"Montario Hardesty is coming along," offensive coordinator Randy Sanders said. "I thought he did a tremendous job for us the other night. He didn't have many carries or many yards but he came in, gave Gerald some rest and did a great job in pass protection and running some routes. I'm really pleased with what he did."
Although Hardesty rushed for 2,002 yards as a high school senior, his blocking has been even more impressive than his running thus far. His pass-protection skills are really advanced for a freshman.
"I would say that's true," Sanders said. "Montario's picked it up pretty quick. He's certainly not afraid to step up and get it done, and he's physical enough to get it done."
And that's why Hardesty saw action at LSU ahead of redshirt freshman Arian Foster, who is listed ahead of him on the depth chart.
"Montario's been a better blocker and a more dependable guy in the backfield," Vol head coach Phillip Fulmer said. "But Arian's still right there. He's just got to be more physical from a protection standpoint."
Hardesty reportedly had some impressive runs in some August scrimmages that were closed to the media. Tennessee's coaches apparently haven't forgotten them.
"Montario showed some flashes before he got hurt of being a really good ball carrier," Fulmer said. "I'm looking forward to seeing that happen in a game. We gave him the ball (vs. LSU) in a couple of short-yardage situations. There really weren't a whole bunch of places to get him in there."
Although Hardesty filled the No. 2 tailback role at LSU, Fulmer emphasized that he still believes strongly in Foster.
"Arian has done well," the head coach said. "We're still growing in that (tailback) spot. I'm expecting both of those guys to compete like heck because we're going to need ‘em all."
"We can't work all of those guys," Fulmer said. "LaMarcus and Ja'Kouri aren't out of the picture – they'll get some work – but they've got to be able to help us where they can, special teams and such. Right now we've got to rep the guys that are going to get the reps in the game."