Hardesty, upperclassmen see positives in playing freshmen

Tennessee senior Montario Hardesty carries the ball during a scrimmage at Neyland Stadium on Saturday August 22, 2009.

Photo by Amy Smotherman Burgess

Tennessee senior Montario Hardesty carries the ball during a scrimmage at Neyland Stadium on Saturday August 22, 2009.

If Tennessee's upperclassmen resent being upstaged by their freshman counterparts, they're not saying so publicly.

In fact, those being directly challenged by the class of 2009 were motivated or unaffected on Monday when asked about UT's depth chart, which included six freshmen either starting or bracketed as co-starters.

The most high-profile of those surging freshmen is tailback Bryce Brown, who was named a co-starter along with senior Montario Hardesty for Saturday's season opener against Western Kentucky (TV: MyVLT2, 12:21 p.m.) in Neyland Stadium.

Hardesty confident after intense camp

"The depth chart doesn't matter," Hardesty said. "I'm not going to take the load off myself all season anyway."

Even though it may cost Hardesty some carries, he's relieved that practice performances are paying off.

"I like it because there's competition all across the board," he said. "I've seen in the past where there were guys that probably could play that didn't get a chance."

Fellow tailback Tauren Poole was dealt an even tougher blow by the depth chart. The sophomore was listed behind Hardesty, Brown and another highly touted freshman, David Oku.

"It's a lot of motivation," Poole said. "Ever since (the freshmen) came, it kind of put me on the backburner."

Poole is not complaining. He's had a solid preseason and knows that game performance will be the true test of Tennessee's tailbacks.

"Coaches are emphasizing that the more you produce, the more you play," he said.

The tailback depth chart is especially crowded. All have shown play-making ability in preseason camp.

"I think we can all do good things with the ball in our hand," Hardesty said.

Defensive tackle Dan Williams is another senior whose once seemingly solidified starting spot has been challenged by a freshman. Newcomer Montori Hughes has practiced well enough to pull even with Williams.

Williams admitted he started slowly in preseason camp, that he made some mental errors as Hughes kept improving.

"Doing some things I could probably do with the old coaching staff that I can't do with this one," he said of his mistakes.

Williams said poor technique and a lack of discipline in gap control were his two main problems.

"Toward the end it got a lot better," Williams said. "I made a lot less mistakes."

The competition seems to have had an effect on the scales. Williams is down to 315 pounds from 327 when he started preseason camp. He expects to weigh 310 by Saturday.

Williams said Hughes' emergence has motivated him to clean up his game.

"Everyday he's out here improving," Williams said coming off the practice field Monday. "He's getting good. He's going to help the team out.

"At the same time, I was making a lot of mistakes and he was doing a lot of things right. The coaches were honest with me. They've got to do what's better for the team."

Junior receiver Brandon Warren wasn't even named a co-starter. What once looked like his starting job is now lost to freshman Nu'Keese Richardson.

Warren said he doesn't pay attention to depth charts but admitted that being a starter is significant.

"It means something but when the game gets going and people get shuffling in and out, you've really just got to take care of your job," the former Alcoa High School star said. "Just understand your role in the team. It's a team game.

"You might feel like you're better than the guy in front of you but in order for the team to be successful . . . the other guy might get the start on you. You've got to be patient and wait your turn and when it comes seize the moment."

Those opportunities might not come as frequently once UT's freshmen gain some seasoning.

"We've got a really good class, a lot of talent," Warren said. "They're still young but you can see a lot of promise in them.

"With the experience that they're going to get this year . . . they're going to get more comfortable and more confident. I think you're going to see a really good class in the near future."

As ballyhooed as UT's freshmen have been, there's still the challenge of taking practice performances to the games. That can be easier said than done. And there's really little advice UT's upperclassmen can offer.

"They ask small questions here and there," Hardesty said of UT's freshmen. "You can tell them how it is but you're not going to know what to expect when it comes.

"I'm still going to be extra excited with butterflies (in my stomach) when it's game time. You can't really tell them what to expect. They have to go out there and see what it is."

Some have suggested that head coach Lane Kiffin is more apt to play freshmen to boost recruiting or that he'd like younger players to gain experience now so the Vols will be a better team later.

Regardless, by playing freshmen this Saturday, Kiffin has proved trustworthy for his players - young and veteran.

"He held true to that," Hardesty said, referring to Kiffin's early proclamation that the best will play regardless of class. "Some of the young guys showed they could play. If you can play, you're going to get on the field."

Dave Hooker covers Tennessee football.

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Comments » 60

rich182x writes:

So is there a place I can catch the game if I'm in Korea??? Any help would be appreciated. Thanks! Go Vols!

rich182x writes:

in response to DestinVol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I asked you a new question on an old thread, I guess I can ask you here... Thanks for the tips! But, you say you pay for ESPN360 abroad? How is this possible? I am guessing you have an ISP that is affiliated with ESPN in Denmark?

Also, on utsports.com I have noticed the Dish network all access pass... Does this show all of our games? And I have no problem paying to watch, nothing is free. So if you guys have info, it would help tons!! Thanks for the help so far!

Whiskey_Wizard writes:

in response to rich182x:

So is there a place I can catch the game if I'm in Korea??? Any help would be appreciated. Thanks! Go Vols!

ESPN 360. You'll probably have to pay for it though.

Whiskey_Wizard writes:

Montario, Oku, Brown. "MOB" baby! Run dat ball.

rich182x writes:

in response to Whiskey_Wizard:

ESPN 360. You'll probably have to pay for it though.

I dont think you can pay for 360... You have to be part of a ISP affialiate with ESPN. Correct me if I'm wrong..

Give_Him_6_Holloway writes:

Don't care who plays, as long as we are winning. The only person the Kiff owes allegiance are the ones that help get him wins. The most disciplined, hardest working, results driven players will get on the field. Refreshing.

VOL03_NC writes:

GUYS,
I simply am crying as I type. I went through two bone marrow transplants in the last two years and I have always had ESPN or some form of cable to see my team play. I just lost my job Monday and I am on disability until maybe November or so. I cant afford cable now!! I live in Winston Salem, NC and only have basic cable now. What is the best way to get the game on my computer or does anyone know of some special running, so I can see the game. I have been put through the phooey over here since Clemson beat us in the bowl game of 04.
I am ready for FOOOTBALLL!!!
Thanks CLK!!
Thanks for your help!!

Irwin_Linker writes:

in response to rich182x:

I dont think you can pay for 360... You have to be part of a ISP affialiate with ESPN. Correct me if I'm wrong..

Channelsurfing.net or Justin.tv one of those websites will probably stream it.

mbible1utk#324980 writes:

can't help but notice the jabs at the old staff that the players are passively making.... it's no wonder we fell from prominence. It's also no wonder we lost some players along the way from transfers and quitting.... under Fulmer, they could half-do something and not hear about it, but not with Kiffin. It's this kind of attitude change that makes me think we could be a DANG good team this year. I think if our talent does what it is capable of, there isn't a game we "can't" win. We could skyrocket to an 11-1 season, we could flame out to a 4-8 season... but the way Lane has these boys working, there's basically no way we aren't going bowling this year.

jkevingoss writes:

Hello, Rich I just left from overseas Afghan area try to see if your isp will let you into ESPN.COM SPORTS. Or if you can find a relative here in the states have them go to AT&T they provide a service for Mobile internet ask them to check to see if they have coverage for Korea. I think the service cost about 100.00 a month and all you will have to do is give them your computer ISP which they will set and thin your family member will send you the USB plug-in it works just like pluging in a memory stick.I just returned back to the states after being abroad for 28 years.I do understand how you feel but you could proably check on the Korean economy depending where you are at and sign up for service with them, if you can get yahoo thin you should be able to get 360.com get with your I.T. guys on the yard and if they are sports fans I am sure they can find a way.Stay safe and I hope this may help. Kevin

LiveFaith writes:

in response to mbible1utk#324980:

can't help but notice the jabs at the old staff that the players are passively making.... it's no wonder we fell from prominence. It's also no wonder we lost some players along the way from transfers and quitting.... under Fulmer, they could half-do something and not hear about it, but not with Kiffin. It's this kind of attitude change that makes me think we could be a DANG good team this year. I think if our talent does what it is capable of, there isn't a game we "can't" win. We could skyrocket to an 11-1 season, we could flame out to a 4-8 season... but the way Lane has these boys working, there's basically no way we aren't going bowling this year.

Under Fulmer the defense finished 3rd in the nation in total D. Doing that well with that horrid O is even further accomplishment. The same defense that DW anchored in the middle. The excitement and promise around here is about on par with last year. All those foggy notions became clear as Lincoln shanked the winner out in LA.
Word to the wise ... "never listen to media hype, selective reporting, and profit innuendo and actually think that your being informed". We won't be able to know much until we walk off the field after UCLA. Full reality after a few hours in the Swamp. Go Vols.

Cldvols1 writes:

in response to mbible1utk#324980:

can't help but notice the jabs at the old staff that the players are passively making.... it's no wonder we fell from prominence. It's also no wonder we lost some players along the way from transfers and quitting.... under Fulmer, they could half-do something and not hear about it, but not with Kiffin. It's this kind of attitude change that makes me think we could be a DANG good team this year. I think if our talent does what it is capable of, there isn't a game we "can't" win. We could skyrocket to an 11-1 season, we could flame out to a 4-8 season... but the way Lane has these boys working, there's basically no way we aren't going bowling this year.

Like I said I'm predicting an 8-4 season with a very good possibility of going 9-3. That record will improve in the future as CLK brings in highly touted recruits. The future is looking bright on ole Rocky Top! Go Vols!!!

andy112382#209793 writes:

in response to rich182x:

I dont think you can pay for 360... You have to be part of a ISP affialiate with ESPN. Correct me if I'm wrong..

I believe you are correct, I tried going to ESPN360 last year here in Augusta, GA and could not using comcast because it said it was not carried by my provider, and gave no option to purchase seperately.

Now this season, about 3-4 weeks ago, comcast added ESPN360 and now I can view games online with no problem, but only because of my provider carrying it.

AceVentura writes:

"Doing some things I could probably do with the old coaching staff that I can't do with this one," he said of his mistakes.

Wow was it really that bad? I know everyone says that they got away with almost anything, and from what the players are saying it's true.

TennesseeGorilla writes:

This feels like waiting for Christmas as a kid...I hope when I wake up in the morning it's Saturday already!

fulmersbelly writes:

in response to rich182x:

So is there a place I can catch the game if I'm in Korea??? Any help would be appreciated. Thanks! Go Vols!

I was there last fall, and granted, I didn't really feel like paying for any games by a certain point, you should be able to go to espn360.com and purchase gameplan.

When you're overseas, the espn360/ISP agreements don't come into play, and is instead very much like the old online gameplan deal where you can pay for a month or for the whole season to watch the games. I'm fairly certain this works in Korea too (works for sure in most of Europe). I think it's around the $6-$10/month range.

Obviously the other thing to consider being that WKU game will be on at around 1am local time.

Have fun over there! (Guessing you're probably at Pyongtaek, hopefully you can make it out to Seoul and go sightseeing around Itaewon and the Dongdaemun Night Market for fun shopping and girl-watching :) )

pullingguard98 writes:

I see a lot of similarities between this team and the 2004 Auburn team. A loaded backfield (remember Cadillac, Ronnie Brown, and the boys), a grizzled veteran defense, and a downtrodden QB looking for redemption (Jason Campbell). Remember what happened with that team. I am not saying that will happen this year, but it is something to think about. I am sipping on a big glass of Big Orange Koolaid waiting for Saturday to get here. Go Big Orange!

tonyvick#213307 writes:

in response to mbible1utk#324980:

can't help but notice the jabs at the old staff that the players are passively making.... it's no wonder we fell from prominence. It's also no wonder we lost some players along the way from transfers and quitting.... under Fulmer, they could half-do something and not hear about it, but not with Kiffin. It's this kind of attitude change that makes me think we could be a DANG good team this year. I think if our talent does what it is capable of, there isn't a game we "can't" win. We could skyrocket to an 11-1 season, we could flame out to a 4-8 season... but the way Lane has these boys working, there's basically no way we aren't going bowling this year.

Calm down and don't get ahead of yourself, every other SEC team fan feels the same way about their team. Yes this team will be much better than last year but so is every other SEC team. Just don't lose hope if things don't go as you wish because in time it will.

pdhuff#552644 writes:

Telling comment from Hardesty.

Well, let's get the kool-ade tankers headed for the mountain and let the slurping begin.

I really like the new approach.

Let the chips fall.

Tee it up. Be loud and proud.

Joevolsxtra writes:

Sounds like Dan Williams told Fulmer's secret to success. Practice lazy so you'll have enough energy come game time and mistakes fix themselves on gameday.

volfan2002 writes:

in response to rich182x:

I asked you a new question on an old thread, I guess I can ask you here... Thanks for the tips! But, you say you pay for ESPN360 abroad? How is this possible? I am guessing you have an ISP that is affiliated with ESPN in Denmark?

Also, on utsports.com I have noticed the Dish network all access pass... Does this show all of our games? And I have no problem paying to watch, nothing is free. So if you guys have info, it would help tons!! Thanks for the help so far!

I don't know If the game is gonna be on www.channelsurfing.net saturday but a lot of the games were last year. It is free to watch If they carry the game.

NoMoreWooAfterGoodOleRockyTop writes:

in response to Joevolsxtra:

Sounds like Dan Williams told Fulmer's secret to success. Practice lazy so you'll have enough energy come game time and mistakes fix themselves on gameday.

The players were just like their HC, fat and lazy. Only CFP himself couldn't see this program going down the crapper. Thank goodness he is finally gone. Now if he will just stop talking trash about UT/CLK so we can all move on for good.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to DestinVol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

As long as there are players on the squad who had the majority of their experience under the "old staff", it is inevitable that nearly every interview is going to include a variation of the question, "How does what you are doing now compare with what you did last year?" The only way to appreciate a "new thing" is to compare it to some "old thing"; otherwise, the statement that things are new or have changed has no meaning. I think as time goes by and the new guys start to make up the majority of the squad, you will see fewer and fewer references to the old staff, system, attitudes, etc. That is unless--HORRORS!--the NEW guy, staff, system, etc., doesn't pan out!

johnlg00 writes:

in response to Navalorange:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

As long as everyone continues to believe that the playing time and carries are being apportioned fairly, even if not equally, they should be okay with it. The problems only begin if some player starts to feel he isn't getting his "fair share".

99gator writes:

the upperclassman can say all they want and everyone here can disect whether fulmer held them back or whatever.

however, IMO, any improvement on this team will come from the true freshman.

as someone said, the defense was good. can't blame fulmer for that.

the offense was pitiful and any offensive improvement will be due to the freshman skill players.

i think at the end of the year, people will blame fulmer more for his recruiting than his coaching.

JMO.

cloudodust writes:

Tennessee will be hosting recruits throughout the season. From top to bottom, let's show them Neyland Stadium is where they want to be. When traveling, let's also show recruits being hosted that Tennessee is where they need to be. The future is ours for the taking...

maciste54 writes:

I have Dish network. No WVLT 2 on there ! What's the deal with them being on a station that few get ? I don't get it. In more ways than one !

chargervol writes:

I think Brandon Warren practiced(lack thereof) himself out of the starting spot. Maybe, this will be a wakeup call. If the Vols sign the receivers they have committments from, it won't get any easier next season. It doesn't sound good for Chavis either. Dan Williams was on defense last season, Chavis was the defensive coordinator last season. Just a thought. GO VOLS!!!

illinoisvolfan writes:

in response to johnlg00:

As long as everyone continues to believe that the playing time and carries are being apportioned fairly, even if not equally, they should be okay with it. The problems only begin if some player starts to feel he isn't getting his "fair share".

As the saying goes...winning is a great deodorant. As long as the team has success on the field, playing time probably won't be a big issue. The freshman appear to be ready...time to play the game. Go Big Orange!!

NobodyCares (Inactive) writes:

in response to hiresanders:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Stupid statement...

GerryOP writes:

For the Vols in the NY/NJ/CT area, it looks like MSG picked up the SEC Network. WKU game on this Saturday at noon.

GatorzzSuck writes:

in response to maciste54:

I have Dish network. No WVLT 2 on there ! What's the deal with them being on a station that few get ? I don't get it. In more ways than one !

WVLT2 is coming to Dish Network 9/02. So you will have that channel in time for the game.

givehim6 writes:

in response to rich182x:

So is there a place I can catch the game if I'm in Korea??? Any help would be appreciated. Thanks! Go Vols!

Are you in the military? I was stationed at Oson AB in 91'. Not a football comment, gets I know it's rough trying to follow the VOLS away from home. In my day we could see some ND games on AFNET or one or two BIG-10 games. But good luck, and GO VOLS!

chargervol writes:

in response to CrimsonTide987:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

You should be worrying about Va. Tech and ending your losing streak. Tennessee is on a two-game winning streak. GO VOLS!!!

brianarauch#206642 writes:

in response to maciste54:

I have Dish network. No WVLT 2 on there ! What's the deal with them being on a station that few get ? I don't get it. In more ways than one !

Rumor is that this channel will launch on Wednesday afternoon on Dish Network. Remember the owner of Dish Network (Charlie Ergen) is a billionaire and a UT Knoxville grad and has given a large amount of money to the university. He grew up in Oak Ridge.

Hickmc writes:

in response to CrimsonTide987:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

CT987 could you not tell Katman was paying Saban and Meyer a compliment?

brianarauch#206642 writes:

in response to VOLstuckINky:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Huh??? Did you even read my post that you replied to?

Hayezb writes:

in response to rich182x:

I dont think you can pay for 360... You have to be part of a ISP affialiate with ESPN. Correct me if I'm wrong..

Yup, you don't pay for it. All depends on your provider.

But, good article and Saturday will not come fast enough! Go Vols!

CrankE writes:

in response to hiresanders:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

That's okay, by the time they play Kentucky, they'll have enough games under their belt and essentially be sophomores.

So what will the excuse be this year when UT beats UK with a bunch of freshmen?

murrayvol writes:

in response to DestinVol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

For awhile we had to read between the lines. Not so much anymore.

murrayvol writes:

in response to BolivarBob:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Winning is most certainly the key. Kiffin will play those who offer the best chance of racking up a W....freshman or not.

murrayvol writes:

in response to ShaversChoice:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

My guess is if you're responsible for contain, you'd damn well better contain.

Too many memories of too many players going where the ball wasn't for me.

murrayvol writes:

in response to 99gator:

the upperclassman can say all they want and everyone here can disect whether fulmer held them back or whatever.

however, IMO, any improvement on this team will come from the true freshman.

as someone said, the defense was good. can't blame fulmer for that.

the offense was pitiful and any offensive improvement will be due to the freshman skill players.

i think at the end of the year, people will blame fulmer more for his recruiting than his coaching.

JMO.

I would submit that offensive improvement will be due to the new (and improved) coaching staff as well.

murrayvol writes:

in response to chargervol:

I think Brandon Warren practiced(lack thereof) himself out of the starting spot. Maybe, this will be a wakeup call. If the Vols sign the receivers they have committments from, it won't get any easier next season. It doesn't sound good for Chavis either. Dan Williams was on defense last season, Chavis was the defensive coordinator last season. Just a thought. GO VOLS!!!

Third and long.

murrayvol writes:

in response to hiresanders:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Sorry, but I can't hear you. And take us off your call list.

murrayvol writes:

in response to GerryOP:

For the Vols in the NY/NJ/CT area, it looks like MSG picked up the SEC Network. WKU game on this Saturday at noon.

Thanks Gerry. I'll let my son know. He's been sweating whether it would be picked up.

GerryOP writes:

in response to murrayvol:

Thanks Gerry. I'll let my son know. He's been sweating whether it would be picked up.

Where is he?

johnlg00 writes:

in response to KatManDewVol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Lots of Vol fans must have taken your advice, because I just voted and Berry is ahead by a bit less than two percent.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to hiresanders:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Who turns your computer on for you? Your every post is a cause for serious doubt that you are smart enough to do it yourself.

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