KNOXVILLE — The big firsts are out of the way for Cordarrelle Patterson.
The first reception, the first touchdown (plus one), the first game and the first win.
Tennessee's highly regarded new wide receiver took care of all of that in the Volunteers' season-opening win against North Carolina State last week and became an instant star.
Now the natural question is what's next for the junior college transfer.
"Oh, he can get a lot better -- a lot better," Tennessee receivers coach Darin Hinshaw said.
Patterson and the Vols play today against Georgia State, ahead of Florida's big visit next Saturday.
No UT player or coach knows him better than Hinshaw, a third-year Vols assistant who handled Patterson's recruitment. No player or coach was surprised when Patterson dazzled in his debut with eight touches for 165 total yards and two touchdowns. Yet Hinshaw's mind already was looking at the ways the 6-foot-3, 215-pounder can improve.
"I know C.P. can do a lot of things," Hinshaw said. "As his coach, I'm working on some of the things that he messed up on to get better at. We know he had the explosives and the great catches and all that, and there's still more things to be done.
"In the second half, there were some balls that could have gone his way and all that kind of stuff, and we've just got to continue to develop and hold the high standard that we have for wide receivers. We can help the run game. He's a special kid [who] went out there and played good."
Amid all the hype with which he came to Tennessee and the pressure that mounted when Da'Rick Rogers left the program, Patterson said he had no expectations for himself. He's maintaining that level approach.
"There's no change," he said. "I'm just trying to go in and make sure I don't have any downfalls and keep everything up. I just hope I can improve every day."
Though it may sound like coach-speak, Patterson does have plenty of improvement to make, by his own admission. He's been in the program for only two months, and his knowledge of Tennessee's offense and rapport with quarterback Tyler Bray figures only to increase with time. His route-running will improve, and he'll better understand defenses and coverages.
"It's just the little things that I'm missing out on," Patterson said.
One thing's for sure: Patterson won't be a little thing on defensive game plans.
"There's so many things that detail-wise that you can get better at," Hinshaw said. "We didn't get a lot of press coverage. There's going to be press situations that are going to come in as we continue to go through the season, and we could get some this week."
The key for Patterson will be staying the course, and his attitude should help keep him there. The Rock Hill, S.C., native almost smiles more than he talks in interviews, and he seems to be well-grounded. The understanding is there for him that he can get better, and that's important.
"He never seems down or anything," said fellow receiver Justin Hunter. "He always comes focused and ready to work. [He's] always asking questions and seeing what he can do to get better."
In the past, Hinshaw publicly has exuded confidence in Patterson's intangibles. The coach said he expected his prized recruit would be ready to be an impact player for Tennessee's offense from the start. Now it's about building on it.
"He's a super kid," Hinshaw said. "He knows where he comes from. He loves his mom and he loves his sister to death. Family's extremely important to him.
"He's a guy that understands situations and, the most important thing, to stay humble and keep working every day and put that hard hat on and go to work every single week getting ready to go do the best he can do."
What a next step that could be.
"If he gets better than that, we're really going to be in for some highlights," safety Byron Moore said. "That's why we've got him out there with us. It's great that he's on our team and we get to watch all those highlights."
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 ...