Healthy Hancock helps UT

He may be the most natural pass catcher among Tennessee's receivers. But he must stay out of the tub to get in the mix.

That's the warning sophomore Quintin Hancock got earlier this week from Vol receivers coach Trooper Taylor. Slowed by a sore leg, Hancock has been spending more time in the whirlpool than in practice drills this fall. As a result, the 6-3, 200-pounder from St. Augustine, Fla., needs a strong showing in tonight's full-scale scrimmage to assure himself a spot in the Game 1 rotation.

"He's got to stay healthy," Taylor said. "He can't make the club in the tub. I told him it's not personal. With Kenny (juco transfer Kenny O'Neal) and those other guys we have now, we won't be held hostage. We have other guys to put in there."

Indeed. The Vols have plenty of options at receiver – senior Casey Woods, juniors O'Neal, Lucas Taylor and Josh Briscoe, sophomores Hancock and Austin Rogers, along with freshmen Brent Vinson, Gerald Jones, Ahmad Paige, Denarius Moore and Tyler Maples.

Although Hancock isn't as fast as some of his fellow wideouts, he probably combines route-running ability, blocking ability and pass-catching ability better than anyone on the roster. So why hasn't he locked up a spot in the rotation?

"Quintin had a hamstring pull that kept him out for a little bit," Trooper Taylor said. "He hurt it at the end of the summer, then tried to come back a little faster than he should and it bothered him going into two-a-days."

Now that he's full speed again, Hancock reportedly has flashed the form that had scrimmage observers gushing in August of 2006. A series of injuries limited him to two catches as a freshman last fall, however, then the hamstring pull slowed him this preseason. At long last, however, it appears Hancock is healthy and ready to showcase his skills.

"He's doing well now, and I'm impressed with how he's playing," Taylor said. "He made a couple of diving catches (in practice) to scoop balls off the ground. That's the kind of plays we expect him to make.

"Now that he's healthy he looks a whole lot better. He looks like he did in the spring. That's the biggest key for him … staying healthy."

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