Tennessee Football: Which of the Vols' Receivers Will Go Pro After 2012?
With a cast of three top-of-the-line wide receivers, the Tennessee Volunteers are once again being referred to as "Wide Receiver U." But with all three of those receivers entering as juniors this fall, the question of which ones will stay for their senior year and which ones will bolt for the NFL has to be raised.
There are good and bad parts, all scenarios regarding these players. If the Vols have a ridiculously amazing season that churns out three 1,000-yard receivers, sure, they could all leave. That would mean Tennessee got to a bowl and probably won it.
That also means they'd have to start over at that position in 2013.
On the other hand, if they all have down seasons, they'll be back for their senior years, but that would likely mean the season was another downer and the Vols would be looking for their fourth head coach in six years.
There's no use in trying to figure out all the scenarios of how the season could go and what that would mean for the receivers and the future of the program. All we can do is sit back and watch it happen.
But that doesn't mean you can't have an opinion! Here's mine...
Justin Hunter: Stays
Luckily for Tennessee Volunteer fans, I don't think Justin Hunter is going to leave for the NFL after the 2012 season.
It's not because he doesn't have the talent to be a Pro Bowl wide receiver one day, though. The hard truth is that in football, it's the year after your comeback from an ACL tear that you aim for.
Hunter is going to have a great season. In order to rack up the stats that will justify leaving early, though, he'll have to convince Tyler Bray to throw to him at least 50 percent of the time, which is no small feat with Da'Rick Rogers—and now Cordarrelle Patterson—wanting catches, too.
As good as Hunter is, his endurance for a full season has yet to be battle tested. In his two-year career as a Vol, he has only 33 catches. Rogers had 67 in 2011 alone. With the kind receiving corp Tennessee is fielding this fall, he's likely to have another stress-reduced season.
That's great for the Vols but not great for Hunter if he wants to leave after the 2012 season. His talent is worthy of a top-15 pick, something he can attain if he stays for his senior year.
Cordarrelle Patterson: Stays
The best news the Tennessee Volunteers got on National Signing Day was that top JUCO wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson was going to be a Vol.
He racked up over 900 yards and 15 touchdowns as a JUCO All-American in 2011 and is going to get plenty of playing time alongside Justin Hunter and Da'Rick Rogers.
However, the most exciting bit of information about Patterson isn't his great physique or worth ethic. It's his relation to backup quarterback Justin Worley, a former Gatorade Player of the Year himself.
In 2008, when the sophomore Worley was the starting quarterback at Northwestern High School in Rock Hill, South Carolina, his go-to wide receiver was senior Cordarrelle Patterson.
That year, Worley and Patterson hooked up for more than 900 yards and 18 touchdowns on 75 completions.
With just one offseason to get acclimated to a high-octane offense, I expect Patterson to excel—but not to the extent that he's a one-and-done player with the Vols.
Look for that kind of production in the fall of 2013 when he gets to join forces with his former high school quarterback for the first time in five years.
Da'Rick Rogers: Leaves
So will any of the three stud wide receivers leave the Tennessee Volunteers after the 2012 season? Justin Hunter is a no and so is Cordarrelle Patterson.
Will Da'Rick Rogers stay, too?
The answer, sadly, is no. Rogers has shown the kind of strength and swagger it takes to succeed in the NFL. When you only get three to five receptions per game, you have to have confidence in your ability to make a big play.
Rogers has that.
It was disappointing to see Tennessee fans attack him for supposedly not trying in the Kentucky game. Unsupported rumors are quite discouraging.
Did we already forget his heroic efforts against Vanderbilt the week before? What about those two one-handed catches?
Take a look at how Rogers compares to recent early first round wide receivers A.J. Green and Julio Jones. Keep in mind that both Green's and Jones' stats are from their junior seasons, while Rogers are just from his sophomore season:
Da'Rick Rogers - 67 receptions, 1,040 yards, nine touchdowns
A.J. Green - 57 receptions, 848 yards, nine touchdowns
Julio Jones - 78 receptions, 1,133 yards, seven touchdowns
In other words, thank Rogers at the Vol Walk this fall, because he's gone.
For the Record, the Ball Is in Tyler Bray's Court
Savvy readers might have noticed that I implied Cordarrelle Patterson would be receiving passes from Justin Worley in 2013, which means either Tyler Bray quit, got kicked off the team or left early for the NFL.
With college football how it is today, none of those three possibilities should be counted out, but I do think the NFL has best chance of coming true.
Bray has all the physical attributes of a great professional quarterback (if he adds 20 pounds), but his knowledge of the game as well as his leadership need to develop this year in order to be a first round pick in April of 2013.
With the kind of offense that the Tennessee Volunteers will have in the fall, the table will be set for Bray to have a terrific season and leave early. The ball is in his court.
I say he does it.