UT head coach Lane Kiffin tabbed senior Jonathan Crompton as the Vols’ starting quarterback for the 2009 season following Monday’s practice. Crompton and junior Nick Stephens battled on the practice field all offseason for the starting job, and Kiffin said the competition was a close one.
“It really came down to Jonathan was a little bit more accurate,” Kiffin said after Monday’s practice. “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.”
Kiffin said, despite Crompton taking the starting position, Stephens had an impressive offseason.
“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,” Kiffin said.
Kiffin admitted he felt safe with the Vols’ No. 2 option at quarterback.
“If something were to happen to Jonathan, I feel very confident that Nick would come in and do a great job for us,” Kiffin said. “I think we’ve got two really good quarterbacks.”
New Receiver
In light of receiver Gerald Jones being sidelined for three to six weeks with a high ankle sprain, Kiffin announced moving redshirt freshman Rod Wilks over to receiver in order to boost the depth in the receiving corps. Wilks previously practiced as a defensive back in the secondary.
“There’s no free agency to go to or trades, so we made a deal with the defense and went to Rod Wilks,” Kiffin said after practice. “We made a deal with the defense and brought him over.”
Center of Focus
Kiffin said senior center Josh McNeil missed practice to treat a knee injury suffered last week. McNeil’s injury could give way to fellow senior and former walk-on Cody Sullins, who may step into the starting lineup.
“We’ll see how Josh comes back from his injury and then make a decision,” Kiffin said. “Hopefully we’ll have good news, and (Josh) will be able to play for us.”
UT will hit the practice field again Wednesday afternoon at Haslam Field.