ATLANTA — On Feb. 1, 2012, Cordarrelle Patterson, a five-star wide receiver from Hutchinson Community College, chose to sign with Tennessee over Georgia, LSU, Mississippi, Florida and Nebraska.
At the time, the Vols had Justin Hunter and Da’Rick Rogers on the roster — arguably, the top two receivers in the Southeastern Conference. Rather than shy away from the competition, Patterson went toward it.
“It’s kinda hard to compete with those guys,” added linebacker Herman Lathers. “I’ll take them on my team any day.”
With the recent departure of Rogers, who was suspended indefinitely by coach Derek Dooley and chose to transfer to Tennessee Tech, and Hunter returning from ACL surgery, Patterson’s role will be significantly bigger anyone might have thought.
That seems to have cooled Dooley’s mood.
“Well I’m sure everybody probably has greater expectations on [Patterson] than I have because my experience has been, when a guy plays in his first college football game not to expect anything beyond something that’s typical of a freshman,” Dooley said.
“There’s gonna be a lot of growing pains to kinda ease him into this game. The speed of the game is gonna be different, the tempo, the environment, everything’s different. And that’s gonna show up in game one. So the important thing that we have to do is stay patient, and make sure that he stays calm through all this and he’s able to perform to the best of his abilities.”
Dooley was also concerned about North Carolina State’s veteran secondary picking apart his young offense.
“What those guys do best is make you pay for any mistakes, whether it’s a poor route, whether it’s an inaccurate football, a bobbled ball, whatever it is, they’re gonna make you pay,” Dooley said. “And there’s nothing more important than turnovers in these kind of games.”
Dooley has a lot to be excited about this season with his offense, so it’s possible he is simply playing it cool. He mentioned learning a lot from last season when the Volunteers spanked Cincinnati in what could have been the starting point to a great season. Instead, Tennessee limped to the finish line.
This season, Dooley doesn’t want to make the same mistakes. He has improved the depth of his team — Patterson being the prime example — so his season can’t be derailed by personnel issues.
Now, he finally has a chance to make some noise this season with his high powered offense. But we — and perhaps Dooley — will all find out what that offense is capable of when they begin the season in the Georgia Dome on Friday.