Hancock's ready to play

Given Tennessee's experience and depth at wide receiver, you wouldn't expect a true freshman – especially a relative sleeper – to be in the mix for playing time in Game 1. But that's what has happened, thanks to the big-play abilities showcased by one fleet Floridian.

Quintin Hancock wasn't a heralded recruit and he wasn't supposed to be a factor in 2006. He had just 27 catches for 330 yards as a senior at St. Augustine (Fla.) High School last fall. Tabbed all-county and all-district, he was ranked 69th among national receiving prospects by Scout.com.

The 6-2, 185-pound speedster opened some eyes last week, though, with a 45-yard touchdown catch in Tennessee's first full-scale scrimmage of the preseason. Then he opened a few more eyes last night with a scrimmage-high five catches for 68 yards, including a 36-yard reception and a five-yard TD grab.

In eight days Hancock has gone from sleeper to keeper. His stat line for the two scrimmages shows six receptions for 113 yards (18.8 per catch) and two touchdowns. The fact he posted these numbers against mostly third-team defenders doesn't matter to Phillip Fulmer.

"Quintin is one of those guys that has pushed himself real, real close to helping us," the head man said. "It's been that way since he came here in the summer. He just keeps getting better."

Fulmer said Hancock is still learning about "splits, reading coverages and those things," but added that the young man has mastered one aspect of being a receiver.

"If the ball's pretty close to him he's going to catch it," the coach said. "And he's obviously got some good speed, as well."

David Cutcliffe also is impressed with the lanky freshman. The offensive coordinator says veteran Vols had better step it up a notch or Hancock will cut into their playing time.

"They'd better start making the plays he's making," Cutcliffe said. "That youngster's trying to work his way into the mix."

Although Tennessee's 2006 signing class was relatively unheralded, Hancock isn't the only true freshman likely to play this fall.

"There are about seven freshmen who will play for us this year," Fulmer said, adding that Hancock is "one of the ones that could play a significant role for us."

Another is Jacques McClendon, a 6-3, 325-pound offensive lineman from Chattanooga who has been working with the No. 2 offense at guard.

"Jacques McClendon is going to play this year," Fulmer said. "It's just a matter of when. Hopefully, it's sooner rather than later."

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