Michael Patrick, copyright © 2012
Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley wears the trophy helmet while celebrating with his players at the conclusion of winning the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game Friday, Aug. 31, 2012 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. (MICHAEL PATRICK/NEWS SENTINEL)
I have written before that I was disappointed in the 2012 SEC schedule for Arkansas because it dropped our game at Knoxville against Tennessee. However, after watching Tennessee destroy NC State on Friday night I think it is a good trade that we get to replace Tennessee on our schedule with Kentucky from the East. Kentucky looked pretty weak today at Louisville. (Of course, our 49-24 victory over Jacksonville St did not look too impressive either.)
The 35-21 victory over NC State should have been even bigger. Tennessee’s Tyler Bray stuck his hand over the goal line with the ball with 11 seconds left in the first half and then he fumbled afterwards. (This was clearly seen on the replay.) However, NC State was granted the fumble recovery.
I also fear the receivers that Tennessee has. Mark May mentioned that too in his talk August 20th in Little Rock that I attended and he said that the Vols may surprise people with a run at the SEC East Championship.
Here is an article from David Climer about the Vols’ receivers:
Amy Smotherman Burgess
Tennessee wide receiver Justin Hunter (11) reaches for a catch under pressure from North Carolina State defensive back Juston Burris (11) during the Chick-Fil-A Kick Off Game at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta on Friday, Aug. 31, 2012. Tennessee won the game 35-21. (AMY SMOTHERMAN BURGESS/NEWS SENTINEL STAFF)
A college football program that once fancied itself as Wide Receiver U. has looked more like Wide Receiver Who? in recent years.
In the last 10 NFL drafts, Tennessee has had only four wide receivers selected. Just one of them, Robert Meachem in 2007, was picked in the first round. Only one other was drafted in the first four rounds.
Based on what transpired at the Georgia Dome in UT’s 35-21 conquest of North Carolina State on Friday night, the Vols are getting back up to speed at wide receiver.
The injection of junior-college transfer Cordarrelle Patterson into a talented rotation at wideout makes the Vols particularly dangerous on the perimeter, especially with Tyler Bray directing things at quarterback.
It’s too early to compare these Vols with some of the top receiver classes in school history (the 1980 and ’90 groups were exceptional in terms of top-tier talent and depth), but this is a collection capable of making serious inroads against SEC defenses.
“I think we can be really, really good, and we’re just getting started,” said UT’s Justin Hunter, who had nine receptions for 73 yards in his first game back from major knee surgery.
Patterson hit the ground running with a 41-yard touchdown reception and a 67-yard scoring run on a reverse. Even he was surprised by his immediate impact on the big stage.
“I didn’t think it would go like this,” he said. “There was a lot of stuff thrown at me but I think I handled it pretty good.”
And he’s just getting started. Imagine what he’ll be like once he gets his helmet around the playbook.
“I need to get the routes better and continue to learn the offense,” he said.
Indeed, Patterson’s knowledge — or lack of same — of the UT offense is an issue. According to coach Derek Dooley, he may have run the wrong route on the long TD pass that opened the scoring.
“That’s the beauty of Bray,” Dooley said, shaking his head. “You run the wrong route and he rewards you by throwing you the ball.”
On the play in question, Patterson blew past All-America cornerback David Amerson and caught Bray’s pass in stride.
Asked if Patterson had ad libbed on the play, Bray shrugged his shoulders and said: “I don’t remember.”
Although Patterson said he ran the play as it was drawn up (“Coach is tripping. Of course it was the right route,” he said with a smile), it’s pretty clear he’s finding his way.
“He came to me before the play even started, asking me what to do,” Hunter said. “I was like, ‘Man, you’ve got to get better than that.’
“It was a real ugly route. … It happens more than you’d think, guys running the wrong routes and stuff like that. You’d be surprised.”
As good as UT’s wide receiver corps looked against N.C. State, it could have been better. Much better. Da’Rick Rogers, who led the SEC in receptions last season, was dismissed from the team one week earlier after failing a drug test. Slot receiver DeAnthony Arnett, who caught 24 passes as a freshman in 2011, transferred to Michigan State.
N.C. State Coach Tom O’Brien noted that Rogers would have given the Vols a third big, strong, fast threat on the perimeter if he had stuck around.
“Holy cow if they would’ve had him out there,” O’Brien said.
But even without Rogers, it looks like Wide Receiver U. is back in session.
David Climer’s columns appear on Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Contact him at 615-259-8020 or dclimer@ tennessean.com.
Amy Smotherman Burgess
Tennessee defensive back Prentiss Waggner (23) intercepts a pass by North Carolina State quarterback Mike Glennon (8) during the Chick-Fil-A Kick Off Game at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta on Friday, Aug. 31, 2012. (AMY SMOTHERMAN BURGESS/NEWS SENTINEL STAFF)