Hardesty's No. 1, then ...
Montario Hardesty

Posted Aug 21, 2009


If Tennessee's opener against Western Kentucky were today, senior Montario Hardesty would be the Vols' starting tailback. That's the easy part.

"Hardesty would be No. 1," head coach Lane Kiffin said when asked about the pecking order at tailback following Thursday's 3-hour practice. "After that, they all do different stuff special."

The "they" consists of sophomore Tauren Poole, plus freshmen Bryce Brown and David Oku. Each has produced some spectacular plays in the Vols' first two full-scale scrimmage. The final dress rehearsal, scheduled for 12:21 Saturday at Neyland Stadium, may establish who follows Hardesty on the tailback depth chart.

"We need to see this Saturday before we can figure that out," Kiffin said. "It's not like there's a big difference. They're right on Hardesty's tail."

Here are Thursday's practice highlights:

- Chad Cunningham launched some booming punts in pre-practice warmups. Junior college transfer David Harrington nailed some beauties, as well, but wasn't as consistent. Harrington also had one punt blocked by safety Derrick Furlow in a "live" kicking drill.

- Juniors Dennis Rogan and Gerald Jones fielded punts and kickoffs, along with freshmen Oku, Nu'Keese Richardson, Marsalis Teague, Eric Gordon and Mike Edwards.

- Poole did an excellent job of containing linebacker LaMarcus Thompson in a pass-protection drill. Fullback Kevin Cooper showed his protection skills with some quality work against linebacker Nick Reveiz.

- Linebacker Rico McCoy, shedding some rust after an injury-induced layoff, made a great play to break up a pass over the middle intended for Oku. Linebackers Reveiz, Daryl Vereen and Jerod Askew also turned in pass breakups during the drill.

- Thunder forced the Vols to leave Haslam Field in favor of the Neyland-Thompson indoor complex at 5:50.

- Furlow intercepted a pass that bounced off the chest of freshman wideout Marsalis Teague.

- Gerald Jones broke loose for a 30-yard gain on an end-around to the right side.

- Freshman defensive tackle Montori Hughes sacked Nick Stephens for a loss of 10.

- Oku made several nifty moves on an eye-popping run of around 30 yards.

- Jonathan Crompton hit Gerald Jones on a seam route for a 50-yard touchdown.

- Crompton hit Zach Rogers on another seam route for another 50-yard TD.

- Gerald Jones needed an acrobatic dive to make a bobbling catch on a 30-yard go route.

- Freshman safety Janzen Jackson stripped the ball from tight end Luke Stocker, who got a brief lecture from offensive coordinator Jim Chaney.


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