KNOXVILLE -- There's no shortage of new things with Tennessee's football Volunteers this spring, yet they're dealing with an old problem less than a week into spring practice.
Star receiver Da'Rick Rogers missed practice Thursday morning, and though coach Derek Dooley refused to label it a suspension, the rising junior's status is uncertain.
"He's got some things he's got to do internally, and when he does them he'll be back," Dooley said after practice. "It's kind of an internal team issue, and it's something he's just got to finish doing some stuff. When he does, he'll be back.
"I wouldn't call it anything other than he's got to do some things. When he does, he'll come back, and when he doesn't, he's not going to be here."
Dooley said his impression was that Rogers would return. It's not the first run-in with trouble for him since the end of the 2011 season, when the 6-foot-3, 208-pound former Calhoun High standout caught 67 passes for 1,040 yards and nine touchdowns. The All-SEC receiver was in a similar situation in December, and he reportedly missed time during the Vols' offseason program last month after an incident with UT's strength and conditioning staff, though Dooley refused to confirm that earlier this week.
"It surprised us," receiver Naz Oliver said of Rogers' absence. "We've got faith in Da'Rick. Whatever he decides to do, whatever he's doing, we're going to go with him. He's our teammate, he's our family and we're just going to work with him like that.
"I don't really know what's going on. I haven't seen him today. I [saw] him yesterday and everything was fine yesterday -- that's all I can tell you guys."
Dooley had no timetable for Rogers' potential return.
"There's a lot of times you have no idea when they're coming back," he said before comparing the uncertainty of the situation to academic or NCAA clearinghouse issues. "He could be back tomorrow. He could be back today."
Rogers was present for UT's first two spring practices, though the events leading up to his absence began on his Twitter account Wednesday night. After tweeting "Georgia State. Wasup?" Rogers changed his location to Atlanta and removed that he was a UT receiver from his profile. He then wrote, "I cannot wait to talk to the media tomorrow. It finally comes out."
Panthersville, the Scout.com network site covering Georgia State, reported Thursday morning that Rogers was "in the process" of transferring to the school. The site then changed its story to say Rogers was "considering" a move. Rogers was listed as an active student in UT's directory as of Thursday night.
"I don't have any knowledge of him wanting to leave," Dooley said. "He's never told me that or indicated that to me or anybody else."
The Vols were thin at receiver with or without Rogers this spring after DeAnthony Arnett (Michigan State) and Matt Milton (Louisville) transferred out of the program this offseason.
Though he's practicing, Justin Hunter is coming off major knee surgery. Zach Rogers, who struggles to stay healthy, and Vincent Dallas, who caught one pass as a freshman last season, are the only other receivers who played last season. Oliver missed the season after wrist surgery, and Cody Blanc is a freshman who enrolled early.
"One thing that I learned when I was at Notre Dame is next man in," center Alex Bullard said. "I kind of bring that same mindset. Last year when I was battling for a starting position, whether I got a starting position or not, I knew if my name was called that I had to be ready to play.
"There shouldn't be any drop-off. If we don't have somebody out there, the next guy has to step in and play."
Help at the position won't arrive until the summer, when the four receivers UT signed in February are expected to arrive on campus. The jewel of that class, junior college star Cordarrelle Patterson, was on campus and watched practice Thursday. The 6-foot-4, 205-pounder is expected to join Hunter and Da'Rick Rogers and immediately make the Vols' offense tougher to defend.
Zach Rogers admitted Da'Rick Rogers' absence was "tough," but the senior from Nashville said it was not a distraction.
"It is what it is," he said. "We come out here, and we don't worry about what happens off the field. We're going to come out here and work with the players we have here. That's what we did today.
"We're coming out here and we're working. We're still Tennessee."