One hot Hardegree

His first pass in Tennessee's initial preseason football scrimmage was an ill-advised wobbily throw into triple coverage that was easily intercepted. Other than that, however, he has been nearly perfect.

Since throwing that ugly interception in full-scale Scrimmage No. 1, junior Bo Hardegree has completed 15 of 16 passes (93.7 percent) for 207 yards and four touchdowns. He has completed the two longest passes of the preseason – a 65-yarder to Lucas Taylor and a 45-yarder to Quintin Hancock. Perhaps his most impressive throw, however, was a five-yard bullet he threaded through traffic to walk-on Andrew Koszela for a touchdown in Scrimmage No. 2 Saturday night.

Even if you count that ugly ball he threw on his first attempt of the preseason, Hardegree is 15 of 17 (88.2 percent) for 207 yards and four TDs in the two scrimmages. Those numbers outshine the ones compiled by fellow quarterbacks Erik Ainge and Jonathan Crompton. Ainge is 30 of 52 (57.7 percent) for 316 yards and one touchdown, Crompton 16 of 27 (59.2 percent) for 186 yards and two touchdowns.

It's true that Hardegree has compiled his gaudy statistics against mostly third-teamers playing a vanilla defensive scheme. Perhaps he would struggle against first-teamers utilizing stunts, blitzes and disguises. But who knows for sure?

One thing is certain: The 6-foot-5 Jackson native has caught the attention of Tennessee's offensive coordinator with his pinpoint passing.

"He makes good decisions," David Cutcliffe said. "In those situations, he's playing against a defense that's not doing anything, so that helps make you look a little better. That's not to discredit Bo any because Bo has come in and handled himself well."

So, is there a chance Hardegree can challenge for playing time this fall or is he already relegated to third-team duty and mop-up roles?

Cutcliffe put it this way: "I'm evaluating everything he does."

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