Archive for the 'Jonathan Crompton' Category

Tennessee Volunteer 2006 unit preview: Quarterbacks

Monday, August 14th, 2006

Well, what can be said about the quarterbacks that hasn’t already been said? Very little, but I’m going to mix up the order of the words to make it look brand spanking new.

Erik Ainge drew favorable comparisons to Peyton Manning his freshman year, and for good reason. He completed 109 of 198 passes for 1,452 yards and 17 touchdowns in nine games before a shoulder injury against Notre Dame ended his season. The following year, he got off to a good start, but morphed into a mushroom cloud in the end zone at LSU. The question then became Is There Life After Death Valley for Erik Ainge? By the Notre Dame game, the early returns suggested, well, maybe not.

Enter Ahead-to-the-Past offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe, sensei to the likes of No. 1 NFL draft picks Peyton Manning and Eli Manning, No. 3 NFL draft pick Heath Shuler, and National Championship QB Tee Martin. Job One for Cut is the Reanimation of Erik Ainge Project.

Erik Ainge

The jury is still out after the first all-live scrimmage, during which Ainge went 13 of 26 for 120 yards, with two interceptions and no touchdowns. Worse than the raw numbers, Ainge displayed some of the same pocket panic that we saw last year, even throwing a sure interception (it was actually dropped by the defender) off his back foot from his own end zone. Cut was “surprised,” and said such a play was unacceptable.

He did not, however, water the blooming controversy. “We are not shaking up or changing anything at this stage based on one scrimmage,” said Cutcliffe. “I evaluate every one of them every day. I grade every practice. They are all held accountable to perform.”

Cutcliffe didn’t, however, completely rule out the possibility of a change. “We are going to keep competition at all positions, including quarterback,” said Cutcliffe. “[Ainge] has to play better than he played from a mistake standpoint. I am sure he is disappointed. He is doing many things well.”

The offensive coaching staff is doing its best to both develop 2nd string QB Jonathan Crompton, a Parade All-American, and ignore the fact that he is nipping at Ainge’s heels. Crompton finished Saturday’s scrimmage 7 of 13 for 97 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions. According to Cutcliffe, Crompton is “transferring what I’m telling him and verbalizing it in the huddle and not getting frozen.”

Jonathan Crompton

Junior Bo Hardegree is nipping at Ainge’s other heel, and waiting in the wings is true freshman Nick Stephens, who passed for 2,602 yards and 24 touchdowns as a high school senior at Flower Mound, Texas last year.

Bo Hardegree

Best Case Scenario: Erik Ainge improves decision-making under duress and efficiently manages the offense, occasionally hitting big-time, long-distance pass plays, and racking up big early leads that enable Crompton to get healthy portions of game experience.

Worst Case Scenario: Ainge barely holds on to the starting position, hording all of the first string practice reps, through the first game against Cal where he throws an interception from his own end zone for a touchdown while in the arms of a defender and gets yanked for good. Crompton, thrown into the fire without the benefit of any real practice reps struggles and thereafter splits time equally under center with Bo Hardegree, Nick Stephens, Jim Bob Cooter, and defensive tackle Justin Harrell. Tennessee finishes 6-6 or worse, and the University decides to hire Bob Stoops, who brings Rhett Bomar with him.

Best Guess: Cutcliffe will in fact reanimate Ainge and cure him of his poor decision-making under duress by having Ainge take the snap, count to three, and heave the ball into the Tennessee River on thirty consecutive plays (or something like that) to substitute a new panic mechanism for the old one. Ainge will struggle early, fans will holler for Crompton, and Cutcliffe will wisely guide Ainge through the firestorm, molding him into an efficient QB whose game plan consists primarily of handing off to the tailback and throwing short passes.

A Glimpse: Basketball awards; graduating prisoners

Saturday, May 6th, 2006

The Volunteer basketball team had its annual pat each other on the back postseason awards banquet last night, and the following awards were presented:

  • JaJuan Smith and Major Wingate were named the most-improved players.  (Okay, I’ll play along with that one.)
  • Dane Bradshaw took home the Team Before Self Award and the John Stucky Lifter of the Year Award.  (Good, good, good.
  • The Burchfield-Moss Most Courageous Award went to Jordan Howell.  (Hmmm.  Not sure what this is about.  Any ideas?)

Basketball head coach Bruce Pearl is still trying to fill his assistant coaching vacancy.

Offensive Coordinator David Cutcliffe took quarterbacks Jonathan Crompton and Bo Hardegree with him to a graduation ceremony at the Morgan County Correctional Facility where coach Cut addressed prisoners who were receiving their GED or a vocational trade certificate.  That ought to give EDSBS something to play with.

The Reanimation of Erik Ainge

Thursday, March 9th, 2006

It’s The Question.

It was the question two years ago after former Tennessee Volunteer quarterback Casey Clausen had exhausted his eligibility. Who would replace Clausen? Sixth-year senior C.J. Leak? Or one of the dazzling freshman, Erik Ainge or Brent Schaeffer? And what exactly was Rick Clausen thinking? Did he really expect to play?

We know how that turned out. Sort of. Ainge and Schaeffer were named “co-starters,” with Schaeffer actually taking the first snap, and the two of them handling the rotation fairly well. Leak switched positions and then barely played. Then Schaeffer was injured against South Carolina, and Ainge was injured against Notre Dame. Behold, Rick Clausen, who saved the season.

It was also the question last year. All of last year. Who would lead the team, Clausen or Ainge?

We know how that turned out as well. Let’s call it . . . um . . . “not good.”

It’s still the question two full years later. Who’s our quarterback? Is there Life after Death Valley for Erik Ainge? Will the promising young Jonathan Crompton overtake Ainge? Will Ahead-to-the-Past offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe work his Manning/Shuler/Martin mojo on either of them?

The Question. Who’s our quarterback?

And while we don’t have The Answer, there are some little “a” answers.

Ainge’s mistakes last year were on display for the Big Orange Nation, but his biggest mistake did not come to light until this past week.

We didn’t learn until after the last snap that Ainge had turf toe much of last season. And while it was apparent that he did not have a solid grasp of what was happening last year, he admitted neither his toe injury nor his confusion to the coaches.

The coaching staff tried to hand the entire playbook to Ainge and let him run with it, but Ainge simply did not understand it all. Said Ainge, “I could tell watching myself that I was confused. I was dropping back and I was confused. Not confused on what route guys were running, but trying to be too precise and too perfect.”

His biggest mistake? Not telling the coaches. So why did he keep it all to himself?

There was a quarterback contest going on. “I felt I had to try and keep pace,” Ainge said. “It would be one thing if I was the guy or the starter and I said this was too much and we need to make it more simple. That would be one thing. But when the whole offense is doing something and there is a quarterback who can handle it, for me to say we need to tone the whole offense down and back down a notch, that is tough. Looking back should I have said some, yeah, but you never know if that would have meant that I would have never played at all. I think it kind of depends on the position of the quarterback. If you are “the” guy then you can say, hey I don’t like that or I want to do more of that. You are kind of like a coach in that setting.”

Well, now that they know, what are they doing about it?

They’re keeping it simple. They’re working on fundamentals. Cutcliffe is breaking Ainge down and re-coaching his mechanics. He’s teaching him to listen. He is explaining why defenses are doing what they are doing rather than just teaching recognition of alignments. Players will not have options. For example, if wide receivers are to run a route, they are to run that route with precision regardless of the circumstances. Said Ainge, “I am going to get him running this route so good that you know he is going to be there.”

As coach Cutcliffe is re-coaching the fundamentals, he is rebuilding Ainge’s confidence. “The way you gain confidence is absolutely knowing you what to do with the ball every time the ball is snapped.”

So who’s the quarterback? Is there Life after Death Valley for Erik Ainge?

It’s too soon to tell, but Coach Cutcliffe’s Reanimation of Erik Ainge project is well underway. And there’s a live one on the shelf just in case.