Vols' Da'Rick Rogers facing team he first picked

Vols' Da'Rick Rogers facing team he first picked

October 5th, 2011 by Patrick Brown in Sports - College

Tennessee wide receiver Da'Rick Rogers (21) outruns Buffalo defensive back Cortney Lester (4) for a touchdown in the second quarter on Saturday in Knoxville.

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

KNOXVILLE - It feels like the first time for Da'Rick Rogers.

The sophomore receiver for Tennessee claims it feels like another week, too.

The Calhoun, Ga., resident for a long time seemed set on playing his college football for Georgia, but he memorably flipped to the Volunteers on signing day nearly 20 months ago. He wasn't a big factor in UT's offense and finished with one catch for a 3-yard loss when the Vols were blown out in Athens last season, but now he is quarterback Tyler Bray's favorite target.

"As soon as the clock went dead," Rogers said calmly after practice Tuesday morning, "I've been waiting to get at them. The time is here, and we're going to work hard."

That's as far as the 6-foot-3, 215-pound sophomore would go, though. Despite the course of his eventful recruitment, Rogers insists it's just another week and another game.

"I'm taking the approach that I would for any other game," he said. "Plays have to be made and games have to be won. That's how we are going to treat it."

Rogers was the top-rated player in Georgia and the ninth-rated player overall by Rivals.com. Citing relationships he developed with the coaching staff, he committed to the Bulldogs over Florida and Mississippi State in June before his senior season.

Nearly seven months later, Rogers hopped on a plane that would take him to the Under Armour All-American game in St. Petersburg, Fla. Ja'Wuan James, then a UT commitment and now the Vols' starting right tackle, was on the same flight. UT defensive tackle Corey Miller also played in the game.

"I was like, 'Man, you need to come on and come to Tennessee,'" James recalled Monday. "He said, 'Aw, I'll never come.'"

But a few weeks later, Rogers and Calhoun quarterback Nash Nance took official visits to Knoxville. Nance switched his commitment from Vanderbilt to UT, and James, who hosted Rogers, noticed a change in tune.

"He just clicked like that and he said he was coming," said James, who grew up about 40 minutes from Athens himself. "I don't know, he just said when he came -- he had never [been] here before -- he said he came and he loved it."

Rogers signed with the Vols a couple of weeks later.

"This is no disrespect to Georgia's program," he said at his signing ceremony. "[Georgia] Coach [Mark] Richt is a great man and it's a great program. It was all about Tennessee. There was nothing negative about Georgia."

James said Derek Dooley, who had been hired at UT to replace Lane Kiffin just before Rogers visited Knoxville, was "especially" a big role in Rogers' decision to switch. Rogers gave a brief explanation for his decision Tuesday.

"Really just being a guy that's going to start to build a new face of a program," he said. "I wanted to be a part of that. I love it here; it's been good for me."

Rogers has been good for the Vols, too. He has 27 receptions for 442 yards and six touchdown catches in four games this season, and with fellow star wideout Justin Hunter done for the season with a torn ligament in his left knee, Rogers is the focal point of UT's pass game.

He entered last year's Georgia game with just three catches and two carries.

"It leaves a sour taste in your mouth," he said. "You work a lot harder to fix what you did wrong last year. That's all I have been doing -- working hard so that I can make the plays for my team that I didn't make last year."

As much as his history calls for attention from Georgia's defense, Rogers' present abilities might require even more. He said he expects extra attention from Georgia's secondary.

His emphasis on this game, though, remains the same.

"He's going to stay the same regardless," Bray said. "He already knows they're going to come after him and try to jaw [at] him, so we're going to try to keep him centered and keep him playing the way he has been."