Hardegree On Fast Track For Fall

Tennessee has only two scholarship quarterbacks on campus — if you count James Banks as a receiver — and with Hardegree the only quarterback commitment in the fold, plans to redshirt the Jackson Central-Merry star will apparently be scrapped.

Hardegree confirmed tonight that the Vols want him ready to go this fall, which means a lot of mental and physical preparation ahead. Hardegree is already getting up close and personal with the weight room in an effort to get bigger and stronger.

"I'm hitting that hard already," Hardegree said. "I'm bench pressing about 240 or 250 right now, but it's going to get a lot better. My weight is up to about 195 now and I'm going to be up to 210 this fall."

The 6-foot-5 Hardegree is ranked among the top 50 under-18 tennis players in the country, which has curtailed his activity in the weight room in the past. However, he said he's going to concentrate on football this spring and only play high school tennis in order to be at his best when preseason practice starts at UT.

In the meantime, he's helping Tennessee keep in contact with commitments and those prospects the Vols hope will become commitments.

"I talk to all the coaches and get phone numbers from them," he said. "I've talked to Mike Jones and I've got Bret Smith's phone number. I'm going to get together with Brad Cottam (UT tight end commitment from the Memphis area) and pass some."

It appears the Vols are still in hopes of signing Michael Bush of Louisville, but seem less likely to go the junior college route if unsuccessful with the last quarterback left on their board. That would make Hardegree UT's only returning quarterback in 2004.

By the way, Hardegree indicates that Jones is down to Tennessee and Iowa and that he may make an announcement at any time. If Tennessee could add Jones' commitment to Eric Young's it will end up with two of the top four offensive linemen in the country.

That would certainly make the UT quarterback job very attractive when the Vols resume their search next season.

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