KNOXVILLE — The injury list for the Tennessee football team added two names Thursday. But judging by the past three years, one addition may have been inevitable.
Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer announced after practice that junior running back Montario Hardesty would miss the rest of spring practice due to a stress fracture in his lower left leg. Hardesty, who has battled numerous injuries during his time with the Vols, serves as UT’s second-string tailback.
“It’s disappointing for everybody,” Fulmer said of Hardesty’s injury. “But it gives us a chance to work those younger guys, and we know he’ll be ready in the fall. He’ll get himself ready.”
Wide receiver Austin Rogers also is likely to miss the rest of spring practice with an undisclosed knee injury. Rogers was seen wearing a knee brace inside the Neyland-Thompson Sports Center on Thursday.
While losing key players to injuries is always difficult, it is even tougher this year as players attempt to learn an entirely new offensive scheme. That rationale, combined with an injury-plagued career, rings especially true for Hardesty.
“You know he’s frustrated,” said Stan Drayton, UT’s first-year running backs coach. “He wants to be out there, and he wants an opportunity to start. He feels like this is another hurdle in the road.
“I wasn’t around Montario in the past when he had these road blocks, but the way he’s handling it right now is that he’s trying to turn himself into a student of the game. This is an opportunity to stand around practice and watch and pick up a script, and learn and see what other positions are doing right now.”
MOVING ON UP: Daryl Vereen started the week buried on the depth chart. But after moving from tailback to the secondary prior to Tuesday’s practice, Vereen now finds himself as the second-string free safety. And he doesn’t think it will be long before he is completely up to speed.
“I’m picking it up real easy — maybe another week or two,” Vereen said of the learning curve. “I’m just seeing it as an opportunity.
“... There is a large part of me that didn’t want to leave running back. But they said it was best for the team and I could touch the field quicker, so I said I would try it out.”
It’s the first time Vereen has played on the defensive side of the ball since his days as a middle-school linebacker.
“I’m starting to bring it back,” Vereen joked. “I’m starting to feel it again.”
GETTING CROMP: Fulmer said starting quarterback Jonathon Crompton would wear an orange jersey in Saturday’s scrimmage at Neyland Stadium, giving defensive players their first opportunity to hit the signal-caller.
Coaches are hoping to see the junior take the next step as he looks to rebound off a three-interception performance in UT’s last scrimmage.