KNOXVILLE - After losing two linebackers in the days leading up to Wednesday's national signing day, it didn't take long for Tennessee to get some good news.
Cordarrelle Patterson, a highly-rated receiver from Hutchinson Community College in Kansas, told ESPN he will sign with the Volunteers during a news conference later this morning (11:30 a.m. ET). That ceremony will be streamed live here. At 6-foot-4, 210 pounds, Patterson is one of the nation's elite junior-college prospects.
He's rated as the top JUCO player and a five-star prospect by 247sports, and Rivals rates him as a four-star prospect. His other finalists were Georgia, Ole Miss, LSU and Auburn. Darin Hinshaw, Tennessee's quarterback-turned-receivers coach, deserves credit for getting the Vols into it early and sustaining a relationship with a player who could help turn the dangerous receiving duo of Da'Rick Rogers and Justin Hunter into a talented trio.
"The first phone call came from Tennessee last year on signing day," Patterson told ESPN. "They never gave up. With some other teams, I would talk to the coaches once a week or something like that. Tennessee was different. They would call me almost every day, and they kept rolling with me. They kept sticking by me."
Patterson has officially signed, and Tennessee received his faxed letter of intent at 10 a.m.
FOUR TO WATCH
As I wrote in today's Times Free Press, there were four prospects out there that Tennessee would be keeping an eye on today. Patterson was the first.
Korren Kirven, the defensive tackle from Lynchburg, Va., made the Vols one of two. Kirven announced he would sign with Alabama, according to the Lynchburg News & Advance.
A.J. Leggett, a four-star cornerback and former Miami Hurricanes commit from South Miami High School, decided to stick with Marshall and signed with the Thundering Herd this morning. Leggett, Rivals' 9th-rated player at the position, officially visited Tennessee this past weekend after the Vols made a late push.
Receiver Quinshad Davis of Gaffney, S.C., picked North Carolina over Tennessee and Wake Forest. He was a four-star prospect and Parade All-American who visited Knoxville last weekend.
WR Jason Croom (Norcross, Ga.)
CB Deion Bonner (Columbus, Ga.)
LB Justin King (Dunwoody, Ga.)
RB Quenshaun Watson (Athens, Ga.)
K George Bullock (Knoxville)
DE/LB LaTroy Lewis (Akron, Ohio)
WR Alton "Pig" Howard (Orlando, Fla.)
CB Daniel Gray (Lauderdale Lakes, Fla.)
DT Danny O'Brien (Flint, Mich.)
DT Daniel McCullers (Georgia Military College via Raleigh, N.C.)
S LaDarrell McNeil (Dallas, Texas)
WR Drae Bowles (Jackson)
WR Cordarrelle Patterson (Rock Hill, S.C. via Hutchinson C.C. in Kansas)
RB Davante Bourque (Crowley, La.)
In addition, here's the six players from this class who have already enrolled in school and been on campus for a month: QB Nathan Peterman, RB Alden Hill, TE Justin Meredith, ATH Cody Blanc, DL Darrington Sentimore and DL Trent Taylor.
-- Obviously that's a pretty good receiver class, both for next season with Patterson and beyond with some of the other guys.
--The signings of Sentimore and McCullers can be understated, as both of those big guys are expected to provide immediate help. McCullers certainly fits the nose-tackle prototype, and Sentimore could play both line positions.
-- The Vols, and assistant coach Terry Joseph in particular, deserve credit for holding onto and landing McNeil, who could provide help at safety next season. There are also some speed guys (Watson, Howard and Gray, in particular) in this class.
-- I think if there's two spots where UT might have fallen short, it was the offensive line and linebackers. UT didn't sign a single offensive lineman, but the Vols (1) signed five last year, (2) have lost just one lineman who's started a game (Jarrod Shaw) over the past two years and (3) already have a commitment from Bradley Central's Austin Sanders for next year's class.
-- The late defections of Dalton Santos (Texas) and Otha Peters (Arkansas) really hurt Tennessee. Both of those guys had the size and ability to come in and contribute, and there wasn't much depth there with which to begin. The shortage there put more pressure on Herman Lathers to get back to where he was in 2010 prior to his brutal ankle fracture last June, which remains to be seen. Tennessee might have to hope King comes in and earns a spot or hope someone already on campus steps up and contributes, especially if there are going to be more 3-4 looks in 2012 under new coordinator Sal Sunseri.
ON TAP FOR THURSDAY'S TFP
I'll have capsules on each and every Tennessee signee, a lead story from coach Derek Dooley's news conference this afternoon (it's set to start at 4:30 ET), a feature on Bowles, a lighter five-question feature with Croom and more analysis.