August 17, 2008

Crompton, offense on target

It was one touchdown pass in the second scrimmage of fall camp, but coaches and teammates alike gushed about the laser Jonathan Crompton drilled to Gerald Jones Saturday night in Tennessee's exhibition inside Neyland Stadium.

Having guided the first-team offense swiftly down the field with a blend of handoffs and strong passes, Crompton closed out the possession with an 8-yard rope to the sophomore Jones.

"He got into a little bit of a rhythm," said first-year offensive coordinator Dave Clawson. "I thought he had some good throwaways, and that one touchdown pass, he really knifed it in there well."

Leading all receivers with six catches for 82 yards, Jones worked himself free on the left side of the field and then lunged between defenders into the end zone after he gathered Crompton's bullet.

"He just made a great throw," said Jones, who also got some work at quarterback in the Vols' G-Gun package. "Eric Berry was right on my left side. And someone was on my right because I felt them. Jon threw a low ball to where Eric couldn't get a piece of it. And I caught it and got in. He just threw a great ball."

A week after completing 12 of 16 passes for 114 yards and one interception, Crompton polished off a week of minimized mistakes and scarce turnovers with a 12-for-18, 101-yard and one-touchdown effort as UT continued preparations for its Sept. 1 opener at UCLA.

"When you get in a groove, you seem to be clicking, and I thought we were clicking all night," said Crompton, who also engineered another drive that resulted in a mid-range field goal from Daniel Lincoln.

Tennessee's first-team offense under Crompton's guidance appeared particularly effective at times and also capitalized on a poor tackling effort from the defense. But Vols wideouts consistently found open space, and tailbacks benefited from a strong push from the offensive line. Crompton indicated much of that success was attributed to the play-calling of Clawson.

"That's our offense. That's how we're going to be," said the 6-foot-4, 220-pound junior. "We're going to be multiple and do whatever we want to do. That's how we're going to do it this year."

Clawson, who had his offense prepare a whopping 150 plays for the scrimmage, said the group continues to perform at a more efficient rate with increased comfort and repetitions in the offense. The former Richmond head coach also credited Crompton's elevated ease in operating the system.

"Every time (Crompton) plays, he plays faster," Clawson said. "That's part of him being the starter for the first time, and it's a new offense. Every time we practice a play, every time we get a rep in, we get better at it. I thought he came out (Saturday) and looked sharp."

Further, Clawson lauded Crompton's clock and huddle management. After an early timeout that preempted a delay of game penalty when the offense was pinned against its goal line, the first-team offense consistently got the ball snapped without much need to rush. It also appeared that the forced timeout was a slow relay of the play from the sideline.

"I thought our speed in the huddle was pretty good," Clawson said. "We were in and out. We didn't have any clock issues. We were shifting, motioning and getting the ball snapped with plenty of time.

"And then I think that's really where you can tell a difference with the 1s and the 2s. With the 2s, it's more of a delayed huddle. We're down to one or two seconds when we snap it every time. Our challenge now is to be able to manage the clock like that for 60, 70, 80 plays. We did it (Saturday) for 30, and we've got to be able to do it in two weeks for 60."

Choosing favorites

With a Thursday afternoon scrimmage the last major game simulation and kickoff at UCLA 15 days away, Clawson said the Vols will begin this week to pare down their playbook.

"I think it's important now that we start shrinking the offense a little bit and narrowing down what we're going to do for UCLA," Clawson, a former I-AA National Coach of the Year, said. "We've put a lot in, done a lot of different things out of a lot of different formations, and I think the thing I look forward to now is that now you start prepping for a game and start getting a confined offense ready that the guys can really sink their teeth into."

With the entire offense installed, Crompton said the key now is identifying strengths and attempting to perfect those looks.

"We're to the point now where we've got the whole offense in, and we talk about what we feel more comfortable with and what we don't feel as comfortable with," Crompton said. "We can focus on the ones we feel more comfortable running so that we can get completely better with them.

"We're trying to rep as few a plays as we can that we know we're going to be really, really good at and go into UCLA with those."

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