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Cordarrelle Patterson

Our University of Tennessee ace, downtown Patrick Brown, has told us the final few members of the Volunteers' 2012 football signing class have reported for school this week.

The final wave included arguably the most-hyped UT recruit since Eric Berry. Junior college receiver Cordarrelle Patterson is enrolled in Knoxville, and the physically gifted receiver already has some folks talking of 180-degree Vols revival with Patterson, Da'Rick Rogers and Justin Hunter comprising potentially one of the nation's most dynamic receiving trios.

Ah, potential. It's a crazy word. Some have said it's French for "you're not worth crud yet." Others think it's the kiss of death or just the hope of spring.

Still, it can be the reason for believing or the reason for being irate. It's the most cruel of judgment bars, this "potential." Did you reach your potential? Did you surpass it?

Or did you fail to realize your potential? It can be the most painful of questions for every athlete at any level to answer.

The word "potential" has as many meanings and inferences as it does possibilities.

Take Patterson, the freakishly big and frighteningly fast receiver who posted video-game stats and eye-popping YouTube clips during his time at Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College. Does that have the promise of SEC stardom? Yep, you guessed it -- potentially.

He's 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds. He's tough enough to have made 31 rushing attempts last season and fast enough to have averaged 50 yards on 10 kickoff returns. (Yes, he averaged 50 -- half a field.)

But it could potentially be fool's gold. The last five-star juco receiver the Vols welcomed was Kenny O'Neal, who had about as much on-field impact with the Vols as you did.

O'Neal like Patterson was loaded with potential, and his failings were magnified by the hope he brought.

And while potential can be a divisive coin during July debates about college football, the intensity of potential increases at each level of college football.

For whatever potential Derek Dooley assembles -- and he's already trying to calm some of the expectations of Patterson -- the win-loss judgments could be multiplied by unreached potential. Whether those expectations are too high can be inconsequential, especially in the SEC where fan bases need to have something to hang their hats on.

For the Vols Nation, a proud and passionate group that has withstood the worst four-year run in modern history, the promise of Patterson is something new, something hopeful and something explosive that could change 5-7 in a blink of an eye.

Coaches face the uneasy conundrum of potential in recruiting. At big-boy jobs like UT, you have to go and get five-star guys filled with potential. They could be Eric Berry or Chris Donald or Janzen Jackson or Bryce Brown. They could be stars or they could be busts, but they bring with them potential of being great.

For without potential, there is no hope -- although without potential there would be a great deal less disappointment, too.

For Dooley, Patterson's individual potential is part of a promising passing game that swings the possibilities from the Vols being one of the nation's elite offenses to being one of the nation's biggest disappointments.

So it goes for a team that could win 10 games and talk about a possible BCS bowl or a team that could very well be looking for a coach come December.

That's a lot of potential -- and potential disaster.

Contact Jay Greeson at or 423-757-6273.