ATHENS, Ga. — Georgia cornerback Sanders Commings entered Tuesday's weekly news conference brimming with respect for Tennessee receiver Da'Rick Rogers.
"He looks pretty good, and he's done really well since Justin Hunter went down," Commings said. "He's their go-to guy. He's physical and big and strong, kind of like [South Carolina's] Alshon Jeffery, but not quite that big."
Then the questioning shifted from the play-making abilities of Rogers to the recruitment of Rogers. Tennessee's 6-foot-3, 215-pound sophomore standout committed to Georgia in June 2009 out of Calhoun High School but switched his nonbinding pledge just before signing with the Volunteers in February 2010.
Rogers and Georgia safety Bacarri Rambo sparred on Twitter while Rogers was changing his college destination, and some resentment evidently lingers.
"We would love to have him, but we don't need him," Commings said. "We have guys here who are better than him, so it's all good."
From a productivity standpoint, Rogers will be the best receiver competing Saturday night inside Neyland Stadium. He has amassed 27 catches for 442 yards, ranking second in the Southeastern Conference behind Arkansas' Jarius Wright in both categories.
Rogers also has six touchdown receptions, which leads the SEC. Georgia's leading receiver, freshman Malcolm Mitchell, has 22 receptions for 312 yards and three scores.
"I knew wherever Da'Rick decided to play football that he would be playing, no doubt about that," Georgia coach Mark Richt said. "By the time he did de-commit, we were pretty sure that he was going to do that. It didn't come as a shock at that point. We wanted him. We recruited him, and we thought we had him for a while, but then it changed.
"It happens in recruiting. It doesn't happen a lot with us historically, but there were some things that made him feel like Tennessee was the best place for him. That's where he is, so now we've got to defend him."
Commings is expected to match up the most against Rogers, who had one catch for minus-3 yards in last year's loss at Georgia, and the showdown between Tennessee's aerial attack and Georgia's experienced secondary should be one of the night's biggest treats. Vols quarterback Tyler Bray is the league leader in passing yardage and pass efficiency, but the Bulldogs have allowed just one offensive touchdown in their last three games.
Tennessee leads the league in third-down offense, converting 62.1 percent of its opportunities, while Georgia is first in third-down defense, yielding only 25.4 percent success. In last week's 24-10 win over Mississippi State, the Bulldogs did not allow MSU a single play of 20 yards.
"I like what's going on in that regard," Richt said. "A lot of it has to do with the maturity of our defensive backfield. A lot of it has to do with how the defensive line has been playing and not letting anybody really get anything started. Not very many runs have spit right through the line where a guy has a chance to make a safety miss in space and make a big run.
"They've had to earn everything they get. Very few times has someone come through there clean, and when they have, the DBs have been there to corral it and get them on the ground. We've been tackling pretty well out in space."
Tennessee has created a lot of space with its passing game, so Georgia's quality tackling will have to continue Saturday if the Bulldogs hope to slow Rogers.
"I remember him being a big-time wide receiver who was supposed to come here, but he de-committed and went to Tennessee," junior inside linebacker Michael Gilliard said. "He's a really good player, so we're going to have to go out there and put helmets on him."
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...