Tulip time in Tennessee

The tulip blossoms for three weeks each April and spends the rest of the year dormant. Similarly, one Tennessee Vol seems to blossom for three weeks each August and spend the rest of the year dormant.

At least, that has been the case to date for junior wide receiver Quintin Hancock. As a true freshman in 2006 he was the rage of preseason camp, yet he caught just two balls for 29 yards that season.

Hancock showed some encouraging signs in preseason camp of 2007, as well, but again blended into the background once the season began, catching just 16 balls for 165 yards.

As usual, he is making some noise in preseason this year. He caught three passes for 43 yards in the Vols' second full-scale scrimmage on Aug. 16, then led all receivers with five catches for 59 yards and a touchdown Thursday in the final full-scale scrimmage of '08.

History says Hancock will fade from view once the season opens Sept. 1 at UCLA. Latrell Scott, Tennessee's receivers coach, says otherwise.

"Quintin's had a great camp," Scott said. "For some reason I think there's a knock on Quintin for having strong preseasons and then not carrying it into the season. Quintin Hancock is one of the better receivers on this team. He's solid, he comes out and makes plays."

At 6-3 and 200 pounds, Hancock is the biggest and most physical of Tennessee's wideouts. His rugged frame, however, belies a soft-spoken personality.

"He's very similar to Lucas (Taylor), as far as being a very quiet kid," Scott said, "but Quintin can give us a lot of things in the Red Zone and give us a lot of things in the run game. He's going to have to help us to win ball games."

Modest by nature, Hancock shrugged off his big performance in Thursday's scrimmage by passing credit to the ground attack.

"I think when the running game executed well, then the whole offense executed well," he said.

Certainly, the fact Montario Hardesty ran for 31, 24 and 20 yards on his first three carries got the No. 2 defense focused on stopping him, providing extra operating room for Vol receivers.

"Yeah," Hancock said softly, "it changes things a little bit."

Hancock has no explanation for his tendency to star in preseason and disappear once the regular season begins, noting only that "I just try to keep working hard and hope for the best."

Describing himself as "a big receiver that can make plays," he said the key to increased playing time is "I've just got to keep executing in practice."

Hancock is no speedster but he says he's in the "4.5 range" over 40 yards. Although he has exhibited exceptional hands in the passing game, his greatest contribution may come in the run game.

"I think I block pretty well," he said.

Offensive coordinator Dave Clawson thinks so, too.

"Quintin's consistent," the Vol aide said. "He's a good down-the-field blocker."

The problem is, Tennessee returns its top three receivers from 2007 – Taylor (73 catches), Austin Rogers and Josh Briscoe (56 catches each). Throw in the sudden emergence of sophomore Gerald Jones as a big-time receiver, and Hancock finds himself battling for the No. 5 spot in UT's wideout rotation.

"There will be situations in games where he'll help us," Clawson said. "The battle there is that we've got a group of four that will get the majority of reps, then guys like Denarius Moore, Quintin and Ahmad Paige really have to be pushing at the door to try to compete with that group and get themselves involved."

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