Thanks to an indefinite suspension stemming from a failed substance test, Coker may never again suit up for the Vols. Conversely, UT coaches know they can count on Hardesty suiting up for every game … if he's able to walk. He was the only Vol back to play in all 13 games last fall and he has been a regular at practice this preseason, despite a pulled hamstring.
"He's a real tough guy who will battle through just about anything," running backs coach Kurt Roper said this week. "He's one of those guys that might be a little hurt but you're going to get him out on the field all the time. His limitations come more from me and his coaches than himself because he can battle through anything."
Hardesty started the 2006 season on a roll, rushing 24 times for 128 yards (5.3 per carry) in Games 1 and 2 vs. California and Air Force. He wasn't nearly so effective in the final 11 games, rushing 83 times for 256 yards (3.1 per carry). In his defense, he played much of the time with nagging injuries.
After missing most of spring practice to recuperate, Hardesty was hoping to enjoy a healthy preseason in 2007. Instead, he pulled a hamstring. In typical fashion, he battled through the injury to participate in last Saturday's full-scale scrimmage, gaining just 14 yards on five carries.
In spite of that meager output, the rugged 6-0, 205-pound sophomore has impressed his position coach.
"I think he looks fresh," Roper said. "I think he looks powerful, and I think he's a guy that's going to be there every day."