Three Big Orange Sighs Of Relief

This past February, Tennessee Volunteers head coach Derek Dooley signed a recruiting class that met numerous needs. Final word Sunday is that entire class will be in Knoxville and ready to roll this week.

Junior college wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson and high school running backs Davante Bourque and Quenshaun Watson are all officially qualified according to various news outlets tonight, and all are expected to be on campus and participating in drills this week. That's -- in my opinion -- two of the four best commitments the Vols received in last year's class ... including the jewel of the haul in Patterson.

This marks the second year in a row that the Vols' entire class has qualified, a feat Dooley set out to accomplish in his efforts to rebuild a program deteriorated by recruiting misses and attrition over the past four years.

NCAA Clearinghouse rarely if ever meddles in the affairs of JUCO players, so Patterson's passing of classes at Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College virtually assures that if he is not sidelined by injuries, the star recruit will be on the field for the Vols against North Carolina State on Aug. 31. That's news that cannot be measured in words if the hype surrounding him is only half true.

Patterson was the can't-miss signing day coup who was rated a five-star receiver by both 247 Sports and Scout and coveted by everybody in the nation. He will team with juniors Da'Rick Rogers -- who according to reports is having a really outstanding, mature offseason -- and Justin Hunter, who is returning from a torn ACL suffered last year. If the expected happens, Patterson will bolster what could be one of the two or three best receiving corps in the country.

As for Bourque and Watson, the tandem gives UT another couple of cogs in the backfield battle. After such an atrocious 2011 season and inconsistent spring, all carries are essentially wide-open this fall, and Bourque and Watson will battle Marlin Lane, Raijon Neal, Devrin Young and Alden Hill for carries. Both Neal and Young are having quality offseasons while Lane is rehabbing an injury.

Bourque -- an athlete from Louisiana -- was nabbed away from LSU, where he was committed to play wide receiver for the Bayou Bengals. Prior to that, he was a Texas A&M commitment. But after a standout career in high school as a star running back, the Vols promised him he'd play there and secured his commitment. Word is running backs coach Jay Graham absolutely loves Bourque, who could be just what UT needed in the backfield. Coaches believe he is an elite prospect with the size, speed, change-of-direction combination to be special. He should find himself immediately in the mix, and he really put in a ton of schoolwork after transferring high schools, so kudos to him.

Watson was believed to be a slam-dunk after receiving his test scores back, so Sunday's news was just a confirmation of what we've been expecting to hear. While Watson may not be an every-down back, UT was excited to get players like him, Alton "Pig" Howard and Daniel Gray because of their SEC speed that had been sorely lacking on the team last season. Watson may redshirt but could vie for time in special teams or in space on offense.

Again, from an analysis standpoint, the addition of Patterson is huge simply because of the A) uncertainty at the position as far as Rogers' maturity and Hunter's injury and B) a lack of depth at the position. But let's not fool ourselves -- it's also big because Patterson is a freakish athlete who can run, block, catch passes and be an elite special teams player. He's simply the kind of player the Vols got when the Vols were the Vols.

Bourque is a marquee running back the Vols haven't been able to land recently. Sure, UT got Lane, but he was damaged goods with the injury and hasn't proven he can return to the kind of prospect he was. Bourque is an athlete everybody wanted, and it will be interesting to see if he can get meaningful carries right away.

Regardless, it's great to get this good news today, and everybody is looking forward to seeing these guys on the field.

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