Sept. 3, 2009
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Jonathan Crompton's father gave him a piece of advice on getting over his miserable season as Tennessee's quarterback.
"'Just let it all hang loose. What do you have to lose? Nothing,'" the senior recalled his father saying. "That's what it's all about. It's still a game."
Something about that clicked, Crompton said. Now, as the Volunteers prepare for Saturday's opener against Western Kentucky, he's enjoying a resurgence in confidence.
Crompton won the starting job nearly two weeks ago for a second season after a tight competition in fall camp with his backup from last season, junior Nick Stephens.
They're the same two who were engaged in a season long soap opera in 2008 with the quarterbacks and their teammates wondering weekly which one would start.
Stephens was tabbed after Crompton struggled through the first four games and started until the Vols lost to Wyoming. Crompton won the starting job back for the last two games, but Stephens and third-string quarterback B.J. Coleman still saw plenty of playing time.
Crompton finished the season with 889 yards passing, only four touchdowns and five interceptions. He had as many touchdowns in 2006 playing back up to Erik Ainge.
Crompton was at times booed by fans, and the quarterback said he received threatening e-mails as the season tanked.
Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin could see what Crompton through last season during some early fall practices.
"It's like a bad relationship," Kiffin said at the time. "He's hurt. You can tell when things go bad because he freezes up a little bit because he's been beat up for so long here."
Kiffin has pledged not to rotate quarterbacks. Now Crompton looks more relaxed. He still throws the occasional interception but walks back to the huddle as if nothing happened. He stays after practice to throw with the wide receivers and has filled notebooks with notes.
Last season he would stiffly respond to questions with succinct answers. Now he doesn't mind elaborating and will even joke.
"It's still the game of football, and that's the game I chose as a little kid that I wanted to play. And I love it, and I'm passionate about it," Crompton said.
The confidence is carrying over to the entire offense.
"You see guys that are practicing hard, they've got a smile on their face when it's working for them," defensive tackle Wes Brown said. "That's really good to see because they've really been coming on the last couple of weeks."
Crompton likes the new offensive system under the first-year coach. He doesn't have to think too much. He just plays.
"I guess you say it's a cliche, but it's like it just clicked, and something just happened," he said. "I guess you could say I just went back to my old self. And it's been fun ever since that happened."