Wideout Worries

Most teams would expect a drop-off having lost a talented wideout like Da'Rick Rogers a couple of weeks before the season, but Tennessee still has plenty of firepower at the position.

Most teams would expect a drop-off having lost a talented wideout like Da'Rick Rogers a couple of weeks before the season, but Tennessee still has plenty of firepower at the position.

Rogers was an All-SEC selection with 67 catches for 1,040 yards and nine touchdowns last year, but off-the-field issues led to his suspension and eventual transfer to Tennessee Tech.

NC State defensive coordinator Mike Archer certainly won't be feeling sorry for the Volunteers.

"Losing Rogers hurts them, obviously, but [Justin] Hunter was a big-time receiver before he got hurt," said Archer. "The junior college kid, Patterson, is a big guy. Rogers, No. 83, he is the unknown guy."

For Tennessee, it all now starts with stud junior Justin Hunter. A 6-foot-4, 200-pound athlete capable of beating defenders in the redzone or vertically, Hunter was on his way to a monster season in 2011 before tearing his ACL in the third game of the year.

Prior to the injury, Hunter ranked 12th in the NCAA and first in SEC in receptions per game (8.0), and he was 10th nationally and 1st in the SEC in receiving yards per game (151.0).

"He's big, he's a 6-foot-4 kid. He can run, he has great hands and he can go up and get the football," NC State head coach Tom O'Brien said this week of Hunter. "He was probably the go-to guy when he got hurt last year. Coming back, the wider you play away from the ball the easier to get back in the swing of things.

"Wide receivers can come back from injuries with very little drop off."

Most fans probably want to know if NC State's All-American cornerback, David Amerson, will follow Hunter around the field. Archer isn't tipping his hand to the Wolfpack's gameplan.

"We know where [Hunter] lined up last year," said Archer. "We've got a plan for what we're going to do with David and Dontae [Johnson], and we'll adjust it based on what they are doing with [Hunter] and Patterson. We have to know where he is."

Cordarrelle Patterson is expected to be Tennessee's other starting receiver, a 6-foot-3, 205-pound junior college transfer who was arguably the the top JC recruit in his class. A two-time NJCAA All-American at Hutchinson Community College, Patterson caught 61 passes for 924 yards and 15 touchdowns last season at Hutchinson.

"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," Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley recently said of Patterson. "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."

Formulating an in-depth scouting report on Patterson has been hard for NC State because they don't really know what types of packages Tennessee will implement for the talented newcomer.

"We've watched some of the junior college film of him, and he's a big guy," said Archer. "He's physical, he'll block you, and he can run. They ran a lot of bubble screens for him in junior college.

"[Tennessee has] not used a lot of screens, that's not been something they've done. They ran the H-screen to the tailbacks, but I'm sure because of what he does, that's his strength, they'll have some, so we practiced it."

The "other" Rogers is actually Zach Rogers, a 6-foot, 172-pound senior who has played in 35 games for the Volunteers. He has totaled 31 career receptions for 415 yards and two touchdowns, but Archer fears him in another area.

"No one knows about him, but he's a great blocker," Archer said of Rogers. "He's important in their run game, and I've got to believe they are going to try and run the football.

"In that league you've got to run it more than they did with more efficiency, and I know that's been an emphasis."

"Their wide receivers are big, strong guys that will block you, and they go get the ball," added Archer. "They remind me of Clemson's skill guys. When the ball is thrown those guys go get the ball. You've got to take it from them."


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