swallow: Numbers and results don't lie.

Go Big Orange!

leedsvol2007 writes:

I would like to take a different tack.

What we have seen so far is that our backs especially Cooper, Brown and Oku have shown excellent pass catching abilities.

Richardson and Teague have the most long term potential but are freshmen. Jones and Moore are both coming off injuries and have not been sharp.

While its true Crompton has not been the answer at quarterback he appears at this point to be the best guy we have.

The offensive line protection has been adequate.

Our running game is very good.

Assuming Crompton plays well I think the acid test for him as the starter will be Auburn. Auburn is a very good but not great football team and is a winnable game with good offensive play.

If he plays well and we win then he likely will be the starter throughout the season. If he struggles against them then we should turn to Stephens if for no other reason he has another season of eligibility.

Jones and Moore are getting healthy and the younger receivers will have a few more games under their belt. We should therefore have more opportunities in the passing game. If Crompton can't take advantage of the presence of backs who will put coverage pressure on defenses and improved wide receiver play then he will have played himself out of the starting position.

GoVols!

Loud_Proud writes:

in response to VolinCalif:

OK where is my post? I thhink our Off is going to step foward and start playing good. The Rec's are there , just need a little playing time.

whaat do vol fans not understand about the fact that you cant have an even AVERAGE offense unless you have adequate leadership at QB? geez..

bjwhite writes:

Tennessee will not win a game in the month of October with JC at QB. There's always a reason to replace your QB and many coaches are forced to make that call. How long will it take for Kiffin to pull the trigger? How many games is he willing to lose?

bjwhite writes:

in response to vol1:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Kiffin is in denial of the fact the JC isn’t very good. What he did in High school doesn’t mean JACK. There are scores of 5 star QB that never developed into good college players and JC is one of them. It’s not Fulmer’s fault that JC isn’t a player, JC doesn’t have it within himself to be the play we want him to be and nobody is to blame for that. The only blame lies at the feet of the coach who allows him to continue to play so poorly game after game.

layoffthevolteam writes:

today , I'll stand for TENNESSEE^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

Volsnfl writes:

Seantrel Henderson,6'8,301,DL-OT<A Must Get.

Volsnfl writes:

Seantrel HendersonOffensive tackle
Saint Paul, Minnesota
Cretin-Derham Hall
View Map
Ht:6'8"
Wt:301 lbs
Class:2010 (High School)
AMP: Nation's number one talks recruiting9

jbc writes:

If I recall correctly with Sterling Henton at QB the Vols threw a total of three passes against Auburn at Neyland.

That extreme display of lack of confidence in his ability probably finished him off confidence wise as a player.

If the Vols continue that tight approach to their offense with Crompton I could see a similar result.

volcycle writes:

We may be 75th in offense, but if the majority of 1-74 had schedules that looked like Florida's first two ballgames, then no wonder we're sitting 75th. Let more of the season play out to see where we land. I think this team will continue to improve and some of the other teams offensive stats will even out.

stratocaster54 writes:

So what does it say about Florida if Kiffin played not to loose and Fla still couldn't put up the points? Just think if he'd played to win? Myers is a joke and his time is coming!

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