KNOXVILLE — Before I get back to writing stories, here are some quick quotes from Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin and senior quarterback Jonathan Crompton on today’s quarterback news.
Kiffin named Crompton the starter over junior Nick Stephens.
Q: What are your thoughts on the quarterbacks after Saturday’s third and final major preseason scrimmage?
KIFFIN: “I thought they both played extremely well. Went back and took all three preseason games together — all the numbers, all the film. It was a very hard decision, because they both played really well. It was a great thing. I think we’ve got two really good quarterbacks. Jonathan will be our starter. Nick will be our backup, and if something were to happen to Jonathan, we’d feel very confident that Nick would come in and do a great job for us, and he really improved. It’s weird to say it, but if you probably listed the five most improved players from spring, Nick would be one of them, even though he didn’t win the starting job.”
Q: How did Crompton separate himself?
KIFFIN: “It was really close. It really came down to Jonathan was a little bit more accurate. Both guys have made a number of plays during camp and protected the ball very well. Very low interception numbers. Very good numbers in general in all the preseason games combined. Jonathan had the slight edge for accuracy.”
Q: What are your initial thoughts on winning the starting quarterback battle?
CROMPTON: “Nothing is settled yet. We haven’t played a game yet, so we’re just trying to go out there and work. That’s what it’s all about. We’re going to stay out here and throw every day. That’s what we’re about now. Coach has done a great job planting that into our heads, that we’re not even close to being there. We’ve got to keep working. That’s a good thing. Everybody knows that, so everybody’s really hungry. Nobody cares who’s been named the starter or anything like that. Nobody cares about that right now.
“We all know we’ll be playing for our jobs in week 10. That’s the thing: Nothing is ever guaranteed around here. And that’s a good thing, because the more you compete, the more you get better. The minute you stop competing, the minute you get complacent, that’s when things start going downhill. I don’t see that happening around here, and that’s a really good sign.”
Q: Lane Kiffin said your accuracy was the difference? What went into improving that aspect of your game?
CROMPTON: “I’ve got to credit Coach with that. He says, ‘With this, look here,’ or, ‘With that, look here.’ The more comfortable I feel, the more accurate I can be, so I give the credit to them for teaching me where to go with it, so that I can play like myself.”
Q: Have lessons learned in your career tempered your excitement today?
CROMPTON: “You can’t take anything for granted. Look at some of the guys that get their career ended by a freak accident. Over the years, you kind of see things happen and you say, ‘I’m playing the game I love. I’m fortunate to be able to play this, so I’m going to out there and work my butt off every day and just work the hardest I can on and off the field, because anything can happen.’ Something can happen tonight or tomorrow or 20 years from now. You never know, so it’s a good thing to be able to come out here and play. You can’t take it for granted.”
Read Tuesday’s Times Free Press for more UT coverage, and contact Wes Rucker at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.twitter.com/wesrucker