KNOXVILLE — Tennessee's crop of football newcomers took two more hits Thursday.
Receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, the Volunteers' highly regarded junior college transfer, missed Thursday afternoon's indoor workout with a shoulder sprain, and freshman linebacker Kenny Bynum suffered a torn meniscus in his right knee and will be out "for a while," coach Derek Dooley said.
Patterson "fell down after he made a catch," Dooley said as the team was loading up two 18-wheel trucks, two smaller moving trucks and three yellow school buses and heading to Milligan College for the next six days. "He's got a little small sprain. It shouldn't be too bad."
The 6-foot-1, 246-pound Bynum signed with UT two weeks after signing day. He was a three-star prospect committed to Cincinnati when the Vols made a late swoop looking for an extra linebacker. After bulking up, Bynum was working at inside linebacker.
"Right now they're figuring out what surgical procedures they want to do," Dooley said. "He's what we thought in recruiting: He's instinctive, he's tough and he's smart. The first few practices with him, that's what we saw."
Already thin inside behind A.J. Johnson and Herman Lathers, the Vols are now down two players at the position, though redshirt freshman Christian Harris is recovering rapidly from the torn ACL he suffered early in spring practice.
"That's a real concern on our football team and has been," Dooley said.
Harris has been practicing in a limited fashion without any brace or sleeve on his knee, and he was doing some running and cutting on the side with head trainer Jason McVeigh on Thursday.
"This is kind of the beginning window of coming back," Dooley said. "The rule of thumb is six months. I think the next couple of weeks we'll get a better gauge on how fast, [but] all signs are he's right on pace for an early recovery."
Freshman tailback Davante Bourque has missed the past few practices with a neck injury. Rookie receiver Alton Howard is still on crutches after foot surgery in July. Senior tight end Mychal Rivera also is sidelined with a knee sprain.
Jacques the Jack
What once was foreign is now a little less so for Jacques Smith. The junior from Ooltewah viewed his move from defensive end to Jack linebacker in defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri's 3-4 defense as venturing into a new place. Now Smith feels he's at home.
"During the spring, I'm going to admit Jack was a little bit different -- being in space, dropping down in coverages and things like that," Smith said. "But it's become habit and it's become natural now. Like Coach Sal said, I kind of have a natural feel for it.
"I really like it a lot. I'm enjoying it. Some of the calls, I don't even have to think twice now."
The knock on Smith always has been consistency and playing within the defensive scheme. With sophomore Jordan Williams, who Dooley said earlier this week is "going to be a real good football player," continuing to settle in as well, Smith is working on doing those things. The always upbeat 6-foot-2, 244-pounder had just half a sack last season as he struggled as an undersized end.
"You've got to come out to work every single day," he said. "You've got to come to work as hard as you can, and you can't worry about the last day or the bad play you might have had the play before. You've got to come to work every single play, every single snap and beat your guy.
"If you can do that, then you're a consistent player."
Dooley said neither Matt Darr nor Michael Palardy has created separation in the Vols' competition at punter. The two split punting duties last season, though Darr booted 40 kicks to Palardy's 14. Darr's 38-yard average was the higher of the two, as UT's kicking game was far from spectacular.
"I want the most productive guy, the most consistently productive player, to punt for us," Dooley said. "Same thing with kicking. I don't care if Mike does all of them or one of them. I'm past that.
"He's old, he's mature, he's physically ready, so we're going to do a fair evaluation of all them to see who's the better guy."
Darr said developing consistency was his biggest offseason goal and attributed some of his ups and downs as a redshirt freshman to the drops on his kicks. Sometimes, he said, his "sticky fingers" would turn the football too much. Darr said he's now got a system to replicate his routine on every kick.
"I feel like I figured out more about myself as a punter," he said, "and I'm taking strides at realizing the things that I need to do to be successful. I think competition a lot of times brings out the best in people, but I think me and Mike both realize that we both have jobs that are important roles on the team. We try to help each other bring the best out in each other."
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 ...