As the Vol universe focused on who the starting QB will be in a battle of Senior Jonathan Crompton and Junior Nick Stephens, several Tennessee freshman made their case for playing time as the Vols prepared to begin the 2009 season on September 5th by scrimmaging this past Saturday in front of thousands of excited fans at Neyland Stadium.
More on the quarterback battle in a moment as well as the drama surrounding freshman phenom Bryce Brown.
Saturday’s scrimmage won 37-30 by the defense, saw several Tennessee freshman either starting or highly contributing to the overall effort. Below are the players and some of their contributions.
LB Greg King
LB Jerod Askew: Brought the pain to Montario Hardesty, causing a fumble and points for the D.
LB Nigel Mitchell-Thornton: Almost intercepted a pass from Nick Stephens that lead to points for the D.
DT Marlon Walls played on the second team even though he joined the team late because of NCAA Clearinghouse issues.
DT Montori Hughes Started at DT on the first team.
CB/KR Mike Edwards Returned a kickoff 72 yards before being pushed out of bounds and broke up a pass from Crompton to fellow freshman Zach Rodgers with a hard hit.
CB Eric Gordon intercepted an underthrown ball from Crompton and returned it 33 yards.
DB Nyshier Oliver intercepted a pass from third string QB Nick Lamaison.
WR/QB/PR Nu’Keese Richardson From the Nu’ Gun package, gained 10 yards after faking to Brown and keeping around the corner. He had a 24-yard punt return, but also fumbled a punt return opportunity.
WR/KR Marsalis Teague had nice yards after the catch , turning a short Crompton pass into a 25-yard gain.
RB Bryce Brown was hit behind the line of scrimmage but broke loose for a five- yard TD run. He finished with 30 yards on four carries.
RB David Oku caught a 6-yard TD pass from Crompton and also took a screen pass 15 yards downfield. He finished with 14 carries and 45 yards.
The Vols went through the same pregame schedule that they will keep throughout the season, warmed up to the same music they will use all season, played four quarters, and even kicked off at 12:21, which is game time for Western Kentucky.
Kiffin said he was pleased with how the first half of the scrimmage went but thought the energy of his team dropped off after halftime.
"We're going to have to work on continuing to finish," he said. "I don't think it was a conditioning issue. I just thought that we had them ready to go the first half and not as good in the second."
Now back to the QB battle. Saturday’s scrimmage was thought by many to be the final battle in the showdown between Crompton and Stephens. Casual observers noted that Crompton played measurably better. However, Kiffin and the coaching staff did not have the same tune whenever the scrimmage ended.
"I thought they did well. We'll go back and look at the film. Jonathan ended up with more plays because of how it worked out. It's just how the series went."
Those series led to stats of 17 of 31 passing for 270 yards, two touchdowns and one interception for Crompton and 10 of 18 passing for 100 yards and no touchdowns or interceptions for Stephens. Both quarterbacks were sacked, and both threw near interceptions that defenders dropped.
"It's going to be interesting to see as we watch this out and make some final decisions as the week progresses and what coach wants to do in regards to that," Volunteers offensive coordinator Jim Chaney said. "I think it's been the best thing for our football program to keep the competition on."
That competition ended on Monday as Lane Kiffin announced after practice that Senior QB Jonathan Crompton has been named the starter for the Vols.
Freshman Phenom Ineligible?
This week news broke that Tennessee running back and number one overall recruit Bryce Brown could be ruled ineligible by the NCAA for anywhere from one to three games.
The reason is money was raised for Brown and other players to attend football camps while Brown was a sophomore at Wichita (Kan.) East High School. The investigation has been ongoing since at least February.
Tennessee’s recruitment of Brown is not part of the investigation. Neither is the recruitment from any other school nor any of the players involved.
“I think it’s a gigantic distraction,” Kiffin said of the issue. “They can rule whenever they want.”
Brown was also sidelined this week with a hip injury and was limited in Saturday’s scrimmage. That being said, he still impressed the coaching staff.
"He's physical," Orgeron said. "He's a big back with speed, who kind of reminds me of LenDale White that we had at USC. He's very explosive."
UT defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin offered commentary for the rest of the staff through the phone lines.
"I was on the phone (saying), 'The bad news is we looked bad on that play,' " Monte said.” 'The good news it was Bryce Brown. And he's on our team.' "
Ultimately, many people believe that Tennessee’s appeal of the undisclosed NCAA ruling on Brown will be won and any suspension will be removed. The NCAA in its “protection” of student athletes shouldn’t use those athletes that are more talented than others to further their overall agenda.
Brown’s family will probably have to repay the money and the NCAA will have sent the message to future players to take caution when accepting ANY form of financial gift or assistance as you near and play with NCAA status.
As always you can see more from the Blazer Chronicles by clicking http://www.blazerchronicles.com.
Don’t forget to tell your friends, tell your enemies and Go Vols!