November 16, 2008

Crompton to start; Berry working more offense

Tennessee's football season has had many twists and turns, most of them leading to dead-ends. On Sunday night, Phillip Fulmer announced another change of direction with the news that junior quarterback Jonathan Crompton would be the starter this week at Vanderbilt.

Crompton was benched following the fourth game of the season, an ugly 14-12 loss at Auburn that highlighted all the offensive inefficiencies that have led to a 3-7 campaign.

His replacement, sophomore Nick Stephens, took over in the fourth game against Northern Illinois and started the next five games. After some reasonable success in his first few outings, Stephens' last two games against South Carolina and Wyoming have been mistake-filled.

The sophomore didn't throw an interception in his first three starts, but that changed markedly in the last two games. Stephens had three passes picked off in the last two games, two of which were returned for touchdowns; the other was returned inside the Vols' 5-yard line and set up a score against Wyoming. The two throws against Wyoming essentially cost Tennessee that football game.

Stephens had been pulled for Crompton in each of those two contests, though against South Carolina, Stephens reentered the contest in the second half after sitting for the second quarter.

"We just haven't had the production from our quarterback position. Nick had done such good job for good period of time of taking care of football although there were some plays along the way that could have been intercepted. But he's had a really bad couple of ball games as far as the other team getting their hands on the ball," Fulmer said of the Stephens' recent struggles and the move to go back to Crompton.

"Right now, Jon will be the starting quarterback and we will continue to look at B.J. (Coleman) along the way and then go from there."

Coleman has been getting more reps in practice for the last month, and was able to showcase some of his ability in last week's JV win over Hargrave Military Academy. Coleman threw for 325 yards and two touchdowns in that setting, and in light of the Vols struggles at the position, one would think that the performance might at least earn him a look against the Commodores on Saturday.

Fulmer didn't guarantee that Coleman would play in Nashville this weekend though, saying instead that he hoped Crompton would perform well enough to merit staying in the game.

He did, however, confirm that Coleman has slid up another spot on the depth chart, at least for now.

"I'd say we'll go through week and determine that but that's kind of the way we practiced last week," Fulmer said of Coleman’s status as the No.2 quarterback.

Crompton said he'll take a straightforward approach to his second stint as the Vols' starting quarterback.

"I'm going to go out here and do the best I can," Crompton said. "we've got to go out here and win these last two games."

Injury Notes

Tennessee battled injuries to a severe degree in the loss to Wyoming, most notably in the offensive backfield where Arian Foster and Montario Hardesty were both absent.

This week Fulmer expects the health situation to be much rosier.

The head coach said Sunday that Hardesty and Foster should both play, and added that Chris Walker and Dan Williams should each be back to 100 percent by Saturday’s contest.

Too Little, Too Late? But Maybe Anyway...

Sophomore defensive back Eric Berry has provided fans with essentially their lone point of pride this season, with the only complaint form his orange-clad supporters being that they want to see more of him.

Berry saw a few offensive snaps against Alabama, catching one screen pass for 3 yards in the game.

But what fans want to see is Berry get the ball on the snap and take off streaking for the corner.

Will he finally get a chance this week, in light of the 'nothing-to-lose' scenario the Vols are currently playing in?

"I don't know why I'd say that and give Vanderbilt any edge, would you,?" Fulmer said of the possibility of Berry on offense, before conceding that, "We've got some plays that Eric has and we did work on those some (in the bye-week) yes we did."

Sophomore wideout Gerald Jones indicated after practice Sunday night that Berry had gotten a decent amount of offensive work in recent practices.

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