CALHOUN, Ga. — Da’Rick Rogers officially committed to the University of Tennessee on Wednesday, though the show most media members in attendance expected never materialized.
More than a dozen media outlets attended the rather subdued news conference at Calhoun High School’s auditorium. Rogers, though, never actually announced he would be attending Tennessee after decommitting from Georgia on Tuesday night.
Calhoun head coach and athletic director Hal Lamb, after each of his four signees and their families and coaches posed for photos, ended any possible drama by simply saying, “Da’Rick will be attending the University of Tennessee.”
There were no college hats to choose from, no shirts to switch, no banners to hang. Only after Lamb and principal Wanda Westmoreland dismissed the students in attendance did Rogers don a UT hat and begin to answer the questions many wanted answered.
“This is no disrespect to Georgia’s program,” said Rogers, who is ranked as the state’s top prospect and the nation’s No. 9 recruit by Rivals.com. “Coach (Mark) Richt is a great man and it’s a great program. It was all about Tennessee; there was nothing negative about Georgia. Tennessee’s coaches are NFL-style coaches and they’ve helped develop some great receivers. They tell me I have a shot to contribute right away.”
Rogers still has work to do to become academically qualified, according to Lamb. He has the test scores to qualify, but his grade point average needs to improve a bit.
“The NCAA has a sliding scale where if a test score is one thing, the GPA has to be at least so high,” Lamb said. “Right now, Da’Rick has a decent test score, but he needs a good semester to get his GPA up. He’s got some work to do.”
Rogers’ recruitment became a national story during the last two weeks after the longtime Georgia commitment took an official visit to Tennessee with teammate and best friend Nash Nance. Shortly after the visit, Nance, a 6-foot-3 quarterback who passed for 3,000 yards this year, switched his commitment from Vanderbilt to Tennessee.
Speculation became widespread that Nance’s offer was extended only as a way to land Rogers, who set a state record with 1,641 receiving yards last season for the 14-1 Yellow Jackets.
Both players insist they made their decisions on their own.
“Of course, with him being my best friend it made a difference, sure,” Rogers said. “But he’s his own man and I’m my own man. Nash already had his scholarship, and they really like him as a quarterback.”
Added Nance: “I committed when Da’Rick was still committed to Georgia. I didn’t know until a couple of days ago he was going to pick Tennessee, and I really didn’t think he would do it. Having a brother go up there with me, it blows my mind. I get butterflies in my stomach thinking about all the things we’re going to do on the field over the next four years.”
Another storyline that developed from Nance’s and Rogers’ switches was the vocal disapproval of Lamb, who was outspoken in his criticism of former Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin in not communicating with him when the school first began recruiting his players. Many writers, recruiting experts and fans felt Lamb was trying to steer Rogers to Georgia, where Lamb’s father, Ray, works for the athletic department.
Hal Lamb insisted his displeasure lies in something more basic.
“I’m a big believer in if you commit to something you should stay with it,” he said. “There were a lot of kids across the nation who decommitted, not just our two, and it’s just a part of the recruiting process. This was their decision, and we’re going to support them wherever they go.”
Lamb places most of the blame on the NCAA, which does not allow for an early signing period in football. Verbal commitments are used, Lamb believes, to provide security for an athlete in case something better doesn’t come along.
“There’s got to be an early signing period because it puts these kids in a predicament,” said Lamb, who also celebrated the signings of linebacker Cody Ralston to Central Florida and safety Kedron Aker to Alabama-Birmingham. “If they don’t commit early, they feel they might lose out on a scholarship.
“Now, Da’Rick was going to get a scholarship regardless, but some of them might not if they wait. The best thing to do is to have a signing period in December and have NCAA regulations where if a kid commits the other schools have to back off. Otherwise, it’s just going to get worse.”
Lindsey Young is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press 24 years ago. He covers the Northwest Georgia prep beat and NASCAR. Lindsey’s hometown is Ringgold, Ga., and he graduated from Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School. He received an associate’s degree from Dalton Junior College (now Dalton State) and a bachelor’s degree in communications from UTC. He has won several writing awards, including two Tennessee Sports ...