Late for a Saturday morning team meeting because he overslept, senior Montario Hardesty paid for his transgression by watching sophomore Tauren Poole work with the No. 1 offense during the first half of the Vols' final full-scale scrimmage. Hardesty eventually redeemed himself, however, by carrying six times for 34 yards.
Tennessee's rushing defense was pretty stout on Saturday. Freshman Bryce Brown had the day's longest run but it covered just 12 yards. Hardesty had an 11-yarder, freshman David Oku a 10-yarder and Poole a nine-yarder.
Despite the shortage of big gains, Hardesty believes the Vol ground attack is going to be excellent this fall.
"I feel good about our running game," he said. "We have a good system, some good guys upfront blocking for us. A lot of those guys have lost weight to do better in this system. When you get those big guys in front of you moving, you just have to take what they give you."
Hardesty, Poole (12 carries for 40 yards), Oku (14 for 45) and Brown (4 for 28) combined for 147 yards on 36 attempts, a so-so average of 4.1 yards per rush. Still, Hardesty sees encouraging signs.
"We're getting better," he said. "We're getting more used to the system. The O-line is picking up things better. We just need to continue to grow before our first game."
Hardesty's high school utilized the same type of zone-running scheme that Tennessee does, so he feels right at home in it. Moreover, he sees the other tailbacks growing increasingly comfortable with it.
"It's a great system for running backs, man," he said. "We've got some guys that can run, so it's going to be good for us."
The Vol offense produced three touchdowns and three field goals in the scrimmage but could've been much more productive if not for five false-start penalties, a holding penalty, two sacks, two fumbles and an interception.
"We had some penalties that stopped us on some drives early," Hardesty said. "That's something we can fix. We had some good things going but we stopped ourselves, instead of the defense stopping us."