Tennessee's Bray, Hunter, Patterson have choices to make

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray has experienced many peaks and valleys in his junior season, but he was a model of consistency in his final weekly media session.

Three times during his discussion with reporters, Bray was asked draft-related questions. He gave pretty much the same response to each.

"We play Kentucky on Saturday," Bray said. "That's all I'm worried about."

Tennessee's season finale against Kentucky could represent the last college game for Bray and junior wide receivers Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson. All three are projected to get taken in the first two rounds of the NFL Draft if they forgo their senior seasons.

Because of their uncertain status, the future complexion of Tennessee's offense remains almost as murky as the makeup of next year's coaching staff now that Derek Dooley has been fired.

Fullback Ben Bartholomew, tight end Mychal Rivera, wide receiver Zach Rogers and guard Dallas Thomas are the only senior offensive players who have started at least five games for Tennessee this season. The Vols are expected to return Rajion Neal and Marlin Lane, who have combined to rush for 1,238 yards this season. Thomas is the lone senior on an offensive line that has allowed only seven sacks all season.

Tennessee could have one of the more potent offenses in the nation if Bray, Hunter and Patterson stay in school. If all three leave, the offense would have a serious lack of star power at the skill positions.

Each could boost his pro stock by returning.

"Assuming they come back and remain healthy and iron out some of those wrinkles, I think they could go from being borderline first-round picks to top-10 picks," said Rob Rang, a senior analyst for nfldraftscout.com. "But at the same time, there's also the risk of a new head coach coming in and whether his system would fit those players, and also the injury concerns as well."

Rang believes Patterson and Hunter could get taken late in the first round or early in the second, though he rates Patterson ahead of his teammate. ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. rates Patterson as the nation's No. 12 overall draft-eligible prospect.

Rang currently has Bray as a second-round pick, but he believes the pre-draft interview process will be particularly crucial for him.

"He really does possess as much or more arm talent than any quarterback potentially available in the 2013 draft," Rang said.

Bray has passed for 3,319 yards and 30 touchdowns this season. During one three-week stretch, Bray threw for 1,302 yards, 13 touchdowns and only one interception against South Carolina, Troy and Missouri. But he struggled in losses to Florida, Georgia, Alabama and Vanderbilt. He also could face questions from NFL teams about his maturity and demeanor.

"There are some similarities to (former Arkansas quarterback) Ryan Mallett when he came out," Rang said. "He had first-round tools, but there were some concerns about his mental makeup and things of that nature. It's the same kind of thing with Tyler Bray. He's going to have to impress teams with his maturity and leadership."

Patterson leads the SEC with 1,700 all-purpose yards and is 21 yards away from Reggie Cobb's 25-year-old school record in that category. He's the first college football player since 2008 to score a touchdown four different ways - receiving, rushing, returning a punt and returning a kickoff.

"I'm not even thinking about (the draft) right now," Patterson said. "I'm just trying to get this game over with. Whatever happens out there just happens."

Rang said Patterson's big season has moved him ahead of Hunter, though the Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College transfer still needs to improve his route running. Rang also noted Patterson might have to answer questions about his maturity. Each of the last two weeks, Patterson has been penalized for taunting.

After missing the last nine games of the 2011 season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, Hunter has returned to form this year while catching 70 passes for 1,018 yards and eight touchdowns. But he also has a number of drops, and his production hasn't been consistent. Six of his eight touchdown catches came against Georgia State and Troy.

"If I had just seen (Hunter) running around and hadn't known his injury history, I wouldn't know which knee he'd hurt," Rang said. "That's certainly a testament to his work ethic and ability to bounce back from a major injury. But inconsistency catching the ball, especially tracking it over his shoulder on deep passes, has been a problem this season. It hasn't been one or two games. It's been a handful of games, and at times in critical situations against big-time opponents."

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Comments » 14

Ayres_Hall writes:

These guys need another year.

snowpeapod#263184 writes:

Only one of those three is ready for the next level. We'll let the readers figure out which one.

Bogytrain writes:

We'd miss Patterson and Hunter. Bray.... not so much.

1vavolfan writes:

Patterson and Hunter are gone, Bray needs to come back. Whoever this Rang guy is, he is the only one KNS could dig up that has Bray going in the 2nd round.

georgiavol91 writes:

This Rang guy is an idiot. He cannot have watched Bray and Hunter play this year. These two are 5th rounders at best. Hunter would break in half with one shot from Revis, and would be taken by ambulance if hit by Ray Lewis. And he drops as many passes in crucial situations as he catches. Bray has a lot of Ainge in him, especially when under pressure. All that said, it sounds like I think they should stay, but I'm not sure if that's what's best for them or UT football.

lavolsfan writes:

I Think that if Gruden comes in they will return for their senior season. Even if they do not get Gruden they schould come back and play out their senior season cause their stock is not looking to good right now. As it stands Bray and Hunter would go in late second to early, now Patterson might go in the first. If they come back and perform extremly well they could all go in the early to mid first round....

snafu14u#241639 writes:

Here's hoping a new coach would make a difference with all three. New direction and discipline and a little "come to Jesus" talk with Bray, Hunter and Patterson. If Bray leaves UT still has a great O-Line so that Worley would have a fighting chance as the starter. I do believe that Bray has peaked and he can't get better mentally. It's just not in him. In his defense he maybe the most mature 16 year old in college football. I really don't care either way if Bray stays or goes. Good luck to him in whatever direction he goes. BonzaiVol.......also I think all three will announce but not all three may go.

DeltaCharlie3 writes:

Who cares? Who have these three beaten of note? UT is awful with them, they'll be awful without them.

DeltaCharlie3 writes:

in response to carbonatedmilk:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

He'd be a fool to do so. New qb, new head coach, new OC, brand new offense to learn, for a guy who isn't fond of those stilly little college requirements like going to class and studying... He's as gone as the other two.

iowavol writes:

Bray will not make it at the next level. I doubt he can score well on the Wonderlick test. I am ready to see what Worley can do given the reps that Bray has had.

Neither Patterson or Hunter is ready - both have the skills. Patterson is the most capable at this point with his size, speed and quickness. However, his route running and sand-lot style won't get him on the scout team right now. Hunter has to show us what he did two years ago - that he can catch everything thrown at him. The NFL will pump him up so he looks like TO or Randy Moss - but he has to catch the ball against tough teams in tough situations. Both of these guys have to run north and south.

Elonsway writes:

I would only comment that with different coaching you never know what the possibilities are. A great QB coach can make a big difference but most of the posters are correct, Bray does not display mental tougness or leadership. That being said, he had to be perfect all year and never had a defense that could give him cushion for a bad game.

CP MUST become a better route runner or we will have another Hester in the NFL (not that this is necessarily a bad thing). His talent gets him open in college but technique is required at the next level; he is a mid-rounder at best right now.

Hunter..... height but no size and likes to run backward after the catch. If he can improve his hands (which flash brilliance) consistency and toughness he will be a great receiver. MUST learn to move upfield after catch in critical down situations.

At the end of the day we are, once again, a couple seasons away from contending as the new coach gets his personnel and scheme in place. In the end, let's wish all Vols the best regardless of their decision to go/stay.


RememberWhen writes:

None of these three have any real decisions to make because none of them are going to be 1st or 2nd round picks. Therefore the money won't be there. Therefore they are idiots with bad advisors if they leave. Another year under a real coaching staff could make a difference to each of them of several million $$. If any of them leave this year, they'll never be heard from again.

Looking_Foward_To_The_Future writes:

Bray is the only one who hasnt made his decision. CPs grades are terrible so he must go. Hunter is going to do what's best for him and go to the NFL cause of last seasons knee injury. Can't risk another injury like that. GBO lets see who will get their first SEC win this year.

snowpeapod#263184 writes:

in response to carbonatedmilk:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

In all due respect I think you have it totally backward. I think CP is the only one remotely close in being ready for the next level, IMOP.

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