Cornerbacks coach Derrick Ansley said freshman LaDarrell McNeil has a bright future ahead of him, despite struggling at times on Tennessee's overmatched defense.
"He's going to be an NFL player in a couple of years," Ansley said Wednesday.
McNeil has been the Vols' most prominent freshman contributor on either side of the ball, starting six games and making 48 tackles as part of an often-criticized secondary.
"We had to throw him in the fire a little bit earlier than we wanted to, but it's going to work out for his benefit in the long run," Ansley said.
*Cordarrelle Patterson has been flagged for taunting in back-to-back games, but receivers coach Darin Hinshaw said Patterson doesn't deserve blame for the most recent infraction at Vanderbilt.
"It was a unique situation," Hinshaw said. "He saw a penalty flag and turned around and knew he was going to score and he was wondering what the penalty was for. He was upset about it. It looked like he was taunting, but he wasn't. He was very innocent on the play. You can see in his action on the field, he wasn't trying to taunt anybody ... It was the craziest thing I've ever seen."
*Defensive line coach John Palermo said some of the linemen he's coached in 2012 have been challenging, but the experience has ultimately been rewarding.
"There are some challenging personalities in there, but for the most part it's been good," he said. "I thought particularly in these last two games we made a lot of improvement. I thought throughout the season we did some good things. Were we good enough? Obviously not. But I'm not down on the kids. I thought the kids fought and did a good job."
As for the memories he'll keep of his year in Knoxville, Palermo said there were "a lot of first halves."
"I don't know if there is a lot more to remember," he said. "I think beating N.C. State in the opener was a nice deal for our football team. Other than that, there isn't a whole lot to cherish."
Evan Woodbery covers Tennessee football. Follow him at www.Twitter.com/TennesseeBeat.