Oct. 26, 2011
KNOXVILLE - Everyone copes with adversity differently. For Tennessee sophomore wide receiver Da'Rick Rogers, the method of choice is yoga.
"I've really been going in there (yoga class) and getting in touch with my Chi, trying to keep everything level-headed," Rogers said. "I think I've been doing a good job. I'm really just trying to stay positive. I feel like it's just for the better of our team."
The sophomore standout got the idea during the recruiting process, and has wanted to pick up the new hobby ever since.
"A long, long time ago I visited N.C. State and they had D-Lineman doing splits and I (thought), `Wow, I wondered how they did that,'" Rogers said. "They said, `Do the yoga.' I (thought), `I have to get in yoga one day.' This is my chance in college so I took a yoga class."
Rogers, quarterback Tyler Bray and wide receiver Justin Hunter exploded in the season's first two games, with each receiver notching a pair of 100-yard games, and their QB completing 78.5 percent of his passes.
When Bray and Hunter each went down with injuries in a three-game span, Rogers was the lone man standing from a trio that appeared to be unstoppable.
`Getting in touch with his Chi,' has helped him maintain a positive attitude.
"When guys go down that are around you that make plays, it's all on you to make more plays," Rogers said. "You have to do your part to make more plays. You really just have to make guys around you better, whether it be helping them with their routes or doing things a certain way to make it easier for guys around you. That's just one thing I've been focused on the past few weeks."
Rogers will lineup Saturday at South Carolina with his third different quarterback this season, as freshman Justin Worley was promoted to the starting role.
"It's been different," Rogers said. "With so many different changes, you really have to work on kind of at the same time changing the face of the offense as a whole. With this week's practice, I feel like Worley's coming along. He looks good to me so I'm ready to go this Saturday."
"SPONGING" IT UP
At 6-4, 200 pounds, Justin Worley certainly looks the part of Tennessee starting quarterback on the field. From all accounts, he is acting like one off it as well.
"The number one thing is that he's been like a sponge," offensive coordinator Jim Chaney said. "He's in there all the time studying tape. He's excited about the opportunity to go out and play. He's working hard to understand the game plan. That's all they can do. He has to go out and perform and he's done that on the practice field. When he makes a mistake, he is quick to recognize it and tries to right the wrong."
It has been a quick rise for Worley the last few weeks. After spending much of the season at the third spot on the depth chart, he moved up to the backup slot just two weeks ago before being named the starting quarterback on Monday. Since Tyler Bray's injury against Georgia, it has been a crash course for the rookie but he appears to have stepped up to the challenge.
"He's done a fine job," Chaney said. "He's sponging everything up right now. I think Justin would be the first to admit that when you're the third guy, you're not working as hard as when you're the second guy and now things have happened on him really fast. He's really putting a lot of time in right now. I'm real pleased with his work. He'll be ready to go."
While his stature and situation may remind many Tennessee fans of what Bray went through towards the end of last season, the Vols are quick to note that those two elements are just a small part of the equation. Worley and Bray are different quarterbacks with different skill sets, but that doesn't mean the Big Orange is going to simplify its offense.
"We're not going to be able to do some of the things that we did with Tyler," Dooley said. "We weren't really where we wanted to be even with Tyler. Every quarterback does things different. There's a lot more stuff we can do with Matt on some areas but not on other areas. There's a lot of stuff we can do with Tyler on some areas, not on others. I think it's the same way with Justin (Worley). We're not going to dial it back to where it's so simple you don't have a chance. He's been running these plays since January. You have to go out there and execute them."
EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED
With the loss of star tailback Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina doesn't have a running back on its roster with more than 100 rushing yards this season. True freshman Brandon Wilds is expected to start in the backfield.
The change in running back is the second major change for the Gamecocks on offense this season as quarterback Stephen Garcia was dismissed from the program earlier this month. Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley and defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox have spent the week preparing for the unknown in several areas for USC. Throw in head coach Steve Spurrier's propensity for creative plays and it could be expect the unexpected for the Vols on Saturday.
"It's a little bit hard to tell," Wilcox said. "They have some talented backs that backed (Lattimore) up and have some speed back there, and have some guys with some power. They are not going to all of a sudden abandon the running game. They may come out and throw it 40 times and use the quarterback as a running tool as well.
"So, you really don't know because we haven't seen them enough on tape to have an idea. You have to prepare for what they have done and what they have shown and make your best judgements on what you think they are going to do."
Spurrier is full of ideas and schemes, so the Vols have to prepared for anything.
"They give you a lot of different looks," said Wilcox. "They've got all kinds of stuff. I would assume we will see something we haven't seen. They've got some funky formations.
"Coach Spurrier has a very creative style and I will assume we will see some of that. They are going to run inside zone and outside zone. How much of it, we don't know yet. You make yours best judgements on what you think their strengths."
Wilcox thinks South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw moves the Gamecocks' offense very well.
"He can run the ball, he throws down the field," said Wilcox. "He has moved them up and down the field on everybody. He's a good player, an athletic guy."
Shaw will have plenty of weapons, making the Gamecocks' offense potent.
"They're going to throw it to anybody," said Dooley. "We haven't really shown a great ability to cover anybody, much less a special wideout. I'm not sure he's concerned about getting it to one guy. I think he's going to get it to all their guys."
One member of USC's arsenal that the Vols are well aware of is junior receiver Alshon Jeffery, a preseason All-American.
"He's a great player," said Dooley."He's a jump ball guy. What he also does is a little hidden, is he creates a lot of DPIs, pass interference. It doesn't go down for a catch but it's one for 15. He does that because he's such a big strong guy. The ball goes up and you're down there fighting for it. If you break it up, it's a PI. It's a tough one."
Wilcox echoed the same sentiment.
"He's a good player," the defensive coordinator said. "They are going to get him the ball, certainly. Whether it's on screens, hitches, fades, they are going to get him the ball. We have to do our best to try and take that away and mix somethings up on him so they don't always have free access to throw him the ball.
"You have to have eyes on the ball, you have to choose your time to play man. He creates match-up problems. He's 6-4, 230 pounds. People have had him covered, but it doesn't really matter, he will jump up and take the ball away from you. He is a talented, talented guy."
There still isn't a timetable on junior linebacker Herman Lathers' return from an ankle injury suffered in June, but the Vols second-leading tackler from last season is making progress.
"He looks good," head coach Derek Dooley said. "He's progressed. Last week was a big jump for him. I hope it's soon. We need him. It's kind of week-to-week. About two weeks ago, we were a little disappointed (because) he wasn't progressing. Last week, he made a big jump. We kind of discuss it every week so I'll get a better beat on it after (Thursday)."
It's unclear what Lathers will be able to contribute to the Vols this season.
"I'm not sure how quickly he can get in there and do anything," Dooley said. "He hasn't done anything, so he gets in there and practices two (times) and go play. I'm not sure he can help us. It's premature to even worry about it until he comes back."