published Sunday, September 13th, 2009

Wiedmer: Kiffin may have to make quarterback change to save Vols' season

KNOXVILLE -- A week ago, new Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin could have been elected governor. Even if he'd been born in Kenya.

The Volunteers had just smacked around Western Kentucky to the tune of 63-7, and visions of BCS bowls danced in Volniacs' heads the Big Orange Nation over. So what if UCLA was flying in for game two? It took overtime for UCLA to win in the Rose Bowl with that incompetent coach Phil Fulmer running the show.

The Bruins leave a Kiffin-coached team in ruins? Fuhgetaboudit.

But just for the fun of it, let us move swiftly ahead to Saturday's third quarter -- right after Vols fifth-year senior quarterback Jonathan Crompton returned to the huddle after throwing his third interception of the game. That pick led to a quick UCLA field goal, which gave the Bruins a 13-10 lead.

Exactly 13:52 remained in the period. Roughly 25 percent of the 100,000 Big Orange fans began to boo. Not a deafening boo, mind you, certainly not enough to drown out Rocky Top. But boos nonetheless. Presumably aimed at the boy king Kiffin as much as Crompton.

We repeat, boos. Two weeks on the job. Boos.

So given that UCLA ultimately won this game 19-15 and that No. 1 Florida awaits in Gainesville this coming Saturday, and that Crompton's three interceptions and one fumble were pretty much reasons 1, 2, 3 and 4 why UT lost this game, is it too early to wonder if this could be the shortest honeymoon in college football history?

Moreover, if Kiffin does change quarterbacks now, he is doing it to keep the fans off his back or because Nick Stephens truly deserves a chance to start?

But if he deserves to start, why didn't he deserve a chance to play at some point in Saturday's second half?

Kiffin tried to say all the right things after this one, beginning with, "I didn't do a very good job today of taking care of Jonathan. We didn't do very many good things around him."

And Crompton somehow remained upbeat, despite one of the more miserable efforts of his struggling career.

"The good news is that we were still in the game at the end," he said. "We (or should that have been 'I'?) had four turnovers and still came up 1 yard short."

Added center Cody Sullins: "Jonathan's a good leader out there. He calms us down in the huddle. He keeps his head up, no matter what happens."

All that's great. All that's uplifting. But it doesn't change the fact that the Vols' fifth-year senior quarterback threw three interceptions, coughed up a fumble and would have tossed four INTs if the Bruins hadn't been offside on UT's next-to-last offensive play of the game.

It also doesn't change these words from UCLA defensive back Rahim Moore, who picked off two of Crompton's passes: "On film, (Crompton) would look guys off. He didn't look anybody off today. Where he was looking was where he was throwing."

When your fifth-year senior quarterback is telegraphing his passes, it might be time for a change.

It might also be time for a quarterback change when the head coach admits, as Kiffin did, "I saw some finger-pointing. I saw a little during the game and I saw a little in the locker room."

When you're finger-pointing two games into the season and the quarterback behind the finger-pointing threw five touchdown passes the week before, you've got a fragile team on your hands heading into your toughest game of the year.

All of which makes this a very important week for Big Orange football.

To stay with Crompton or not? That is the question.

Kiffin's answer isn't likely to dramatically change the season, since Stephens surely would already be the starter if he were dramatically better.

But Kiffin doing nothing might switch the finger-pointing from a few players to 102,000 Volniacs, their index appendages all angrily trained on Lane.

about Mark Wiedmer...

Mark Wiedmer started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press on Valentine’s Day of 1983. At the time, he had to get an advance from his boss to buy a Valentine gift for his wife. Mark was hired as a graphic artist but quickly moved to sports, where he oversaw prep football for a time, won the “Pick’ em” box in 1985 and took over the UTC basketball beat the following year. By 1990, he was ...

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Mark, you're the Dana Shaven of sports journalism.

September 13, 2009 at 4:54 p.m.
dl said...

I bet Coleman would be starting next week if he were still there!

September 13, 2009 at 6:06 p.m.
jomo422 said...

I don't understand the unreasonable expectations for superb play expressed in this article - after all, we still have virtually the same group of offensive players as last year; what did you expect? Programs aren't turned around overnight or in one season - give us a break! As for QBs, Stephens has been the backup under two coaching staffs now (Fulmer & Kiffin); he played last year and didn't leave those games with stellar performances that should make us want him in now. And Coleman? He couldn't stand the heat and cut out.

September 14, 2009 at 1:10 p.m.
countryboy said...

The same people that called for Coach Fulmers head last year will be calling for Coach Kiffins head this year, and you're probably the same spoiled brats that sent a bus to Bill Battles house. You're never happy. There will only be one SEC champ and one national champ, and it saddens my heart as much as anyone's to say it won't be Tennessee

September 14, 2009 at 7:45 p.m.
jomo11 said...

Kiffin looks like an idiot for running off BJ Coleman. BJ was 21 of 30 vs Furman, who is ranked 50 teams ahead of Western Kentucky in computer rankings.......

September 15, 2009 at 10:26 a.m.

Mark Wiedmer is a tool! How does someone write this kind of crap and keep his job? "is it too early to wonder if this could be the shortest honeymoon in college football history?" Are you even serious with that crap? It's one game and I have news for you Mark, the team looked alot better than they did last year, save one position. If you switch one position and give us the freshman Prince and give them Crompton... WE win that game. We don't have a QB. No surprise. Get over it. You can't blame Kiffin. Fulmer has not recruited or developed a QB since T Martin. Kiffin has Tyler Bray now. Lets see what he can do with him before we start talking about tha shortest honeymoon in college football history.

September 15, 2009 at 11:08 a.m.
jomo11 said...

Hey mysteaminggutpile what exactly did Kiffin's offense do that was any better than Fulmer's ???? those last 2 run up the middle plays for 3rd and 4th down were real creative.....and i'm sure a quarterback that chose UT over San Diego State really has Urban Myer and Nick Saban just shaking in their boots !

September 15, 2009 at 11:24 a.m.
thesharc said...

Mark Weidmer wrote this article to appeal to the masses. I honeslty don't believe he believes what he wrote.

Two different coaching staffs have found Crompton to be better than Stephens. It sucks, but Crompton's failures are not an indictment on Kiffin at all.

There is no question at all: Jonathan Crompton is Tennessee's starting quarterback. Change quarterbacks because the FANS want it?

As the old saying goes: the greatest player on earth is the back-up quarterback.

September 15, 2009 at 12:14 p.m.

To answer your question jomo11, I was talking mostly about the defense and I also was not judging only on the performance of the UCLA game but also some things I noticed in the Western KY game. But that's not all!!! The biggest thing I noticed was their body language. They played with emotion unlike the team we had last year. Go Vols!!!

September 17, 2009 at 5:02 p.m.
moonpie said...

Wiedmer's article was not a dig on Kiffin, but on the many Tennessee fans who are already griping (and booing). Face it, not all, but a lot our fellow orange-clad fans had unrealistic expectations after the season opener. There have been grumblings. If you're not one of the grumblers, Wiedmer is not writing about you and you can stop being defensive.

As of yet, Kiffin has not won me over. I'm not on the Lane Train. I'm a huge UT fan, and I don't find this article innaccurate or disturbing at all. What I do find disturbing are the Tennessee fans who are griping and booing.

September 18, 2009 at 4:05 p.m.
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