ELIZABETHTON, Tenn. — The smile, constant eye contact and post-interview handshakes were signs that Cordarrelle Patterson was fairly comfortable in his first meeting with the media since coming to Tennessee last month.
If he's as comfortable with the Volunteers' offense as he appeared to be answering questions Wednesday after a morning practice at Milligan College, it can only be a good thing for Tennessee.
"I haven't even thought about it," Patterson said the expectations he has for himself. "I'm just coming out and playing with those guys, and I think we can do some good things. I'm just trying to learn everything, and it's got me running on the edge."
The 6-foot-3, 220-pound transfer from Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College is coming in with sky-high expectations. The stats from his lone JUCO season -- 924 receiving yards, 379 rushing yards, 24 total touchdowns and 48-yard kickoff return average -- created the billing. His measurables and the ease with which he appears to play the game increase it further.
Yet most people are still trying to figure out how to pronounce his first name. (It's core-DARE-uhl).
"Teachers can't even say it," Patterson said. "I just tell them to call me 'CP.' It's easy for them, so they go along with it."
Going along with learning the offense at a regular pace wasn't going to be enough for Patterson after he arrived in Knoxville in July, a month after nearly everyone else in Tennessee's 2012 signing class. He had to hit the ground running with throwing sessions with quarterbacks Tyler Bray and Justin Worley, his former high-school teammate in Rock Hill, S.C. The extra meeting time with receivers coach Darin Hinshaw, Patterson's primary recruiter, provided more help.
"He'd pull me to the side after meetings, and we'd stay an extra 30 to 35 minutes trying to learn it and pick up something real fast so I could get the offense down," Patterson said.
The learning process didn't truly begin, though, until Tennessee began training camp.
"It's like riding a bike," Hinshaw said last week. "I can sit here and draw up how to ride a bike. I can show you all the different things. Here's the physics. I can even show you film of riding a bike.
"But then you go get on the bike, and you're going to fall down, you're going to fall down, you're going to fall down and then eventually you're going to get it. That's where we're at right now. We've got to go fall down, make mistakes, learn what to do, learn this play and he's getting better and better every day."
A sprained shoulder has put Patterson in a red No. 84 jersey, though he joked he told the trainers the non-contact shirt was useless because "they still try to hit you no matter what." Even in a red jersey, Patterson caught a 26-yard pass in Tennessee's first scrimmage. Though not 100 percent, Patterson is doing everything else.
"He's getting there," coach Derek Dooley said. "The last couple of practices you've noticed him. The first 10 or so, it was just swimming. It's a lot of stuff, learning how to play fast, and it's hard to play fast when you're not sure what to do."
Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney said Patterson's work in July has him caught up with the other newcomers. Given his ability, the Vols could simplify some things to get him on the field with the ball in his hands. Patterson could return kicks, too.
It'll help that he's in an offense with an experienced Bray and flanked by Justin Hunter and Da'Rick Rogers, two receivers that figure to draw plenty of defensive attention. The Vols' signing class and offense received a jolt of energy when Patterson spurned chances to play at LSU, Georgia and others in favor of Tennessee. Though Patterson's not a man of many words, the Vols hope he's full of catches, yards and more this fall.
"What everybody's said about him, it's true," Hunter said. "He's real fast, and he's real big, too. He's not like me and Da'Rick. He's his own person, so he can do things that we can't do."
Patrick Brown has been the University of Tennessee beat writer since January 2011. A native of Memphis, Brown graduated from UT in May of 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Electronic Media and worked at the Knoxville News Sentinel for two years on the sports editorial staff and as a freelance contributor. If it’s the NBA, the NFL or SEC football and basketball, he’s probably reading about it or watching it on TV. Contact him ...
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