Oct. 28, 2011
BY MATT MAGILL
Da'Rick Rogers came to Tennessee as a touted wide receiver prospect with extremely high expectations.
Rogers has lived up to that billing and has done it despite more adversity in his first season and a half than most players see in an entire career.
Last season, Rogers was just getting acclimated to Matt Simms at quarterback when true freshman Tyler Bray took over the starter's role. This season, Bray injured his thumb, prompting another switch at QB back first to Simms and then to Justin Worley.
Rogers also was supposed to be sharing "go-to" receiver duties with fellow sophomore Justin Hunter, but Hunter went down against Florida with a season-ending knee injury. Since then, Rogers has been thrust into the spotlight as the definitive No. 1 receiver.
"He's the guy we go to now and I think everybody knows that," wide receivers coach Charlie Baggett said. "When you get that role, you have to accept it and do what it takes in practice to make the team feel confident in you and you feel confident in yourself. I think he's doing that."
Rogers made typical freshman progress during the 2010 campaign before coming on strong at the end of the year. He grabbed both of his touchdowns late in the season at Memphis and against North Carolina in the Music City Bowl.
The reason for his increase in production came from dedication in the offseason.
"He worked very hard," Baggett said. "Those guys watched film. They worked out with Bray and Simms and Worley. He ran a lot of routes. He got stronger. He improved his stride, the length of his stride. He came a long ways in the summer. I still think he has a long way to go, but I think he'll get there."
According to Baggett, who coached receiving greats Cris Carter and Randy Moss in the NFL, the future is bright for Rogers, especially next season when the offense returns to full strength.
"He's doing a good job," Baggett said. "He's a very smart football player, he studies the game and understands what we're trying to do. I still fail to realize sometimes that he's still just a sophomore.
"One day, if he continues to do what he's supposed to, he'll get to that level."