Five questions entering fall camp

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Will Tennessee's junior college signees be as good as advertised?

It is hard to imagine a more heralded and anticipated junior college signing class in the country like that of Tennessee's in 2012. Three junior college studs have expectations souring heading into fall camp at the end of this week.

There is perhaps not single Volunteer that has created more buzz having not played a single snap in the Orange and White than wide receiver signee Cordarrelle Patterson. The former five-star FOX Sports NEXT receiver holds more than a dozen records at Hutchinson Community College, 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).

All eyes will be focused on the former Two-time NJCAA All-American when the Vols open camp Friday as he tries to work his way into a wide receiving corps that features two preseason All-SEC receivers in Da'Rick Rogers (first team) and Justin Hunter (second team).

In addition to Patterson, two defensive linemen help fill an extreme need in the trenches for the Vols. Man-child Daniel McCullers is an SEC defensive coordinators dream physically coming to Rocky Top at 6-foot-6, 377 pounds, but can the former Georgia Military Academy standout compete with the SEC's best offensive linemen?

And don't forget former Alabama signee Darrington Sentimore who played in 11 games for the 2010 National Championship Crimson Tide. Sentimore spent 2011 racking up 39 tackles, five tackles for loss and seven sacks for Gulf Coast Community College. His 6-foot-2, 288-pound frame should fit in perfectly at 3-4 defensive end.

Who will step up and knock it through the pipes in 2012?

In the Southeastern Conference there are few things more important than a place kicker to snap a tie in a 10-10 contest in the fourth quarter. Unfortunately, for Tennessee, former FOX Sports NEXT No. 1 kicker prospect Michael Palardy hasn't exactly lived up to expectations.

Palardy, who finished his sophomore campaign 9-of-14 from field goal range with a long of 52 yards was inconsistent at best. Going forward Palardy will undoubtably be pushed by walk-on placekicker Derrick Brodus, who was called of the couch to kick the MTSU contest in 2011, hitting from 21 yards.

And all the while the dark horse in the contest is Knoxville, Tenn., native and true freshman George Bullock. As a senior, Bullock made 7-of-10 field goals, including a long of 51 and was 47-of-50 extra points.

Who will emerge and tote the rock for the Vols come Aug. 31 in Atlanta?

All spring long it was one of the most talked about topics of off-season camp, who will emerge as the No. 1 tailback for the Vols? Unforunately, no true answer was reached by the conclusion of the Orange & White game April 21.

The unquestioned front runners are sophomore Marlin Lane and junior Rajion Neal. However, neither were able to separate themselves under the leadership of new running backs coach Jay Graham and Lane was seen in a hard cast on his right wrist during off-season workouts. On the other hand, Neal is turning heads in the weight room this fall.

Lane, a 5-foot-11, 205-pounder is coming of a freshman season that saw him rack up 280 yards rushing in addition to 17 catches for 161 yards in 12 games as a reserve tailback. Neal, who was moved to wide receiver for his sophomore season, had 13 catches for 269 yards and carried 27 times for 134 yards with three touchdowns.

Behind Lane and Neal is a stable of backs that have a variety of talents and experience. Look for Devrin Young, Tom Smith, Alden Hill and Davante Bourque to attempt to carve varying out roles in the Vols offensive.

What will the Vol secondary, littered with depth, look like in 2012?

If there is any position group that is finally where Derek Dooley wants to it to be the way of depth it has to be the secondary. Seemingly the two staples in the Vols secondary are redshirt senior Prentiss Waggner and sophomore Brian Randolph. Both are safeties, but for Waggner 2011 was a revolving door between safety and corner due to injuries amongst his teammates.

Waggner, who is far more suited at corner, would like for someone to step up to play opposite Randolph, but who will that be? Old timer Rod Wilks, big man Brent Brewer or maybe one of the newcomers in Deion Bonner or LaDarrell McNeil?

And if Waggner is able to play his natural position at corner, who will be his opposite when the Vols face an offensive juggernaut? Will it be sophomore Justin Coleman, who is coming off a seesaw freshman campaign? Or will it be Eric Gordon, Marsalis Teague or JUCO sensation Byron Moore?

Will Derek Dooley's revamped coaching staff mesh in time to save a sinking ship?

It can't be ignored that head coach Derek Dooley's name is among the top for hot seats heading into the 2012 season, but the Tennessee headman has completely reworked his staff in his third season, whether by choice or necessity.

With seven new assistant coaches, including new defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri, it will be vital for the staff to mesh and correct coaching errors that have smashed dreams of dramatic victories during Dooley's first two seasons.

The losses to LSU and North Carolina will only be erased with signature wins that could present themselves in the form of the Florida Gators, Georgia Bulldogs and even the Alabama Crimson Tides.

Stay tuned as InsideTennessee brings you all the latest from Tennessee fall camps, which opens Friday at 2:15 p.m.

Rajion Neal

Chris Price is a staff writer for 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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