Adams: Hardesty hard not to pull for

John Adams

Random nuggets from the Vols' media day Tuesday

The 2008 football season began with Arian Foster closing in on Tennessee's career-rushing record. But the team struggled, and so did Foster.

He finished his career with 2,964 yards - 114 yards short of Travis Henry's school record.

Now, I'm starting to think about another rushing record. It came to mind while watching UT senior tailback Montario Hardesty run around and through South Carolina last Saturday night.

Before the season, you couldn't have imagined a more unlikely candidate to challenge UT's single-season rushing record of 1,464 yards, set by Travis Stephens in 2001. Hardesty had never rushed for more than 384 yards in a single season.

His career had been marked more by injuries than yards.

Yet here he is - a fifth-year senior, eight games into his final season - with 841 yards.

That's a long way from Stephens' record. But the distance doesn't seem so daunting when you realize how far Hardesty has come.

Since overcoming a severe knee injury and lesser injuries as well in his first four years at UT, Hardesty has established himself as one of the SEC's most durable players this season.

"His biggest thing is how hard he works out and practices every day," UT fullback Austin Johnson said. "After practice, he'll ice and stretch. He really takes care of his body."

All the icing and stretching doesn't cure everything. UT coach Lane Kiffin pointed out Tuesday that "his knee is not real healthy," adding "we keep him off the turf when we go inside (for practice)."

Hardesty's workload between the tackles comes with a price. But on those rare occasions when he goes out, he doesn't stay out.

Said Kiffin: "Everytime he goes out, by the time the trainers get to me to say he's out, he's already back in."

The bumps and bruises aren't evident when Hardesty is carrying the ball. Based on how he ran against the Gamecocks, he's getting stronger as the season goes along. Did you see that spin move he put on South Carolina's Chris Culliver? Tired running backs don't make that kind of move.

"When we saw that (on video), it wasn't surprising," Johnson said. "That's his No. 1 move. It was awesome, but I wasn't surprised. That's what he does."

All of Hardesty's defender-shaking moves don't obscure the obvious. He's still a long shot to break the record.

But it's not out of the question, particularly when you consider the schedule - before and after.

Hardesty already has run against three of the top five rushing defenses in the SEC. Alabama ranks second nationally in rushing defense. Florida is 11th.

There's nothing comparable to that in the next four games.

Memphis, Saturday's opponent, ranks 105th nationally in rushing defense. Later comes Vanderbilt (102nd) and Kentucky (104th).

Ole Miss, which ranks 60th, is the toughest defense Hardesty will face the rest of the way.

Even against a lighter schedule, you couldn't expect Hardesty to average 155 yards per game over the last month of the season. But the Vols are two victories away from becoming bowl-eligible, and bowl stats now count. Hardesty would have to average 125 yards through five games to break the record.

"That definitely could happen," UT senior offensive guard Cory Sullins said. "I'm glad to know that. It gives us another goal to shoot for."

If Hardesty just maintains his current average and UT plays in a bowl, he would finish with 1,366 yards, second only to Stephens.

Jamal Lewis and Travis Henry never gained that many yards in a single season. Neither did Chuck Webb nor Johnnie Jones.

They're among the 13 UT players who have rushed for more than 1,000 yards in a season. Hardesty needs just 159 more yards to join them.

Based on how hard he has played and how much he has overcome, he would be a welcome addition to UT's 1,000-yard club.

Sports editor John Adams may be reached at 865-342-6284 or adamsj@knoxnews.com.

© 2009 govolsxtra.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Comments » 54

DrJCrown_theMagicMan writes:

Hardesty is the Vol MVP this year.
I always said he was better than Foster and should have been playing instead of him!

lomas98 writes:

Remember in 07 he didn't even get on the field against Alabama. The coaches reasoning was they were trying but just couldn't get the right opportunity. I give a lot of credit for Hardesty's emergence to Eddie Gran. This guy has lacked solid coaching from Roper and Drayton in the past. Amazing!!!!!!

crimsonviper writes:

I am not real familiar with everything Hardesty has overcome.Whatever it was is behind him now obviously.
He has impressed me this year more than any RB I have seen.Whatever awards he gets are well deserved. IMO.

Pdiddy10 writes:

lets recruit jeff luc!!!!!
i want eric berry to sart playing...he doesnt seem to be playing to his full potential. when is hee gonna get a freakin interception!?!??!

Pdiddy10 writes:

i expect him to just dominate and get over 130 yds every game for the rest of the season. the only question is the bowl game.

if we get it.....

DrJCrown_theMagicMan writes:

Hardesty reminds me of some of the running back we had in the 90's.
These types of players only come around every once in a while.
I personally wondered why they didn't come out and run the ball with Hardesty in the 2nd half of the Alabums game in 2007 the score was only 20-17 and we got beat 41-17...Fulmer went pass happy as you may remeber!
Thanks Fulmer for wasting Hardesty!

DrJCrown_theMagicMan writes:

in response to lomas98:

Remember in 07 he didn't even get on the field against Alabama. The coaches reasoning was they were trying but just couldn't get the right opportunity. I give a lot of credit for Hardesty's emergence to Eddie Gran. This guy has lacked solid coaching from Roper and Drayton in the past. Amazing!!!!!!

my thoughts exactly not only that Fulmer said he didn't know that Hardesty didn't get in tha game...The game was obviously going to be a shootout if noone knew b4 the game anybody with half a brain knew "during it"... If ur in a shootout the way to stop it is slow the game down...I would have bet the farm on it if we came out running the 2nd half we would have won...and at the very least wouldn't have had 41 points scored on us from them redneck inbreed Crimson flamers!

DrJCrown_theMagicMan writes:

In short...GoVols and I love Monte he likes to tell old football war stories and is the best Defense coach we have ever had or ever will!!!
GBO!

givehim6 writes:

At the beginning of the season Berrie was "the guy" at UT. Now players like Hardesty and Crompton are makeing the news, wow, big change.

dvols writes:

MH shows what hard work gets you!!! Great VOL!!!!

the10sevol writes:

anybody else notice the style similarity of pdiddy to rob_e?

just askin'.

GBO

p.s. supersmo - yeah it's all hush-hush, but vq posters with good reps are saying it.

truckinvol writes:

Their whole style of play is such a refreshing break from previous years. This team doesn't have any quit in them. We're in the game for the full 60 minutes. MH is the man, he runs hard every play. I agree with others, I think Coach Gran is the difference. On to another topic. Did anyone catch the announcers of the Fla/Ga. game comment on how Tebow dropped his throwing hand and the ball below his waist and Ga. slapped the ball away a couple of times? How you NEVER get the ball lower than your shoulder. You would have thought Tebow would have been "coached up" by now. He's going to be a project in the NFL for sure.

chad_t31 writes:

in response to supersmo18:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I saw some ppl talking about it on volnation.com yesterday. Supposedly a guy on there, who they all claim is in the know and never misses, posted it yesterday. That's the only place I've heard it. On my iPhone (slow moving) so sorry for no link. Guess we'll wait and see what happens.

GR82BaTennesseeVOL writes:

in response to crimsonviper:

I am not real familiar with everything Hardesty has overcome.Whatever it was is behind him now obviously.
He has impressed me this year more than any RB I have seen.Whatever awards he gets are well deserved. IMO.

First of all, thank you for being a classy individual with positive, relevant posts.

Secondly, to sum it up for you, Hardesty has overcome a slew of injuries combined with having to face the "favoritism and seniority over talent" philosophical approach of the previous coaching staff.

To provide more detail, Hardesty was set to contribute AHEAD of Arian Foster when both were true freshman, backing up Gerald Riggs Jr. in his senior year. However, Hardesty's knee betrayed him, and he ended up redshirting that year, and losing ground (in the coaches' minds) to Foster, who looked like a STUD while filling in for Riggs in the last few games of that season.

The next two years saw Hardesty backing up the already firmly entrenched Foster on the depth chart, and though Hardesty shone brightly when given the opportunity, he once again ran into knee problems, and began to be seen by many (admittedly, myself included) as unreliable. Throw in a couple of promising young freshmen (LaMarcus Coker one year, Lennon Creer the next), and Hardesty's carries continually diminished.

Last year, the coaches seemed utterly determined to stick w/ Foster as their main guy, even though Hardesty was clearly the more effective runner. Through it all, though, he always maintained a positive attitude and patiently persevered. I actually got to meet him at the Orange and White game in 2008 (while he was recovering from yet another knee injury), and he was very humble, polite, and upbeat. Just a great guy.

SO, fast-forward to this year. It's finally his opportunity, he's finally healthy, and then here comes Bryce Brown. THANKFULLY, Kiffin stuck to his word (no, not the one about freshmen getting to play--even though he stuck to that one, too) about "the best player will play." I'm SO happy for Montario that he finally got his chance and that he's making the most of it. He absolutely deserves every yard he gains.

Thanks again, crimsonviper, for being a classy and welcomed addition to this site.

P.S. Watch for Tauren Poole in the next couple of years...kinda sorta Montario Hardesty, part II.

cloudodust writes:

Thankfully, Clawson's offense didn't destroy his attitude. Keep it rolling MH...

CoverOrange writes:

What is more amazing is that Travis Stephens got 99% of all the snaps when he got the single season rushing record. Hardesty has been spelled by Bryce quite often. Jamal split time with Travis Henry and Travis Henry split time with Travis Stephens the year before Stephens made the record.

3volfan writes:

fumblidus is, i think, on the Texans practice squad.

3volfan writes:

and as usual witch doc. is correct. mr. foster is and always will be a vol. period.

BigVolinCarolina writes:

Always been a Montario Hardesty fan from Day #1. He's a hard runner and gives his all on every play--and you can definitely see that!

Glad that he's reaping some of the reward this year and, as a result, the team is too! Would love to see MH break the single season record, heal up, and make an NFL roster next year.

SanFranciscoVol writes:

A little off topic, but on espn.com we've been on the front page for the last 6 hours. There's a little aside about our black jerseys. I'm loving all the publicity.

SanFranciscoVol writes:

in response to SanFranciscoVol:

A little off topic, but on espn.com we've been on the front page for the last 6 hours. There's a little aside about our black jerseys. I'm loving all the publicity.

Sorry, I meant espn.com/collegefootball.

ESPN has a nice love scene between Meyer and Spikes.

DennisVols writes:

Hardesty shows you what “heart” means when they use that expression when talking about a player. I firmly believe the results we are seeing this year from Hardesty is a direct result from the “heart” and the improved conditioning instilled by this staff.
Hardesty was under used, under conditioned and under coached prior to Kiffin being hired. Last year we saw UT go from being one of the tops in the SEC to last in just one year. In ’07 Foster was projected as a 2nd round draft pick following the season. By the end of ’08 he couldn’t even get drafted.
We have seen this year that it wasn’t that UT didn’t have talent, while depth is an issue. UT just wasn’t coached right to win or compete. Last year we lost to UF and Bama, in our house, by a combined total of 43 points, this year we played those games on the road and even though the results were still losses the combined total was 12 points. There was no chance to win against UF or Bama last year, this we at least had a chance. For the most part every returning player has improved their game. Those who didn’t were dismissed or quit.
The attitude, energy, commitment, conditioning and “heart” being shown by Hardesty and others on this team are the tradition. Not the color of the jersey, the checker board end zone, not even hearing Rocky Top (which only started in ’82).
Keeping it Real
Go Vols!!!

VolsToTheWall writes:

as much as it hurt me to see "East/West" Foster creep up to that record, I would love for to see Hardesty surpass it.

OldSmokey writes:

in response to Witch_Doctor:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I loled my @ss off on that 1 Witchy!!!

UT4ever writes:

in response to lomas98:

Remember in 07 he didn't even get on the field against Alabama. The coaches reasoning was they were trying but just couldn't get the right opportunity. I give a lot of credit for Hardesty's emergence to Eddie Gran. This guy has lacked solid coaching from Roper and Drayton in the past. Amazing!!!!!!

yeah....they said that Hardesty wasn't as good as a receiver as Foster.....BS!! Hardesty has made some amazing catches this season.......total Hogwash, that's like saying the running backs can't block......rediculous!!

forever_orange34 writes:

RUN HARDESTY RUN!!!

rich182x writes:

uhh, funny story.... we win out, and we place second in the SEC East. Didn't they rank us behind UF, SC and Georgia? Yeah... funny story.

xvolx writes:

Wouldn't trade Hardesty for a team of mules and a hundred dollars.

GOBIGO72 writes:

Hardesty breaks single game rushing record this weekend.

http://www.commercialappeal.com/news/...

CoachFulmer writes:

I love how hes playing in his last year. If he breaks the season record, he could be arugably UT's best come back story. Kill Memphis and dominate the state when we beat Vandy.

GO VOLS!

NoMoreWooAfterGoodOleRockyTop writes:

in response to lomas98:

Remember in 07 he didn't even get on the field against Alabama. The coaches reasoning was they were trying but just couldn't get the right opportunity. I give a lot of credit for Hardesty's emergence to Eddie Gran. This guy has lacked solid coaching from Roper and Drayton in the past. Amazing!!!!!!

I do remember. Also remember that FOOLmore didn't even recognize that fact immediately after the game. And he wonders why he got fired??? Hilarious...

vol88 writes:

I love Montario. He's all Vol, fighting through adversity to become a star. Plus, he holds on to the ball!

TBoneB writes:

Has the guy put the ball on the ground once this year? What a great role model for Bryce Brown.

volsfannsc writes:

Montario is probably the most mentally strong player we've ever had for quite some time. The previous coaching staff ignored him, yet he hung on. Injuries that would soften any running back, yet he hung on. Knowing that this year's recruits were the top in the nation, yet he dug down deep, worked hard, but more importantly, kept his mind right to emerge as one of the best backs TN has seen. Hat's off to you Mr. Hardesty! You will always have my most profound respect.

pupvol writes:

anybody know where to watch espnu on line?

ReverendOrange writes:

in response to pupvol:

anybody know where to watch espnu on line?

Go to ESPN360.com. They most likely will carry it.

FearTheVols1252 writes:

While the record doesn’t reflect it, this team reminds me a lot of the ’98 squad… a lot of ‘no-names’ but all heart!! I love it! Go Vols!!

pupvol writes:

in response to ReverendOrange:

Go to ESPN360.com. They most likely will carry it.

thanx

SanFranciscoVol writes:

First off: Congratulations Hardesty.

Second, who would have thought that in November, Kiffin would be praised and Meyer berated? A little ironic.

Here's to hoping that Hardesty runs for 200+ against Memphis.

3volfan writes:

very proud of you Montario. the year he is having is what "giving my all for Tennessee" means. very proud of him cromp, sullins, big daddy dan, rico, eb, and so on and so forth. these guys were so demoralized 1 year ago, losing "their" coach. they dug down deep, and this makes me very very proud to be a vol fan. as one of the previous posters said, ALL of our Vols have shown ALOT of heart. and glad to hear Nuke isn't going anywhere. he's learning to be a man, from men.

willaustin writes:

Hardesty was a DB in high school. Funny how things change when you get to the next level.

willaustin writes:

Correction, he was a safety..

creekroad writes:

in response to truckinvol:

Their whole style of play is such a refreshing break from previous years. This team doesn't have any quit in them. We're in the game for the full 60 minutes. MH is the man, he runs hard every play. I agree with others, I think Coach Gran is the difference. On to another topic. Did anyone catch the announcers of the Fla/Ga. game comment on how Tebow dropped his throwing hand and the ball below his waist and Ga. slapped the ball away a couple of times? How you NEVER get the ball lower than your shoulder. You would have thought Tebow would have been "coached up" by now. He's going to be a project in the NFL for sure.

Teebow will never start in a regular season NFL game at QB....write it down

bearbull95#206250 writes:

My tickets have Hardesty on them. Who knew then at the time of their printing how much of an impact he would have. It's not a coincidence when we heard the CBS announcer Todd Blackledge during the SC game talk about how Hardesty totally bought into Coach K's system. Leadership begins through setting an example, and this senior's example has led the team to continued improvement. Take your place among some of UT's best backs, Montario. You deserve it.

luvorange writes:

Absolutely love this guy, he doesn't have to break the record to go down as a vol great.

Biggie writes:

in response to DrJCrown_theMagicMan:

Hardesty is the Vol MVP this year.
I always said he was better than Foster and should have been playing instead of him!

That's EXACTLY what I was gonna say!!

Southland writes:

Hardesty cant break the single season record simply because or number 2 running back which is awesome and our our number 3 is going to get more time. Hardesty is fun to watch but he better stop the sping moves unless he wants his leg torn up. Proud of him. He is not the only one that had to pay a price for rotten coaching the past three years. Clawson may be a good coach but he was a complete fiasco at Tennessee. Lets celebrate improvement but dont start counting national champions just yet. Tennessee has shown how hard they are to come by. There is no reason we cant be in the top 10-15 most years.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to GR82BaTennesseeVOL:

First of all, thank you for being a classy individual with positive, relevant posts.

Secondly, to sum it up for you, Hardesty has overcome a slew of injuries combined with having to face the "favoritism and seniority over talent" philosophical approach of the previous coaching staff.

To provide more detail, Hardesty was set to contribute AHEAD of Arian Foster when both were true freshman, backing up Gerald Riggs Jr. in his senior year. However, Hardesty's knee betrayed him, and he ended up redshirting that year, and losing ground (in the coaches' minds) to Foster, who looked like a STUD while filling in for Riggs in the last few games of that season.

The next two years saw Hardesty backing up the already firmly entrenched Foster on the depth chart, and though Hardesty shone brightly when given the opportunity, he once again ran into knee problems, and began to be seen by many (admittedly, myself included) as unreliable. Throw in a couple of promising young freshmen (LaMarcus Coker one year, Lennon Creer the next), and Hardesty's carries continually diminished.

Last year, the coaches seemed utterly determined to stick w/ Foster as their main guy, even though Hardesty was clearly the more effective runner. Through it all, though, he always maintained a positive attitude and patiently persevered. I actually got to meet him at the Orange and White game in 2008 (while he was recovering from yet another knee injury), and he was very humble, polite, and upbeat. Just a great guy.

SO, fast-forward to this year. It's finally his opportunity, he's finally healthy, and then here comes Bryce Brown. THANKFULLY, Kiffin stuck to his word (no, not the one about freshmen getting to play--even though he stuck to that one, too) about "the best player will play." I'm SO happy for Montario that he finally got his chance and that he's making the most of it. He absolutely deserves every yard he gains.

Thanks again, crimsonviper, for being a classy and welcomed addition to this site.

P.S. Watch for Tauren Poole in the next couple of years...kinda sorta Montario Hardesty, part II.

Great post! Completely agree with all!

BluezVol writes:

in response to VolsToTheWall:

as much as it hurt me to see "East/West" Foster creep up to that record, I would love for to see Hardesty surpass it.

"Goobersmoocher" - Dude, I think I might change my name...unless of course you're a dudette. ;-)

Fryinpansvols writes:

"around and through South Carolina" I like the John Ward reference that Adams used. I'm referring to M. Phillips when he ran over South Carolina defenders. GBO!

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