Vols' Rogers nears program records

Vols' Rogers nears program records

November 23rd, 2011 by Patrick Brown in Sports

Tennessee's Da'Rick Rogers, No. 21, tries to outrun LSU's Tyrann Mathieu, No. 7, during UT's game against LSU at Neyland Stadium in October.

Photo by Jake Daniels/Times Free Press.

KNOXVILLE-- The numbers and records mean something for Da'Rick Rogers.

If nothing else, the stats give the Tennessee receiver a way to measure himself and set goals, but the season the sophomore has had proves how valuable he's been for the Volunteers as well.

Rogers cracked the 1,000-yard mark for the season with a 116-yard night in UT's win against Vanderbilt, which he said Tuesday morning was significant to him.

"Most definitely," he said after UT's practice. "Any receiver's goal coming is to get over 1,000 yards. [My] hope [was] to get 100 catches. That's crazy, but it feels good. Now we've just got to go out and focus on getting Kentucky."

Should Tennessee beat the Wildcats in Lexington on Saturday afternoon, Rogers would get another chance to add to his totals and move further up the school's receiving record book. He's the sixth Vols receiver to get more than 1,000 yards in a season. His six games with 100 or more yards receiving is one off the record set by Joey Kent in 1996 and Marcus Nash in 1997.

Rogers, who has 65 catches this season, needs a dozen to surpass Nash on the single-season receptions list. He's 296 yards and five touchdowns from setting those single-season marks.

"That would be an honor," Rogers said. "When you look back and see all the receivers that have through here. This is Wide Receiver U, and just being able to put in a group with those names is crazy."

Nash and Kent had Peyton Manning throwing them the football, while Rogers has done it this season with Tyler Bray for six games, Matt Simms for two and freshman Justin Worley for three.

"I think that makes it pretty special," coach Derek Dooley said. "We went through a little rut there, offensively, and he lost the guy that he has a lot of chemistry with. I think it's a real testament to what his abilities are."

Rogers, who's tied with Jarius Wright of high-powered Arkansas for the Southeastern Conference lead in receiving yards, said he's aware of his record-setting opportunities, but the focus is on beating Kentucky and getting another chance to chase them in a bowl. Of his SEC-leading 65 catches, 52 have gone for first downs or touchdowns.

When Justin Hunter was sidelined for the year, Rogers became the lone true big-play threat for a Vols offense that's dropped to 101st nationally in scoring thanks to Bray's five-game absence and a stiffer schedule. Rogers is averaging seven receptions and nearly 105 yards per game when his fellow sophomore is throwing him the ball. He appeared rejuvenated with Bray back for last week's win against the Commodores.

"Like I said Saturday, it just makes everything a lot easier having him out there," Rogers said. "He knows the game just as well as I do. The connection, it's just better."

With Simms' struggles and Worley's inexperience, Rogers went through a stretch in which he appeared visibly frustrated. He caught just six passes for 67 yards in losses to Alabama and South Carolina, but he's since bounced back with three 100-yard games, two of which came with Worley.

"He wasn't getting the normal passes he gets, or the number of passes he normally gets, so it's going to be frustrating for any receiver," Bray said.

Rogers has more than double the catches and more than three times the yards of tight end Mychal Rivera, the Vols' second-leading receiver. UT's other healthy receivers (DeAnthony Arnett, Zach Rogers, Rajion Neal, Vincent Dallas and Matt Milton) have combined for 48 receptions.

"We hadn't had a lot more guys step up," Dooley said. "The more guys that can step up, it might slow his production down a little bit."

Hunter's absence certainly limits UT's offense, but Rogers said it has helped him in his development as a wide receiver and attributed his application of what former receivers Denarius Moore and Gerald Jones taught him as a freshman last season to his strong second campaign.

"It made me open my game and work on a lot of things that I wasn't as good at before," Rogers said. "I really had to do a lot of things I wasn't doing before, and that really helped me as a player."