Junior Cordarrelle Patterson was determined to become a key for the Vols offense in 2012, but his start in Tennessee's system began a month later than most newcomers this offseason.
When Patterson arrived at camp he had to grasp the offense much faster than the other incoming freshmen and junior college transfers, since he arrived in July whereas most of the others arrived in June.
"Coach (Darin) Hinshaw pulled me to the side after meetings and we stayed an extra 30 or 35 minutes and tried to learn the offense," said Patterson. "In the mornings we would work to get the offense down pat."
Patterson showed he had an understanding of the offense when he blasted onto the scene in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game with 93 yards receiving and a 67-yard run on an end around that gave Tennessee a 22-7 lead over the Wolfpack.
"When he took that reverse, I've got to admit that was kind of fun when he was running down the field thinking about those snowing days in Hutchinson, Kansas, thinking, 'It was so bad in Hutchinson that day,'" said offensive coordinator Jim Chaney. "Was I shocked by his production? No, not really cause he's a super talented kid."
The reverse wasn't the only big play that caught the attention of fans, players and coaches. The first touchdown in the game was scored by Patterson on a 41-yard pass from junior quarterback Tyler Bray.
"I knew he was something special," said Bray. "He's a JUCO kid so he's been playing for a while. He's not fresh out of high school. He learned our system and got it down and he's doing what he's doing."
After Patterson shined in the first two games, the expectations have been raised by the coaching staff.
"Each week we carry a lot of our base offense, but we do make changes every week. He's got to learn at his position what he's doing," said wide receiver coach Darin Hinshaw. "We're going to move him around in some different positions.He's got to learn play-specific what to do for this week, because if you think about it, we've got a pool of plays we choose from and we choose this play, this play and this play for this week, and these are the ones we focus on. Then the next week, we go back and start from our pool and we pick out different plays, some might be the same, some might be different. Every week we've got to relearn, basically, the whole offense and make sure we tighten it down as we go through the week."
These offensive plays need to be tightened this week as the Vols will play against rival Florida. This is Patterson's first SEC game and a chance for him to shine on a national level once again.
"I'm kind of hype(d) for it because I've waited two years and I'm just ready for it to be here," said Patterson. "I'm ready to be out there and compete in the best conference there is."
The pageantry that surrounds this upcoming game is unlike anything that Patterson has seen, and being in the spotlightis still relatively new to him.
"He's got to stay focused on what he's got to do," said senior wide receiver Zach Rogers. "He's going to get a lot of attention this week and he is a star player for us. He should get all the attention in the world, but he's got to focus in and not get affected by how many fans are here or what the media is doing. He's got to focus on what he's got to do each and every play. He's got to make plays for us on Saturday."