What a difference a year can make.
Last year, UT quarterback Jonathan Crompton was coming off of a 11-for-27, 91-yard performance in a 13-7 homecoming loss to Wyoming. This year, coming off of a 42-17 loss to Ole Miss where he completed 20-of-37 for 176 yards with two touchdowns, Crompton surpassed the 2,000 yard mark for the season to go with his 23 touchdown strikes.
The senior downplays his stats, though, because he knows that as a team, the Vols haven’t reached where they need to be.
“We’re concentrating on ourselves,” Crompton said. “We’re staying after practice, the quarterbacks and receivers are trying to get their timing down a little more just because every little bit helps. (We’re) studying more film so we know what we can do, but we’re not there yet. And we know that, so that’s a good thing when everybody knows that we still have more work to do.”
UT head coach Lane Kiffin said the most noticeable improvement for Crompton from last season has been his accuracy.
“All of a sudden, it’s not a bigger game for him, he doesn’t need to play any different,” Kiffin said. “He just needs to continue to not make mistakes with the ball, take care of the ball, deliver to the right guys.”
Looking back on Crompton’s career, the senior out of Waynesville, N.C., has worked under five different offensive coordinators in his time on campus. In 2006, David Cutcliffe helped UT get their first look at Crompton when the freshman threw his first touchdown pass to Robert Meachem for 37 yards in the closing minutes of a losing effort to LSU.
Last year, due to Cutcliffe taking the head coaching job at Duke, former UT head coach Phillip Fulmer brought in Dave Clawson as offensive coordinator to work with Crompton. Amid a 5-7 season, the Vol quarterback recorded only four touchdowns while throwing five interceptions.
This year, with Kiffin as head coach, Jim Chaney as offensive coordinator and David Reaves as quarterback’s coach, Crompton’s performance and confidence have both seen improvement. In his first five games of the season, Crompton got off to a rough start, throwing for only 900 yards and eight interceptions. Kiffin stuck with Crompton as his starter, and in the last five games, the UT quarterback has completed 93-for-147 passes for 1208 yards, 14 touchdowns and only two interceptions.
“When you’re at practice every day, you see the way that he works and how well that he’s playing, and then when you watch the film and break it down you say, ‘Okay, is he making the mistakes or are the people around him?’” Kiffin said. “So, he was not playing as well as we liked, but we weren’t helping him. I wasn’t calling great games, we weren’t making enough plays around him, so our players are now making big plays for him and that’s been the biggest reason.”
This week, Crompton and the Volunteers will be getting ready for their final home game against Vanderbilt, a game that UT needs to win to become bowl-eligible. Even though Crompton’s numbers have improved, the senior quarterback and his teammates enter this game against the Commodores making the same approach as they would against Florida or Alabama.
“We go into every game with the same mindset, concentrating on ourselves no matter if we’re playing number one in the country or number 119 in the country,” Crompton said.