Like most every Tennessee fan, I am frustrated with the 2-3 record and the lack of production on the field in Lane Kiffin’s first year as Tennessee head coach. Because of this frustration, I decided to look into the numbers to see just who is to blame.
A lot of Tennessee fans are blaming senior signal-caller Jonathon Crompton. One of the first things I decided to do was to see if there was anyone else to point out.
A simple look at the statistics shows that number one on the Vol fan hit list should be special team’s coach Eddie Gran. For all of his success as running backs coach (36th in the country in rushing offense, Montario Hardesty leading the SEC in rushing and eighth nationally with 115 ypg, only 1.5 ypg out of fifth nationally), Gran’s kickoff teams are pitiful.
The Vols are 71st in the nation in kickoff return yardage with an average of 21 yards per return. Even worse is the kickoff return yards allowed. Tennessee is 116th in the country, averaging 29 yards per return.
Most of Tennessee’s kicks are caught between the five and 10-yard line, which means that teams are starting on their own 35 to 40-yard line, while Tennessee is starting between their 20 to 25-yard line.
Worse than just the average is the total number of return yards allowed. Tennessee has only kicked off 24 times and teams have gained 687 yards. Only three teams in the country have allowed more yards, but all three have kicked off more times (NC State 695 yards, 32 kickoffs; Auburn 812 yards, 35 kickoffs; Alabama 775 yards, 31 kickoffs).
For Tennessee fans seeing their stars playing on the kickoff coverage team and super talented freshmen on the kickoff return teams, these numbers are not where they need to be. Eddie Gran coached Auburn’s 2006 kickoff coverage team to first in the SEC. He has shown that he knows how to get his teams to the top. It’s time that he does that.
Looking further into the statistics, one struggles to find fault in the defensive side of the ball. The Vols are 17th in the nation in passing D, 37th in rushing defense, and 19th in total defense.
The Vols are also 30th in the country in passing efficiency defense and 39th in third down defense. The next target is found when you begin to compare those defensive numbers to those of their offensive counterparts.
Tennessee’s offense is 89th in the country in passing efficiency and 81st in third down offense. The Vols look even worse when you compare the numbers earlier of 19th in total defense to 56th in total offense and 17th in pass defense to 82nd in passing offense.
That lack of offensive production has lead to the Vols' defense being on the field way too long. Of the 17 teams in FBS that are 2-3, 11 of them have higher times of possession on offense.
These offensive numbers lay at the feet of the starting QB. Tennessee fans should get over blaming him, however. Jonathon Crompton is who we thought he was; a mediocre SEC-level QB with below average production and a lack of ability to take any self-responsibility.
The target that Tennessee fans should blame is head coach Lane Kiffin.
Kiffin has numerous quotes from the early and preseason that don’t seem to hold water now.
"Everything they do counts, no matter what it is. On or off the field, we take everything into account, which will end up having a lot to do with our depth chart."
"Whoever is the starter, the other guy is going to end up playing at some point. Having both guys play well is a lot better than having one guy play well and one guy not."
"(The competition) is extremely close. If it was easy, that would mean one guy wasn't playing well. And if that was the case, we wouldn't be very good, because you never know when you're going to need your No. 2. I'm excited that they're both playing well."
“In the end, a lot of times the decision has been made on who's the smarter quarterback, and (who) makes the smarter decision ends up beating the guy out. It'll be great to see Saturday."
"It really came down to Jonathan was a little bit more accurate. Both guys made a number of plays during camp, both protected the ball very well with very low interception numbers, (and) very good numbers in general in all preseason games combined."
"Jonathan had a slight edge for accuracy."
"It's weird to say it, but if you listed the five most improved players from spring, Nick would be one of them, even though he didn't win the starting job. If something were to happen to Jonathan, I feel very confident that Nick would come in and do a great job for us."
"I think we've got two really good quarterbacks."
So, taking those quotes into account, Kiffin should be concerned with mistakes being made, while knowing he has another guy that he himself called "really good." Crompton has shown that he is far from "really good," so at this point it appears as though Kiffin is refusing to admit that he was wrong.
It should also be hard for Vol fans and Kiffin to believe that Crompton still has the "accuracy" needed to be the starter. Consider these numbers:
So far in 2009, Jonathon Crompton is 91st out of 100 in passing efficiency in NCAA FBS. Crompton is 82-of-150 for 900 yards (11 yds per completion), 54.7 percent completion percentage, 8 INTs (which is 5th most by any QB in FBS) and nine touchdowns (five of which were against hapless Western Kentucky).
Also, of note is that all four quarterbacks with more interceptions also have more attempts, yards, yards per completion, and completions than the fifth-year senior.
Earlier, I said that Crompton is who we thought he was. The reason for that is that his career numbers mirror that of this season’s performance.
In his career, Crompton is 206-of-395 for 2,287 yards (11 yards per completion), 52.2 completion percentage, 17 interceptions, and 18 touchdowns.
This is as good as it gets for Crompton. His lack of production isn’t because of missed blocks or dropped balls. Crompton is playing as hard and as well as he can. Tennessee fans, myself included, should get off his back. Kiffin is the one to fault.
Just last week, Kiffin called out 5 percent of his team for not trying as hard as they needed to.
“It’s time to come up. It’s time to come up with the rest of the guys that are doing things right.”
You’re right, coach, it’s time to do things right. It’s time to do your best and put your best forward. Crompton can’t be your best, and he can’t be your best because you haven’t seen what Stephens can do. You’re too afraid to admit you were wrong about Crompton and too afraid of what the media will say if you win with the other guy.
Kiffin finished his comments to the media last week with one short message that can now be said to him.
“Quit being that guy.”