Nick Stephens will be the starter for the UT-Northern Illinois football game on Saturday, as confirmed by GVX. This confirms the report from the Tony Basilio show that we brought to you earlier today, though in stronger terms than Tony's source was willing to use on the air. Expect Crompton to see meaningful playing time as well, as there is no indication that the staff is willing to declare Crompton's playing career over quite yet.
What to watch for:
- From Nick Stephens, realize that the pressure on him is not great. He's following a series of disastrous performances at the QB position this season, so he knows that anything above hide-the-women-and-children horrific will be an improvement. I would expect him to be given safe plays throughout his first 2 or 3 series to see how he settles in, though an occasional long ball should be mixed in. He has a strong arm and a quick release, so look for his fundamental decision-making. Does he key in on receivers? Will he scan the middle of the field? If a pass rush exists, will he be aware of the pressure and keep a good mental clock?
- From Jonathan Crompton: The burden of proof is on Crompton on Saturday. He has a history of subpar (and subpractice) performance on gameday, so he has to prove that his performance is measurably better than in the past. The list of things to watch for is the same as Stephens, with the added incentive of confidence in the process. He has to show that he can play the mental game of QB with a purpose.
- From Gerald Jones: Expect to see a few reps from the G-Gun, but I don't think they'll use it much. With 2 QBs already in a gametime audition and a reduced number of snaps due to the clock rules, the plays are at a premium. Besides, we have yet to see a downfield (i.e. beyond the LoS) pass from Jones, so I would expect that to wait until the Georgia game so they don't have any film. There's no need to burn the G-Gun on N. Illinois (or so we hope...) so let's leave it in the holster for now.
- From David Clawson: Much has been made in the local news about Clawson's exasperation in the booth when the play he calls is not run on the field. If you get the game on TV, keep an eye on every shot of Clawson in the booth. What does his demeanor suggest about how the QB on the field is doing? Technically, it's Clawson's offense, and his impression of the QBs should be the main factor in the analysis on Sunday.
- From the fans: First, let's see how many show up. The announced attendance will undoubtedly be higher than the actual attendance, so pay attention to the camera shots. Second, how will they respond when Crompton steps in? Third, how will the crowd respond when Stephens makes a mistake? (How much patience will they have?)
- From Rocky Top Talk: We'll be keeping tabs on the QB play throughout the game in the live game thread. Feel free to join us and offer your thoughts. Collaboration is good. [/shameless plug]