Postscript: Tennessee vs Georgia

The key to success can be elusive. To find it sometimes requires persistence and a fundamental belief.


It has been written, and some believe, that the basic nature of every human being is goodness. The basic goodness of human nature.

It could be postulated that at the high level of SEC football (which we all lovingly refer to as the best in the nation), there is a good football player at the core of every squad member.

Sometimes, coaching isn’t needed to let that quality manifest itself – the great ones just are able to show it almost spontaneously. They are that good.

But some need a mentor to strip away all of the layers covering that innate quality, all of those layers that keep a young man from achieving his potential, even if it is for only one day. For some it’s belief, confidence, and loyality from a coach that coaxes it out. For some, its tough love; maybe even ruling with fear.

And for others, it never happens. A college career goes by, never finding their song to sing. Every songsheet handed to these unfortunate kids seems to be in the wrong key.

Lane Kiffin coaches Jonathan Crompton after a tough evening against Auburn. Photo by Amy Smotherman Burgess.

Lane Kiffin coaches Jonathan Crompton after a tough evening against Auburn. Photo by Amy Smotherman Burgess.

I have written on this blog that Lane Kiffin had reached an important decision point early in his coaching career at Tennessee, right after the UCLA game. I called for a change at QB, and the only question I had was whether or not the change should be made before the Florida game or the next one against Ohio. But that was the only question I had left. Not if, but when.

After last week’s loss at the hands of Auburn, I wrote that “Jonathan Crompton is not good enough to play at this level.” But I didn’t stop there. I added, “At this point, what have we got to lose by going to Nick Stevens?” It got worse. I addressed the fundamental issue that I’m raising in this post. My message to Coach Kiffin was, “Coach him all you want. But not godalmighty… could make Crompton into what Tennessee needs to be a winning team this season.”

I had given up on the young man. Totally.

On Saturday, Jonathan Crompton showed command never seen against SEC competition. Getty Images/Andy Lyons.

On Saturday, Jonathan Crompton showed command never seen against SEC competition. Getty Images/Andy Lyons.

During the second quarter of Saturday’s game, when we were beginning to convert the Georgia Bulldogs into puppies, I saw evidence that something had changed. It looked to me that Kiffin and the Vol staff had found a way for the basic goodness of Jonathan Crompton as a football player, against decent SEC opposition (note to those remembering our opener against Western Kentucky who are now 0-6), to be uncovered and allowed to flourish. You know, to put him into a situation that could allow him to succeed. An offensive scheme that was “right” for him.

Enter the play action pass, by either a naked bootleg left or right, or a drop back. Movement. Something to do in those previously idle moments between the snap and the release of a pass.

Now part of this was just making a good old fashioned game plan, effective against a team keying on our best offensive weapon – the run. Number 2. Montario Hardesty. Not by abandoning that run game, but finding a way to keep Georgia from sitting on a chair with nothing to do but waiting for the run bus to come by. That means the pass. And the status quo of our passing game up to about 12:30 Saturday afternoon was not something to look forward to, or to rely on. At least in the way it had been run. The way that Jonathan Crompton had been instructed, and dare I say, nurtured under Dave Clawson’s scheme.

Enter head coach Lane Kiffin, quarterbacks coach David Reaves, wide receivers coach Frank Wilson, offensive line coach James Cregg, running backs coach Eddie Gran, and offensive coordinator/tight ends coach Jim Chaney. As all of us have read, this year and last, Jonathan Crompton excels in practice. He is the “winner” of every week’s practice. Therefore, he “wins” the starting job every week. Not following the model of George Cafego, the Hall-of-Fame former Vol great who basically sucked every week in practice but was great on gameday, this coaching staff has made it plain that Jonathan Crompton is our QB because of what he consistently shows on the practice field.

The notion that this could never work was dispelled on Saturday. AP Photo/Wade Payne.

The notion that this could never work was dispelled on Saturday. AP Photo/Wade Payne.

Perhaps they believed in the basic nature of athletes on this squad – all have the potential to be successful, in some way – and it’s up to the coaches to uncover that nature. For that is what coaching is, no? For a psychologist to help a patient, they actually have to believe this. Otherwise, their endeavor would be a worthless endeavor. So, why should it be any different for football coaches? Isn’t part of coaching psychological? You bet it is.

I don’t really have any idea what has been going on with Crompton and the coaching staff. Maybe some day I’ll get to read about it in a book yet to be written. I don’t know if this coaching staff has stuck with Crompton because Nick Stevens wasn’t nearly as good. But what I saw on Saturday makes me believe that this coaching staff actually believed in him, and it was just a matter of time before the staff could find a scheme, a system, in which Jonathan could flourish.

I believe they found a key to open a door that the rest of us have been banging our heads against since our visit to Pasadena in September 2008.

Whether or not there is simply another locked door around the corner requiring a different key is anybody’s guess. But watching a 20-for-27 effort resulting in 310 yards and 3 touchdowns makes me look forward to finding out.

What They’re Saying

Tennessee Megaphone

Hooper over at Rock Top Talk talks about patience.

Georgia reminds Will (of Rocky Top Talk) of Tennessee during the last few years of the Fulmer era.

Jon over at Fulmer’s Belly talks about how nobody saw this coming.

Bill Duff’s Love Child over at 3rd Saturday in Blogtober talks about how we all hope that the Jonathan Crompton that showed up on Saturday stays awhile.

GhostOfNeyland at the same place admits that Kiffin knows what he’s doing.

All of the Georgia Bulldog blogs (listed under Xeno Fan Blogs) are predictably critical of, oh, pick anything that comes to mind.

This is what comes to mind for me:

Bulldog Puppies


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6 responses to “Postscript: Tennessee vs Georgia”

  1. BDLC says :

    Great stuff man… I just found your website. I look forward to reading regularly.

  2. Sandy says :

    Nice work again Freddie… you are earning every cent for hosting this site 🙂

    I’m being encouraged by this coaching staff more and more each week. Even the Auburn game gave a glimpse of the hope. I’m not sure if what happend on Saturday against UGA can be replicated. Bama is next, and that is a whole different ballgame.

    I am glad to see the homeboy from Western NC finally have a good day. It’s been a long time since the Jimmy Streater days.

    Go Phillies!

  3. T K says :

    sandy, sounds like you are not claiming heath shuler??????

    • Sandy says :

      Now that he is a politician my view of him has changed 😉

      Actually, I thought he was a good college quarterback for the Vols. Not sure why he didn’t succeed in the pros. I recall he had a long hold out his rookie season that set him back.

      Of course Danny Wuerfel didn’t make it in the pros either, and he was a pretty fair college quarterback also.

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