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August 24, 2009KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin put one of the biggest remaining questions of fall camp to bed on Monday evening when he announced that Jonathan Crompton had nailed down the Vols' starting quarterback job. The announcement came exactly one week after Kiffin had declared the race 'extremely close.'
Kiffin had made no secret that last Saturday's scrimmage would go a long way toward determining the final shape of the Vols' two-deep roster, including the quarterback spot. In the end, Kiffin said Crompton earned the nod over Nick Stephens based on his overall efforts throughout camp.
"I thought they both played extremely well [on Saturday]," Kiffin said. "We went back and took all three preseason games [scrimmages], took all the numbers, all the film. It was a very hard decision because they both played very well. That was the great thing.
"I think we've got two really good quarterbacks. Jonathan will our starter, Nick will be our backup. If something were to happen to Jonathan we feel very confident that Nick would come in and do a great job for us. He's really improved."
Crompton seemed to nail down the job on Saturday, when he led the offense on its only three touchdown drives of the scrimmage.
"It was really close. It really came down to Jonathan being a little more accurate," Kiffin said. "Both guys have made plays during camp. They protected the ball very well, very low interception numbers and very good numbers in general in all of our preseason games. Jonathan had a slight edge for accuracy."
When Crompton met with media members following practice, he claimed that Kiffin hadn't officially let him know of his decision. The senior, though, didn't show much emotion when he was told of Kiffin's decision.
"Nothing's settled yet. We haven't played a game yet," Crompton said.
He added that getting the news that he'd won the job for the season opener didn't necessarily mean that it was his to keep.
"We all know we're going to be playing for our jobs in Week 10," Crompton said. "That's a good thing. The more you compete, the better you get. The minute you stop competing you get complacent, and that's when things start going downhill. I don't see that happening around here."
Surgery likely for McNeil
While the starting quarterback situation was resolved Monday, Kiffin declined to divulge a starting center. Cody Sullins, however, is expected to be named UT's starter by midweek because the Academic All-SEC performer had earned the job and because Josh McNeil's career in orange is in doubt.
McNeil, a former Parade All-America, has been dealing with knee and wrist injuries, and sources told VolQuest.com that McNeil would have wrist surgery by midweek. The Collins, Miss., native has battled recurring knee problems, as well as a new injury to his knee, in the past 10 days.
"Josh is really hurting right now," said James Cregg, who coaches the Vols' offensive line. "He's giving everything he's had and he's really struggling with his knees right now. They're really acting up. It's too bad. I think this camp has taken a toll on him, and I think over the years has taken a toll on him right now. He's battling his butt off, though."
Kiffin said the knee injury occured around nine days ago.
"He came down weird on it and kept playing through it," Kiffin said. "It really was an issue for him Saturday, and we're sending him for some tests because we can't just send him for an MRI because he's done so much damage.
"I wouldn't say [the injury] ends [competition at center]. We'll see what the results say when they come back, and hopefully we'll have good news and he'll be able to play for us."
VolQuest.com senior writer John Brice contributed to this report.