Because the injury required 18 months to heal and cost him almost two full seasons of eligibility, Leak is convinced the NCAA will grant his petition for a sixth year of eligibility.
''The petition's already in,'' he said. ''Before I even filed it, it was 99.9 percent sure; the severity of my injury alone qualified me.
''Everything looks good that I'll be back.''
Leak completed 6 of 14 passes for 56 yards in 2002 and connected on 5 of 8 for 66 yards and a touchdown in 2003. With Casey Clausen down to his final game of eligibility, Leak looms as a leading contender for the Vols' starting job next fall ... assuming his petition is granted.
Other candidates for the QB job in 2004 are parttime receiver James Banks, LSU transfer Rick Clausen, 2003 signee Bo Hardegree, walk-on Jim Bob Cooter and recent commitment Erik Ainge of Hillsboro, Ore.