Fulmer eyeing other Vol QBs
Posted: Monday, September 29, 2008 5:12 pm
By: By BETH RUCKER, Associated Press Writer
KNOXVILLE (AP) — Jonathan Crompton and Nick Stephens will compete for Tennessee’s starting quarterback job this week during practice, coach Phillip Fulmer said Sunday.
“I’d much rather the guy we anticipated being the starter play well and execute like we want. That’s not happening on a consistent basis right now,” he said.
Fulmer called Crompton’s 8-for-23 passing performance for 67 yards in the Vols’ 14-12 loss at Auburn unacceptable. Crompton completed a pass to Gerald Jones on a two-point conversion attempt that would have tied the game, but Jones was stopped short of the end zone.
The pair will alternate taking snaps with the first team offense during practice. Whichever quarterback shows the most consistency passing during practice this week will earn the starting job when Tennessee (1-3, 0-2 Southeastern Conference) faces Northern Illinois on Saturday.
Crompton, a 6-foot-4, 220-pound redshirt junior from Waynesville, N.C., has struggled with passing consistency all season and caused five turnovers through interceptions and a fumble near the goal line against Florida.
One mistake Fulmer did not charge Crompton with was a fumbled handoff with Arian Foster at the goal line that was recovered by Auburn’s Jake Ricks in the end zone for the decisive score.
Fulmer said Foster was not holding his elbow high enough to create enough room to receive the ball from Crompton, who was charged with the fumble by the game’s statisticians.
Crompton’s passing numbers have been disappointing in four games this season with an average 16 completions on nearly 31 attempts for 164.5 yards per game. His best performance came against UAB when he went 19-for-31 with his only two touchdown passes of the season.
By comparison, Erik Ainge averaged 23 completions on 37 attempts for 251.5 yards per game last season.
Fulmer said Crompton has performed well in practice, but struggles too much with accuracy and finding open receivers during games.
“Jon has played well at times and made some nice plays. I can’t put my finger on it exactly,” he said. “Sometimes it’s the decision making process isn’t as smooth as it needs to be.”
Three times against 13th-ranked Auburn (4-1, 2-1), Tennessee started drives inside Tigers territory but failed to get a first down to set up what might have been a game-winning field goal attempt.
“It’s tough,” Crompton said after the game. “Tough times come and go. It’s obviously one of the tough times.”
Fulmer said he and offensive coordinator Dave Clawson have discussed replacing Crompton several times during games, but Crompton usually responded with a positive play and they chose instead to let him continue.
Fulmer said his receivers were doing well most of the time separating from defenders and running routes but at times made mistakes that caused a play to break down. He also said the offense’s protection wasn’t always enough.
Stephens, a 6-foot-4, 215-pound redshirt sophomore from Flower Mound, Texas, has attempted only two passes this season, both against UAB in mop-up duty. The first was a 42-yarder to Brandon Warren. The second fell incomplete.
Stephens also ran once for a 5-yard gain.
At the beginning of the season, Stephens and B.J. Coleman, a redshirt freshman, took turns practicing with the second team. The decision was made a couple of weeks ago to have only Stephens practice with the second team to better prepare him should he have to play.
“Nick has made a lot of improvement in the last two or three weeks, actually. We look forward to seeing what he can do this week,” Fulmer said.
Coleman, 6-foot-3, 210-pound Chattanooga native, also played in the closing minutes against UAB but did not attempt a pass.
Fulmer said he expected to use wide receiver Gerald Jones at quarterback in the Vols’ “G-gun” package more in coming games, though not necessarily because of the starter’s play. He said coaches and Jones have been working to expand the package regardless.
Jones, a former high school quarterback, ran four times for 25 yards out of the G-gun and handed off the ball a few more times. He attempted his first pass of the season, an accurate but incomplete pass to Lucas Taylor.
It’s not the first time Fulmer has faced a quarterback carousel. In 2005, when the Vols went 5-6 and missed out on a bowl appearance, Ainge and Rick Clausen alternated behind center as neither ever solidly won the starter job.
“We really, really don’t want to have to do that unless we think its going to help us win,” Fulmer said. “Hopefully we’ll come up with a clear-cut starter.”