Tennessee scored seven points or less in five games in 2011. Expectations heading into 2012 are sky high and a repeat statistic like that is assumingly unrealistic.
A large part of that optimism takes root with the Volunteer passing game, led by quarterback Tyler Bray and returning wide receivers Justin Hunter and Da' Rick Rogers. However, the addition of Hutchinson (Kansas) Community College transfer Cordarrelle Patterson has the fans buzzing that much more.
"Of course there's a lot of pressure," Patterson said, "because they're trying to look at us as more receivers, but I think the way Da'Rick and Hunter play — and I know they're pretty awesome over there — and me coming in with those four-stars, it should be pretty good to play with those guys."
Patterson said he talked to Bray "some" and the signal-caller was his host on his official visit last year.
He knows the expectations. He is somewhat familiar with the craziness of being at a Southeastern Conference university. The schedule is never easy. Yet, the most-heralded Vol newcomer seems confident he and his teammates can right the ship.
"In my opinion, I think we're going to have a good year this year," Patterson told InsideTennessee. "People are always saying we should have a great year or whatever because we've got good receivers, a good defense, good defensive line, offensive line, all of that. In my opinion, I think we should have a good season this year."
The portion of Big Orange Country that keeps up with recruiting seems to be as excited about the team's passing attack as it has been since the Volunteers had Bret Smith, Jayson Swain and Robert Meachem or Donté Stallworth, Kelley Washington and Jason Witten.
"I'm very excited because I know they've got a lot of receivers coming in," Patterson said. "So, they can't double-team one person because someone's always going to be open."
|Wide receivers coach Darin Hinshaw (pictured) was relentless in his pursuit of Patterson.|
"It's pretty good to have people you know there," Patterson said.
The Rock Hill, S.C., native, who admitted he didn't have a team that he rooted for in his youth, could see his talents used on special teams as well with his ability as a kickoff returner.
"We haven't talked about it, but I'll probably try to get out there," he said.
Working first-hand with the wide receivers corps is assistant coach Darin Hinshaw, who was Patterson's lead recruiter throughout the process. The former five-star prospect is excited about learning under Hinshaw.
"It's pretty awesome to have him," Patterson said. "He's been on me for so long I know he's never going to give up on me."
The now-recruiting coordinator turned some heads by helping Tennessee beat out schools like Auburn, Georgia and LSU to get No. 84 on The Hill. The conversations between the two weren't always about football.
"It was just conversations about everything like making sure I get my grades so I can be eligible and come down there," Patterson said. "I hadn't even signed yet and he was like, 'When I get here…this and this.' That was a big factor."
From Alabama's Dee Milliner to Georgia's Bacarri Rambo to Mississippi State's Johnthan Banks, the league schedule has its fair share of talented defensive backs primed to slow down the Vol aerial attack. In no way does Patterson sound like he's going to bow down to the competition.
"If I wasn't ready I would have went somewhere else. I think the SEC is going to get me ready," the 6-foot-3, 205-pounder said.
In the front row of the recruiting section next to the tunnel behind the north end zone at Neyland Stadium for the game against Vanderbilt last November sat Patterson. He got a bird's eye view of the Pride of the Southland Marching Band open up the T for the Vols. His time doing the same is just weeks away.
"I know I'm going to be nervous. I already know that," said Patterson, whose mother and sister plan on seeing him play in person for the first time in three years. "I can't let that get to me. I've got to go out there and play like I know how to play and everything should work out fine."
Kickoff against North Carolina State is at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta on Aug. 31 at 7:30 p.m.