Hancock may be a budding star

You dismissed the 45-yard touchdown catch he made in Tennessee's first preseason scrimmage because it came against third-team defenders. When he caught five balls for 68 yards and another TD in Scrimmage No. 2, you wondered if he might be for real.

Once he celebrated his promotion to second-team status by catching four passes for 36 yards and two more scores Tuesday evening in Scrimmage No. 3, the reality finally sank in: Quintin Hancock is no ordinary freshman. The 6-2, 185-pounder from St. Augustine, Fla., is quite extraordinary, in fact. That's why he'll be seeing action when the Vols open the 2006 season against California on Sept. 2.

"Quintin Hancock's a guy that definitely will be in the mix," head coach Phillip Fulmer said Tuesday night. "It's exciting to see a young guy do that well. Physically, he doesn't look like a freshman out there playing. He'll make some mistakes mentally from time to time but he's definitely in the mix."

Hancock exhibits the poise and polish of a junior. He knows how to get open. He adjusts well to errant throws. He uses his body to shield defenders. And he catches everything that comes in his vicinity. He outleaped two defenders to reel in a 12-yard touchdown pass from Jonathan Crompton Tuesday night on a play Fulmer described as "SportsCenter" material.

Hancock's meteoric rise up the depth chart can be summed up in one word: production. In the three full-scale scrimmages he led all Vol wideouts in catches (10), yards (149) and touchdowns (four). Those numbers left coaches with no choice but to promote him.

"You notice he was running with the second group, didn't you?" receivers coach Trooper Taylor noted. "It didn't take long. He's moving his way on up."

Asked what separates Hancock from most receivers, Taylor replied: "He's athletic and he listens. You don't have to call on him two or three times about the same thing. Some of those guys you have to keep jumping on them about stuff. He understands that little things make a difference. And he has great hands. He'll go get the football. He'll attack the ball."

Mature beyond his years, Hancock is more focused and less intimidated than most freshmen. Playing high school ball in talent-rich Florida, he already was accustomed to facing elite athletes when he arrived at UT.

"When he came in he had the attitude that he was coming here to take a job," Taylor said. "He struggled with some of the terminology early. Since then he's been very good."

Hancock lays out for an outstanding grab.

Hancock is mature physically, but also mentally. He isn't your typical freshman by any means.

"Normally they're trying to find the dorm, find study hall and all that," Taylor noted. "This guy's focused. He comes early (to practice) and stays late. He gets on my nerves, coming in the cafeteria and wanting to talk football 24/7. But that's a good thing because the kid believes he has a chance to play."

Oh, Hancock has a chance to play, all right. He insured that with his productive work in the three scrimmages.

"He's still got some things to learn about alignments and assignments but that will come with time," Fulmer said. "I'm really happy with him. He could play a lot of football for us this year. Who knows how he'll react when the band's playing and the lights come on? But nothing's fazed him to this point."

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