published Sunday, April 1st, 2012

Da’Rick Rogers returns to Vols; Derek Dooley says all ‘fine’

KNOXVILLE — That didn’t take long.

Whatever the internal requirements were that Da’Rick Rogers had to complete, the Tennessee receiver returned to the practice field Saturday after missing Thursday’s workout.

“It was something he had to, he did it and he’s back,” coach Derek Dooley said after practice. “He’s doing good. He had a good day out there today. He had good energy, did a good job covering punts a couple times.

“He’s obviously an extremely talented player. Glad he took care of what he had to do.”

This week’s drama isn’t the first for Rogers, the former Calhoun (Ga.) High School star who was the Volunteers’ best offensive weapon last season, but Dooley characterized his recent conversations with the trouble-prone All-SEC receiver as “extremely positive.”

The coach went as far as to say he didn’t think Rogers’ repeated trips in and out of internal trouble would be a distraction for the rest of the team.

“Da’Rick’s been fine,” the coach said. “I don’t worry about that, and if he is, then we handle it just like any other player.”

Rogers, who will meet with the media after Monday’s practice, missed some time during UT’s offseason workouts last month after an incident with a member of the strength and conditioning staff. Though the 6-foot-3, 208-pounder faced a similar kind of internal punishment in December, this week’s drama included cryptic posts from Rogers on his Twitter account and one Internet report linking Rogers to a potential transfer to Georgia State.

As he did Thursday, Dooley gave no credence to any of the transfer talk.

“I don’t know anything about that. I really don’t,” he said. “I heard there was a quote by him on the website. Da’Rick didn’t give me any indication; I mean, there was zero indication of any of that stuff. That didn’t even come up, and we’ve talked for hours since two days ago.”

‘Moving forward’

Cornerback Marsalis Teague had as tough a 2011 season as any Vol. The rising senior, one of the few remaining players from former coach Lane Kiffin’s infamous 2009 signing class, was victimized by opposing offenses throughout the season but started eight games.

“It’s part of the game,” Teague said. “You’re going to have some good, but with the good comes the bad. Now it’s more about moving forward and trying to do the best we can this year to help our team be successful this year.

“I feel like if you ask anybody on this team, they would all say they could have done a whole lot better to help the team, myself included. I think we’ve all kind of taken that responsibility now to hold each other accountable to make sure we get the best out of each other for the good of the team.”

One focus moving forward is the battle at cornerback. Prentiss Waggner is back in the mix and expected to hold down one spot. Teague, Izauea Lanier and Justin Coleman all started games last season, and Eric Gordon had playmaking moments.

“We’ve got more bodies in the secondary, but there’s a lot of bodies that have skill sets, let me say it that way,” Dooley said. “We’re not very good back there, and we’ve got a lot of work to do. But the good thing is there are a lot of bodies that have a chance.”

Stone’s throw

With Zach Fulton out following stress-fracture surgery on his foot, James Stone has filled in at right guard. The rising junior started 11 consecutive games at center before losing that spot to Alex Bullard in midseason. After one start at left guard, Marcus Jackson took Stone’s spot there.

Through one week of spring practice, though, the 6-3, 310-pound Stone is having success.

“James is doing really well,” Dooley said. “He’s shown a lot of improvement in his strength levels. The good thing about James is he can play every position. That’s sometimes a bad thing, because we take advantage of him and then he can’t really settle in and get good at something.”

Clear talent

Playing tight end at 265 pounds evidently was not enough for Cameron Clear. The rising sophomore from Memphis added 17 pounds, and though his size might dictate a move one spot closer to the ball or across the line of scrimmage, the Vols like Clear at tight end.

“He’s a really talented football player,” Dooley said. “He’s got a rare combination of size and athleticism at that position. There’s not many guys who are as big as him who can move and are as athletic as him.”

After a slow start, Clear emerged as UT’s No. 2 tight end behind Mychal Rivera late last season. Though he caught just one pass, he started twice and played more than 30 snaps. He played basketball at Memphis Central with UT freshman Jarnell Stokes, though Dooley said he’d tell his tight end he “ain’t good enough” to double up.

“We need Cam full time,” he said. “He’s got a great attitude, he’s learning and I think he’s going to be a really good football player. He’s incredibly intelligent — excellent makeup, good character — and it’s just a matter of him and experience.”

Status updates

Brent Brewer, who’s recovering from an ACL injury, worked with the safeties Saturday after practicing with the linebackers this past week. ... Early enrollee tight end Justin Meredith continues to miss practice with a hamstring injury suffered before he got to campus. ... Tailback Alden Hill and quarterback Nathan Peterman, also early enrollees, were held out of practice with NCAA clearinghouse issues. Defensive lineman Trent Taylor was in a similar situation, but he’s returned to practice. ... The Vols hosted a number of unofficial visitors Saturday. Bradley Central offensive lineman Austin Sanders and Lenoir City receiver Camion Patrick were the two committed recruits, and four-star athlete and Georgia commitment Derrick Henry, four-star linebacker Cameron Toney and five-star cornerback Kendall Fuller were the group’s biggest names.

about Patrick Brown...

Patrick Brown has been the University of Tennessee beat writer since January 2011. A native of Memphis, Brown graduated from UT in May of 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Electronic Media and worked at the Knoxville News Sentinel for two years on the sports editorial staff and as a freelance contributor. If it’s the NBA, the NFL or SEC football and basketball, he’s probably reading about it or watching it on TV. Contact him ...

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