Receiving corps grabbing headlines

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As a freshman football player, especially in the Southeastern Conference, it can be extremely difficult to gain the respect of your current teammates.

However, Tennessee wide receiver Alton ‘Pig' Howard seems to have done just that this summer turning heads of some big-time leadership on the current roster including Tyler Bray and Herman Lathers who both spoke on Howard's ability at SEC Media days in Hoover, Ala.

"Howard," senior linebacker Herman Lathers replied when asked which newcomers stuck out. "He's a real small, fast guy. He has deceptive speed. He's fast, quick."

Howard, who is listed at 5-foot-8, 185 pounds, has been turning heads ever since he arrived on campus in June. Formerly ranked as the No. 76 overall wide receiver by FOX Sports NEXT, he is slotted to wear No. 2 for the Big Orange, but when he will dawn that number is still in question.

Pig was recently participating in 7-on-7 drills and made a cut that broke a bone in his foot and has forced him to cease all activity. The former Under Armour All-American is slotted to return as early as the season opener with North Carolina State on Aug. 31 in the Georgia Dome, but could be held out until the home opener with Georgia State on Sept. 8 at 4:00 p.m.

Howard said that he is going to "bounce back" from the injury last week as he crutched his way through Neyland Thompson Sports Complex. The former Edgewater (Fla.) High School standout finished his senior season with 36 catches for 691 yards (19.2 yards per catch) and five touchdowns en route to Associated Press 7A All-State Team honors.

Tennessee junior college signee Cordarrelle Patterson could be an electric weapon for the Vols.
(Danny Parker/InsideTennessee.com)

Howard added 392 yards on 55 carries (7.13 yards per carry) and scored three rushing touchdowns. He has also gained the respect and praise of junior quarterback Tyler Bray, who sees Howard as a weapon in the slot.

"Pig Howard is hurt right now, but he is a fast guy," Bray said. "I think he is a guy we can line up in a lot and really help us. We will see how he does once we get in pads."

The Volunteers were able to close out Howard's recruitment edging out Central Florida in the end where his brother, Quincy McDuffie, play his college football.

Despite Howard's early shining moment it seems as though it will be very hard to outshine the "Big 3" as the Tennessee players are calling it. Consisting of Justin Hunter, Da'Rick Rogers and Cordarrelle Patterson, the "Big 3" is likely to be one of the most dangerous wide receiving corps the Big Orange Nation has ever laid eyes on.

"(The receiving corps) are getting a lot of publicity," Derek Dooley said at SEC media days. "That's a good thing. Means we have some talent there. We really only have one guy that's gone through 12 games and been productive in the league. So we have a lot to prove. Justin flashing great things for us, but he only played three games. All the other guys are new. We have some ability, but we haven't really proven we can do it. That's what we are set out to do."

Patterson, a five-star junior college signee, is undoubtedly the most anticipated player to sign with the Vols in quite some time, especially after posting blistering 100-yard dash times in the 10.33 range.

He is also a guy that seems to fit the new mentality of his new teammates, especially that of Herman Lathers, who has been impressed with Patterson's work ethic thus far.

"Cordarrelle Patterson came in about a week or two ago," Lathers said. "I've built a real good relationship with him so far. He's a guy that wants to work, wants to win, and wants to do whatever it takes to put Tennessee back on the map. We have a lot of players that are really good that are going to really help us early this fall, and we're looking forward to it."

Patterson, who was a two-time NJCAA All-American at Hutchinson Community College, holds more than a dozen records at Hutchinson C.C., including career receiving yards (1,832), career receptions (113), career receiving touchdowns (24), career total touchdowns (36), career points (216), career kickoff return average (41.9) and career all-purpose yards (3,379).

One thing is for certain, if this offense is healthy and could be one of the best to ever grace a football field in the Orange and White.

Alton "Pig" Howard

Chris Price is a staff writer for InsideTennessee.com. He was previously an intern for the site for two years before graduating from the University of Tennessee. He joined the InsideTennessee team in 2009.

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