Rite of spring

It happens every spring: Grass turns green ... flowers bloom ... birds show up in large numbers ... and Quintin Hancock teases Tennessee football fans with his practice performances.

If college football were played in March and April, Quintin Hancock might be an All-American. Because it's played in September, October and November, he's just another of those enigmatic players who look great in workouts and disappear in games.

At 6-3 and 207 pounds, the St. Augustine, Fla., native could provide the big receiver UT has been seeking ever since Robert Meachem bypassed his senior year in favor of the 2007 NFL Draft. He has given indications of that in the past week.

Hancock made several good catches in last Saturday's scrimmage period, including three-yard touchdown grabs on the final two plays. He followed up with another strong showing in Tuesday's workout.

"He's had two great practices in a row, going back to Saturday and the two touchdown catches that he had," head coach Lane Kiffin said following Tuesday's workout. "Then today he came out there and made a huge catch on third down to keep a drive alive. That shows the quarterback a lot of confidence that you're in a four-minute situation and you can still throw the ball when you have guys that are going to make the plays for you."

Of course, Hancock looked like a potential key contributor last spring, too, only to go the entire 2008 season without recording a single catch.

Reminded of the rising senior's tendency to look like a stud in the spring and like a dud in the fall, Kiffin shrugged.

"I'm not worried about that," the head man said. "Whatever happened before was a different time. I know what he's done since we've been here, and we're real excited about him.

"We expect nothing but for him to get better."

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