The honeymoon certainly didn't last long for Jonathan Crompton as the starting QB for the Tennessee Vols in '08. Many, including myself, booed early and often as Crompton continually made a fool of himself on and off the field.
Beginning with the UCLA game last September we could all tell that this was clearly not the same Jonathan Crompton that filled in admirably for an injured Erik Ainge in the '06 LSU game.
This was not the highly touted, five-star prospect that received offers from Georgia, USC, Miami, Clemson, Virginia, South and North Carolina.
The '08 Jonathan Crompton was actually nowhere close to any of that. As a matter of fact the '08 Jonathan Crompton was not much better than perrenniel All-Name first teamer, Jim Bob Cooter, who rarely made it off the bench in his four year UT career. Vols fans, you know this is not an exaggeration.
Considering the previous four paragraphs of this story I'm either about to say something that is either incredibly dumb or remarkably brilliant.
The '09 Jonathan Crompton might just look a whole lot more like the highly touted prospect than the Jim Bob Cooter impersonator.
Why you ask? Well reason number one is that Crompton is going back to basics this season.
Multiple reports have indicated that '08 UT offensive coordinator Dave Clawson's offense was incredibly hard to understand and master. If you could bare to watch the Vols offense in '08 you could clearly tell this was the case.
Whether it was Crompton, Stephens, or Coleman (for a few plays) something was clearly missing. Even the WR's had their struggles. Gerald Jones is one of the best athletes in the SEC and even he didn't have a full grasp on the playbook.
In my humble opinion, the Vols under their previous leadership was a conflicted team. As much as Phillip Fulmer stated that the offense the Tennessee ran for years under he and David Cutcliffe and Dave Clawson's offense were closely related, that could not have been further from the truth.
We heard buzz word's like, "spread-look" and "wide-open offense" during the offseason last year when referring to Dave Clawson's offense. What we actually witnessed on the field was a cross between old school UT football offense and a confusing mishmash of semi-spread, wide openness. The result, one of the worst offenses in the history of UT football.
Another reason Crompton struggled in '08 was his attitude. He was harsh toward fans, teammates, and coaches in much the same way that former Atlanta Brave Jeff Francoeur exemplified after being sent down to the minors last season.
Crompton called out fans, showed how displeased he was at being demoted, and lost the respect of his teammates. He spent his time in UT purgatory and actually played great against Kentucky in the season's final game.
That final game is part of the reason for my glimmer of hope in Crompton. He was 6/8 for 101 yards and 2 TD's, one of which was a rushing TD.
That small portion size is exactly what Jonathan Crompton was recruited to Tennessee to produce. Of course Phillip Fulmer hoped that it would be on a much larger scale, but that's water under the bridge now.
On Wednesday of this week Crompton told the Knoxville News Sentinel, "I love where we are right now" when speaking of the new, simplified pro-style offense that new coach Lane Kiffin and company have installed.
Kiffin's offense is one of the easiest to grasp, yet one of the most traditionally successful in all of college football.
Crompton went on to say, "We can do a lot more things in it. I'm a lot more comfortable."
Even center Josh McNeil joined in the praise by saying, “I can’t even really put into words how much better, how much smoother, this offense is translating on the field than what it did last year.’’
My theory is simply that Phillip Fulmer and Dave Clawson tried way too hard last season. They heard fans, commentators, and other observers saying it was time for the offense at UT to change, to evolve from it's 80's style attack. They tried and in the process ended up nearly destroying a very good college QB.
I am beginning to believe that we'll not only see a vastly improved Tennessee Vols football team in '09, but we'll see a vastly improved Jonathan Crompton as well.