John Adams: Despite attrition of 2012 class, potential difference-makers still exist

John Adams
Tennessee wide receiver Jason Croom runs drills during practice at Haslam Field on Monday, August 6, 2012. 
  
 (Saul Young/News Sentinel)

Photo by Saul Young, Knoxville News Sentinel

Tennessee wide receiver Jason Croom runs drills during practice at Haslam Field on Monday, August 6, 2012. (Saul Young/News Sentinel)

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Tennessee's 2012 football recruiting class is easily forgotten as the hype mounts for the signing class to come.

Wednesday is National Signing Day. It's a day for looking ahead, not back.

But as you look past Wednesday to next season, you shouldn't lose sight of former coach Derek Dooley's last recruiting class.

Never mind all the attrition. Enough players remain to have a significant impact in 2013, especially when you consider the three juniors UT lost to the next NFL draft. The departure of quarterback Tyler Bray and wide receivers Cordarrelle Patterson and Justin Hunter leaves a 5,473-yard void in passing and receiving yardage to fill.

That's where the 2012 recruiting class comes in. It likely was recruited with the possibility of such attrition in mind. You will find out this fall if the Vols got the right guys. Recruiting services suggest they did.

Patterson, a junior college transfer, was the most publicized wide receiver in Tennessee's 2012 recruiting class. And the publicity wasn't misplaced. He's expected to be a first-round draft pick after just one season of major college football.

But there were other noteworthy receiver signees in the class. Pig Howard might have played more if he hadn't been injured in the preseason. He still played enough to demonstrate his speed and athleticism.

Don't forget about the redshirted wide receivers, either.

You wouldn't forget if they were among the commitments in this year's class. Instead, you would think they were just what the Vols needed after losing three productive wide receivers in Hunter, Patterson and Zach Rogers.

Like Howard, Drae Bowles of Jackson and Jason Croom of Norcross, Ga., were four-star recruits when they signed with the Vols last year. Both were redshirted this past season.

ESPN rated Bowles (6-0, 200 pounds) as the No. 2 prospect in Tennessee and the 16th best wide receiver in the country. And he was versatile enough to play linebacker at Jackson Christian School.

Croom (6-5, 235) was a consensus top-300 recruit nationally. He played in three games last season before suffering a shoulder injury, which required surgery.

If Croom and Bowles were in this year's class, you would want to hear high school testimonials. Their high school coaches are still happy to provide them.

Both coaches mentioned work ethic when asked this week why they thought the players would be successful at the college level.

"No doubt, (Croom) is a heck of an athlete," Norcross High coach Keith Maloof said. "And he has the desire. Unfortunately, he had that shoulder surgery."

Matt Underwood, who coached Bowles at Jackson Christian, referred to Bowles' character when asked for the player's best attribute. Underwood said when Bowles was home during the Christmas holidays, he threw "out routes" to him. He also said how excited Bowles was in anticipation of his first opportunity for playing time.

The quarterback from the same recruiting class should be excited, too. Nathan Peterman, who was redshirted last season, will compete with Justin Worley to succeed Bray at the position. While Worley has more experience, Peterman is more athletic and might fit new coach Butch Jones' offense better. It won't hurt his chances that Jones recruited him when he was the coach at Cincinnati.

Next week won't be about Peterman, Croom, Bowles and Howard. But next fall might be.

John Adams is a senior columnist. He may be reached at 865-342-6284 or adamsj@knoxnews.com. Follow him at http://twitter.com/johnadamskns

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Comments » 38

voloffaith writes:

A nice article Sir John. Trying to make us all feel better? Thank you! I humbly acknowledge your gesture. Cupboard isn't bare just wonder what type of recipes will be prepared and how well received.

PUL4VOLS writes:

Holy Moly, is this really a John Adams article? It was really good. It is also good to think something the former head coach left might pan out and be useful with all the how horrible he was and how bad he allegedly left things as many people conclude. I am just hoping a combination of the ones remaining and hopefully some gems in the 2013 class will mean good things come fall and the season. GO BIG ORANGE!

wazzya69vol writes:

I enjoyed the article JA. Gives us some hope.

allvol32 writes:

Watch for Nathan Peterman, Jason Croom and Drae Bowles to bring it next season although I'm not going to ignore Justin Worley. Next season could very well turn out to be pretty much OK in spite of all the doom and gloom.

BTW - thanks for a nice column JA...

eVOLved writes:

Two good columns, nary a cheap sarcastic swipe, in a row?

papavol writes:

Great read. With the addition of North, this could be a really good receiving corps. Lets get a couple defensive studs and we'll be set!

hateNCloveTN writes:

Defense, Defense, Defense. I like what I'm seeing on the offense side of the ball but we need those fast aggressive defensive backs and big fast mean linemen

pcorange writes:

Good article, Mr. Adams.

1gavol writes:

Nice article, if the Vols can manage to become bowl eligible next year it will be a great year under the circumstances. Patience will be important. GO VOLS !!!!!

CCLC writes:

Recruiting is crucial to the Vols to restocked that cupboard. It's amazing to me that Friend at Ole Miss is able to land the #1,2,3 recruits in the nation. He's only been there one year. He may end up in the top five classes in the nation. That's impressive.

voloffaith writes:

in response to andforhisnexttune:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

"Nevermore....." Be careful I think the sky is falling near Optimism,Tennessee. OOPS! I mean sky is falling near Nega,Tennessee. Let's see what we get and put it with what we have and go play and live our lives. An easy formula for not getting all worked up over a GAME.

SevenT writes:

I see 1 maybe 2 SEC wins next season.

Coach_K writes:

I too am happy to see JA, dare I say, being positive.

Our offense needs the same thing it needed last year, RUNNING BACKS. CDD and staff were obviously good at identifying and landing good wideouts/qbs. Our o-line is in good shape. Our lb's are decent. Our d-line was just as much to blame for our secondary's woes as the db's. This is how you win at just about every level of football. A stout defense and a powerful running game. How many "high power" offenses have won the Nat championship or Super Bowl? The wideouts are much more effective if the offense can sell the play action. I am pleased that V. Bell is leaning toward the Vols. It helps everyone on the d when you have a guy you can trust behind you. The backfield of Bell/Moore could be REALLY good. I am excited about the possibility that Carr and Lawson may bookend McCullers and Hood. . With the edition of a couple new guys like maybe: J. Grace/olb, V. Vea/de, J. Miller/de, and some others. We could be very solid. I am concerned that haven't landed a big, bruising, downhill rb but it ain't over yet.

We have lost very little of the def that finished 2011 28th in total def. Being lost was our problem for most of the year. I don't subscribe to the "we are to slow" train of thought. Every good defensive player will tell you read and reaction are crucial. Having to think about what it is your reading and how you should react makes you late off the ball which to the naked eye will make you look slower. Now, don't get me wrong. Not being able to chase down any1 on a busted play is a speed issue. I think we have a chance to be much better than most give us credit.

At any rate, I am still more than happy to stand up and yell at the top of my lungs..."I SAID IT'S GREAT TO BE A TENNESSEE VOL!!!"

ps- I really like the new mantras of #class117 and #risetothetop. As always #GBO and #VFL

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

Well, the offense may still have some play-makers, but the defense is the biggest priority this off season. That's why Bell, Lawson and Levenberry are such big recruits for UT.

trl_x writes:

Having a solid offensive line will help the transition. Hopefully we'll be able to run some and take the pressure of the new QB.

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

in response to trl_x:

Having a solid offensive line will help the transition. Hopefully we'll be able to run some and take the pressure of the new QB.

Hopefully the QB will run some to take pressure off of the O-line as well..I can't remember the last time I actually saw a UT QB dive for a 1st down to keep the chains moving. UT doesn't have to have the most gifted arm at QB to effectively direct the offense..The things required to be a great QB are fb IQ, leadership, and intestinal fortitude..You find those qualities in Worley or Peterman and they will surpass Bray in every way..GBO!!

rtrchatt writes:

Difference makers lol... UT does not have ONE RB or WR that would see the field if in an Alabama uni. Best returning skill position depth and talent in the country. Parade Player of the Year RB Derrick Henry already in school and ready for spring ball.

licknpromise777#651578 writes:

we aren't hurting to bad at WR..Pig needs to step up and we have signed some good receivers in this class but our QB's are questionable...Would be huge if we can flip QB Dobbs..He throws a nice ball and is mobile in the pocket

volsxsnos writes:

Coach_K.... true enough assessment of last years defense. I too think the pieces and athletes are there, they were just out of position WAAAYYY too many times last year. Properly COACHED.....and positioned, a fire plug could almost play good defense.

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

in response to rtrchatt:

Difference makers lol... UT does not have ONE RB or WR that would see the field if in an Alabama uni. Best returning skill position depth and talent in the country. Parade Player of the Year RB Derrick Henry already in school and ready for spring ball.

Dude, did you even notice UT's WR's last year?? They led the SEC in YAC, TD's, etc. As for this season UT will bring in another solid class of receivers to go with an already well stocked stable that includes Howard, Bowles, Croom and Carter. As far as cheatin' bammer is concerned, go spray some deer antler GH on those RB's so they triple their bench press/squat totals. You swine.

nocleats writes:

in response to trl_x:

Having a solid offensive line will help the transition. Hopefully we'll be able to run some and take the pressure of the new QB.

Agreed, however; Im not sure that there is a RB on the team who is capable of being a game changer. There is a great opportunity there for some HS RB to come in and be an instant STAR!

TNVol71 writes:

One of the finest articles I have seen from Mr. Adams in years. Thanks.

Like some of the other posters, I am really interested to see what we can do on defense as well. Not sure if the deer-in-the-headlights defense we ran in 2012 was due to the scheme or the talent on board. I hope CBJ and his staff can instill the pride we once had in our defenses. I long for the days of Jack Reynolds, Nick Schowalter, and Reggie White. Let's hope we can get the players and the schemes to make us better.

JA, thanks again for the informative article. Go Vols!!

johnlg00 writes:

in response to notfunanymore:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Well, given the general tenor of posts on this board, I would say there would be a lot more negativity if they had a record like that. Of course, I have also said that a lot of people are too impatient and out of touch with reality to accurately judge improvement under the present circumstances.

Personally, I would settle for a sense that our players fought to the end and that our coaches didn't make obvious mistakes that put us in too deep a hole to dig out of. Cutting the margins of our defeats to our major rivals would be another sign of progress. I'm not talking about "moral victories" but it IS progress if you go from losing by four TDs to losing by maybe one. That WOULD be progress that all but the most delusional would recognize. Then maybe next year, they make the next step in both recruiting and won-lost record.

Coach_K writes:

in response to notfunanymore:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

You sir are the one who is delusional. With a decent staff, I don't think 7-8 wins and a third place finish in the east is beyond reach. AP-w, WK-w, OR-l, FLA-l,SA-w, GA-l, SC-?,AL-l, MZ-w, AU-w, VN-w, KY-w. If we should steal one from one the the big dogs (we've had chances the last four years) we may end up ranked for the first time in a long time. Then again you may be right, but what pray tell would you have us do? Ohh, that's right you have no knowledge, suggestions, or ideas only pessimistic drivel. Don't go away mad....just go away!

jhayes0926#638474 writes:

in response to papavol:

Great read. With the addition of North, this could be a really good receiving corps. Lets get a couple defensive studs and we'll be set!

I expect Harris to be even better than North. He is an EE and we are loaded at WR! Hope we find a QB who can deliver!

jhayes0926#638474 writes:

Who is this rtr poster that obviously can't tell skill from shinola? He must be new to football. It's not the skill positions that are winning for Bama. Its defense and the trenches, junior.

volsxsnos writes:

in response to rtrchatt:

Difference makers lol... UT does not have ONE RB or WR that would see the field if in an Alabama uni. Best returning skill position depth and talent in the country. Parade Player of the Year RB Derrick Henry already in school and ready for spring ball.

C'mon man, if you even half-a@#ed knew what you are talking about, you would know most "difference makers" start on the practice field. The actual difference in ability, toughness, savvy, etc., at this level of player is minute.Too bad most of us have bought into the recruiting services hype and bull. How do you think they make their money??, especially when they are wrong as much or more than they're right?? Good thing guys like Billy Ratliff, Dale Jones, Johnny Jones, Jeff Hall, et al, didn't go through the "services" mill. Anyone who really knows the game realizes that a team is the sum of its parts, not just a couple of stratospheric "studs" who get all the headlines.

volsxsnos writes:

in response to notfunanymore:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I, and REAL Vol fans, certainly hope there will be no room on the wagon when you try to hop back on.

voloffaith writes:

in response to SevenT:

I see 1 maybe 2 SEC wins next season.

Now you know the article wasn't about your kats prospects for winning next year so why did you type the # of wins.

AllforTenn writes:

in response to rtrchatt:

Difference makers lol... UT does not have ONE RB or WR that would see the field if in an Alabama uni. Best returning skill position depth and talent in the country. Parade Player of the Year RB Derrick Henry already in school and ready for spring ball.

You must have a problem to get on here and continuously brag on bama. Do you think we care what you think or post?

UTvols33 writes:

Good article. Funny how bama fans have nothing better to do than come on another teams blog and spout nonsense. Must not have anyone to rub their nuts on. Why don't you go to A&M's or LSU's board, oh that's right. Better go thank that tattoo guy in Ohio, if not for him UA wouldn't have even been in the game.

Snapshot writes:

in response to SevenT:

I see 1 maybe 2 SEC wins next season.

The article wasn't about ky.,seventeen! Besides, no one cares what you "see".

gogovols2002#222335 writes:

in response to carbonatedmilk:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

You don't have a clue

chuckfromwoodberry writes:

in response to carbonatedmilk:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Douche

HighPlainsVol writes:

in response to carbonatedmilk:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

You have a cerebral problem (IQ of an amoeba) milkbrain. It's "palsy." Paulsy played leftout for Alabubba.

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

in response to carbonatedmilk:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Hit the road POS!!

woodwr#217203 writes:

in response to chuckfromwoodberry:

Douche

That Butch Jones Cincinnati staff usually beat Charlie Strong's Louisville Teams, with lesser facilities and lower budget, losing once, there, on an oops throw in overtime.

Butch Jones Volunteer teams will be fun to watch, immediately, but I'll grant passing Georgia, Florida, & Alabama will take equal talent and equal coaching, which will take several years.

Geofffourmyle writes:

Isn't this the same John Adams who wrote an article suggesting that Derek Dooley might become a hot commodity if the Vols beat UF last year?

Given that there was no chance of that happening - a man like that can claim no - I mean -no- acumen in predcting a football future.

Walt

UT '81

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