Tennessee has arguably the best receiving corps in the country with Justin Hunter, Da'Rick Rogers and incoming JUCO recruit Cordarrelle Patterson. These are the Big 3 that I am talking about.
While it is known that Tennessee has a ton of depth to its receiving cast, the three mentioned above are the leaders (or at least will be by next season) that will transform this offense next year.
With that in mind, they all have their strengths and weaknesses. The good thing about this is that they all have different ones, so no spot is truly left open in this Tennessee receiving unit.
In this list, I will examine the trio and give predictions to how they will perform next year.
If Hunter hadn't gone down because of injury, who knows how good he could have been. It does make one wonder about the possibilities.
But that's living in the past. It's time to look for the future. Hunter showcased his talent the first few games, averaging 18.5 yards per reception with 314 yards receiving and two touchdowns. It is very reasonable to see him staying on that pace for an entire season.
That's a scary thought.
It is especially scary for defensive coordinators who are trying to figure out the Volunteers' passing offense. Hunter presents the big-play option that teams can never truly defend.
Hunter is a track and field athlete also, and it shows on the field. He has amazing speed that is coupled with a great leaping ability. His long strides allow for deep passes to turn into touchdowns, which are certain to come with this guy.
While he may never be that much of a threat in the red zone, Hunter is always blowing away guys on routes for big gains. He provides a nice contrast to the rest of the receivers with his exhilarating style of play.
Big plays come from a big-time players. Look for him to be the leading receiver next year.
As with most families, there is always the child that is out there. That child for the Vols is Da'Rick Rogers.
Rogers has amazing talent, don't get me wrong. It takes skill to rack up over 1000 yards and nine touchdowns in a season. But to be a truly amazing player, you need to have dedication and real loyalty. In his tenure as a Volunteer, Rogers has had incidents that make you waver about his commitment.
Aside from that, Rogers looks like one of the best talents on this entire Tennessee team, period. He excels in short, middle and some long routes and is able to come up with the ball because of his great strength. Add in blazing speed, and you have a flexible receiver.
For these reasons, Rogers is amazing in the red zone. He is always the one that quarterback Tyler Bray looks to first, and that is because he has an uncanny ability to soar over guys and catch the ball. After coming up with unbelievable touchdowns like this one against Vanderbilt, it is easy to see why Rogers is valuable to this team.
The only things Rogers needs to improve on is his attitude and route running. His route skills got better towards the end of the season though, so he just needs to stay focused. If he can, his future as a wide receiver is a bright one.
Some may be hesitant to put Patterson on this list. After all, he hasn't even played a down for the Vols yet. Have not doubt, this guy is talented. After all, there was a reason he was a 5-star recruit.
Patterson had 64 catches, 924 yards and 15 touchdowns receiving last season at Hutchinson Community College. He comes in at 6'4" and 200 pounds, an ideal size and weight for a receiver, and the best part about that is that he knows how to use his size and speed to his advantage.
He has been described as a bully because of his size. Defensive backs have a very tough time guarding him because he has a significant height advantage that he uses to overpower them. If he can't out-leap them, he just uses his speed. Boy, does he have plenty of it.
You see, most defensive backs don't expect him to be very fast, mostly because of his large stature. It is easy to see why he was able to score so many touchdowns. He is deceptively fast and can break for huge gains, even after short passes.
Patterson has great hands and concentration, which is perfect for a guy who needs to be a redzone and down-field threat. In simpler terms, he is a mixture of Hunter and Rogers.
That is why he is included on this list. Patterson has huge potential and can play multiple roles. He combines everything you need in a wide receiver and adds his own little advantages.
It will be very interesting to see how he does in the years to come.