As a Tennessee resident, I have more personal interaction with Tennessee fans than any other fan base. The perception that I have come away with is that the Volunteer nation likes Derek Dooley, but he must show significant approval this season or there will be a major push to have him fired.
With major changes in the coaching staff and a disappointing recruiting class, it is not beyond reason to believe that the Vols might take a step back in certain aspects of the game.
However, there is one saving grace for the Volunteers and that is their potentially lethal passing game.
Before the closure of the recruiting season, Tennessee figured to have the best wide receiver duo in the SEC with Justin Hunter and Da’Rick Rogers. Now, the Vols have added the nation's top JUCO wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson.
The Volunteers might have the best starting wide receivers in all of college football. ‘
Prior to his season ending injury last season, Hunter was playing at as high of a level as any wide receiver in the SEC. Moreover, Da’Rick Rogers was on an unbelievable pace as well. However, when Hunter went down, opposing defenses were able to slow down Rogers on multiple occasions.
The addition of Patterson will do more than just give the Volunteers a three-headed monster. It will also serve as insurance if one of the wide receivers goes down. Before going down with an injury in the game versus Georgia last season, Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray had been shut down without the home run threat of Hunter.
While it sounds unfathomable that one team could have three 1,000-yard receivers, they could at least test that mark with Bray slinging the ball around each game. The Vols will be in many shootouts next season, and Dooley has shown he loves to pad stats against inferior competition.
There are only two things that I could see slowing down this trio of receivers. The first is if Hunter will be fully recovered from his season-ending injury from last season. Hunter has the potential to be an All-Pro wide receiver within the next five seasons and perhaps the best deep threat in all of college football when healthy.
Second, is the mental toughness of Rogers. Rogers was suspended at the end of last season and has shown immaturity at times. Can he keep his head on straight for the whole season? What happens if he slips down to the No. 3 option with Patterson on the field?
There are still several questions that surround this team. However, from a pure talent standpoint, this is as good as it gets.
For Dooley's sake—he needs these issues to have a positive conclusion.