More rookies likely will contribute as they mature and the 2012 season progresses. Still, frosh do not project to be nearly as prominent this fall as they were in Derek Dooley's previous two years as head coach.
The head man played 13 freshmen in 2010 — quarterback Tyler Bray, fullback Channing Fugate, tackle Ja'Wuan James, defensive ends Corey Miller and Jacques Smith, guard Zach Fulton, wide receiver Justin Hunter, tailback Rajion Neal, kicker Michael Palardy, linebacker John Propst, wideout Da' Rick Rogers, center James Stone and safety Brent Brewer. James started all 13 games; Bray, Fugate, Miller, Fulton, Hunter, Palardy, Stone and Brewer started several times each.
Sixteen more freshmen were thrust into action during the 2011 season. A.J. Johnson started all 12 games at linebacker. Curt Maggitt opened eight at linebacker and Brian Randolph eight at safety. Marcus Jackson started five games at guard, Justin Coleman four at cornerback, Justin Worley three at quarterback, Cameron Clear two at tight end, DeAnthony Arnett and Devrin Young one each at wideout. Also seeing action were receiver Vincent Dallas, tight end Brendan Downs, tailback Marlin Lane, tackle Antonio Richardson, tailback Tom Smith and defensive end Jordan Williams.
Of Tennessee's remaining 2012 freshmen, only wide receiver Alton "Pig" Howard seems a lock to play in Year 1. He missed the opener due to a foot injury but could be back by Game 3 against Florida.
BULLISH AT TIGHT END
Junior offensive lineman Alex Bullard switched numbers from 78 to 88 for Game 1 so he would be eligible to play some tight end. Injuries have reduced the Vols to one full-time tight end (Mychal Rivera) and one part-time tight end (fullback Ben Bartholomew). Bullard started six times at left guard and six times at center in 2011. He played some tackle during preseason camp.
PLAY 'EM ALL IN AUGUST
Perhaps Tennessee should petition the NCAA to start football season a month earlier. Friday night's 35-21 defeat of North Carolina State in Atlanta improved the Vols' all-time record in August games to 6-0-1.
Neutral-site openers seem to work well for the Big Orange, as well. Tennessee is 3-0-1 when it plays Game 1 at an impartial venue.
NO MORE 'DOME OF DOOM'
Tennessee's defeat of N.C. State snapped a six-game Vol losing streak at The Georgia Dome. Most of the losses were ugly. The six setbacks were 31-20 to heavy underdog LSU in the 2001 SEC Championship Game, 30-3 to Maryland in the 2002 Peach Bowl, 27-14 to decided underdog Clemson in the 2004 Peach Bowl, 38-28 to Auburn in the 2004 SEC Championship Game, 21-14 to LSU in the 2007 SEC Championship Game and 37-14 to Virginia Tech in the 2010 Chick fil-A Bowl. Tennessee hadn't won in The Georgia Dome since beating Mississippi State 24-14 in the 1998 SEC Championship Game en route to the national title.
CP SHOWS TD KNACK
Say this much for junior college transfer Cordarrelle Patterson: He makes his touches count.
Patterson's second reception as a Vol produced a 41-yard touchdown. Moments after making his third college catch, he parlayed his first collegiate carry into a 67-yard score on an end-around. The run was the longest by a Tennessee player since LaMarcus Coker sped 87 yards against Vanderbilt in 2006.
After converting two of his first first four touches into TDs, Patterson finished his Big Orange debut with six receptions for 93 yards and two rushes for 72 yards.
The guy known as "CP" was one of four Vols making their first career starts versus North Carolina State. The others were Antonio Richardson at tackle, Darrington Sentimore at defensive end and Daniel McCullers at nose tackle. Rajion Neal made his first start at tailback after starting three times at wideout in 2011 and Byron Moore made his first start at strong safety after starting twice at free safety last fall. With eight tackles Friday night, Moore already surpassed the total of six stops he registered in all of 2011.
NICE BIRTHDAY PRESENT
Receiver Jacob Carter, a former walk-on who was awarded a scholarship last month, celebrated his 21st birthday Friday night by making his first collegiate reception, a 20-yard grab in the second quarter. Carter is a 6-foot, 180-pound junior from Nashville known for his precise routes and dependable hands.
The Vols' 22 first-quarter points versus North Carolina State represented their highest-scoring opening period since 2000, when they hung 35 on Arkansas in a 63-20 blowout at Neyland Stadium.
CALL HIM 'THE CLOSER'
Like an ace relief pitcher, Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley excels at protecting leads. Counting Friday's defeat of North Carolina State, he now stands 11-0 in Vol games he has led entering the fourth quarter.
Have a look at what starting safety Brian Randolph had to say following the season-opening victory in this interview with InsideTennessee: