Rogers: 'It's a little bit personal'

ATHENS – Da'Rick Rogers and Bacarri Rambo haven't launched any Twitter bombs at one another this year.

So far, all's quiet on the social networking front.

In fact, most Georgia players have been cordial toward the Tennessee sophomore receiver in the buildup for this weekend's matchup.

Some Bulldogs claim not to care.

And Rogers says even the people in his hometown of Calhoun, Ga., have settled down since he spurned Georgia late in the recruiting process to sign with Tennessee in Feb. of 2010.

"Oh yeah they've calmed down," Rogers said. "At first it was just because I went to a rival school. Now it's ‘let's just cheer for Da'Rick wherever he is. We're still Georgia fans. Now we're Tennessee fans, too.'"

Relations appear to be improved, at least on the record.

Da' Rick Rogers just after last year's Georgia-Tennessee game with fellow Calhoun native Kris Durham. (Dean Legge/Dawg Post)

"We're not concerned with any of that," Georgia cornerback Sanders Commings said.

Players on both sides are all saying the right things – or at least aren't saying anything negative.

But fans tend not to share such a forgiving memory.

"I think the fans do a lot of talking because they feel like once you give somebody your commitment, you're coming," Georgia tight end Orson Charles said. "It goes deeper than that."

The story was – and always will be – convoluted.

Rogers' best friend at Calhoun High was quarterback Nash Nance. The two originally met at Darlington High, a small private school in Rome, Ga. When both transferred to nearby Calhoun, Rogers became like family to the Nances. He frequently stayed in their home, and the Nances cared for him. Up until late January of 2010, Rogers was set on Georgia and Nance was headed to Vanderbilt.

The two had expressed interest in playing together, but their talent and ratings were on different ends of the spectrum. Rogers was a five-star receiver – a top-flight prospect. Nance was a good enough player, but wasn't offered by Georgia and most SEC schools. As one former Georgia quarterback said at the time after seeing Nance throw at a camp in Athens: "Hey, somebody has to run the scout team."

That's when newly hired Tennessee coach Derek Dooley entered the picture. He continued to recruit Rogers heavily down the stretch. And offered Nance a full scholarship. Lane Kiffin, the former Tennessee coach who bolted to Southern Cal, was in the process of forming the package deal prior to leaving in December of 2009. Dooley picked up where Kiffin left off.

From there, the wheels of a switched signing were rolling. Nance de-committed from the Commodores and aligned himself with Tennessee. Rogers denies that played any role in his decision.

"Really when I came on a visit I fell in love with the team and the city," he said. "I just really wanted to be a part of somebody and a program that was rebuilding. Being the guy on that team, that's what really changed it for me."

Calhoun coach Hal Lamb was disappointed at the time with most parties involved.

"It used to be that you committed… and that was it," Lamb told Dawg Post days before Signing Day in 2010. "I guess the early commitments are difficult. You are forced to recruit kids in 10th grade. I think these two should not have committed. Then they could have taken their five visits, and I think it would have been a lot clearer for everyone involved."

Rogers with Nash Nace on June 6, 2009 picking Georgia and Vanderbilt at a press conference. (Chad Simmons/

Truthfully, Georgia's coaching staff had sneaking suspensions throughout most of the recruiting process. Coach Mark Richt had identified Nance as a potential lynchpin for upheaval.

"By the time he did de-commit we were pretty sure that he was going to do that," Richt said. "It didn't come as a shock at that point. We think he's a good player. We wanted him, we recruited him and we thought we had him for a while. Then it changed. It happens in recruiting."

Rogers doesn't care one way or the other what opinion the Georgia coaching staff holds of his decision.

"I don't know," he said. "That's for the coaches. They can feel however they might have felt. It was for me. I had to go wherever I would be happy. I'm in a great place. I'm happy here."

Georgia long snapper Ty Frix has a middle ground take on the matter. He played at Calhoun, and his family knows the Nances quite well.

Rogers after returning a kickoff for a touchdown against Dalton in the fall of 2009. (Dean Legge/Dawg Post)

"To Da'Rick, Nash was like a brother and Nash's father Mike was like Da'Rick's dad," Frix said. "They were family. If you told me that you were going to have the chance to play with your brother and your dad will have the chance to watch both of you every game, that would be a hard thing for me to pass up. Granted, if you tell somebody that's where you're going, I believe you've got to stick with your word. But it was kind of extenuating circumstances in that situation. I don't want to say what was right or wrong. He had an opportunity to play with his family. That's what it boiled down to."

Last season's Georgia-Tennessee game brought forth an expected reception for Rogers. He was booed throughout the game and finished with -3 yards on his only catch.

"Being booed by the whole stadium, that was new to me," Rogers said. "It was crazy to hear that. It didn't really affect me. It was a new environment and new things, but I'm ready this year. I trained a lot harder, and I'm ready for a good game."

To this point, a good game without much animosity is what the Georgia players are hyping. The past is in the past, quarterback Aaron Murray said.

"You've got to respect a guy's decision," Murray said. "It's his decision. It's his future. If he felt like that was the best situation for him, hey that's the best situation for him. You can't do anything about it. You can't fault him for wanting to go somewhere else."

"You have to go where you feel comfortable," Charles said. "I don't really hate him for doing it. Maybe he didn't feel comfortable at Georgia. I don't know how he didn't feel comfortable, but he must have thought Tennessee was best for his family or him as a player. If that's the case, he should have gone to Tennessee. Don't go somewhere that you really don't want to go or that your mind doesn't allow you to go. I give him the upmost respect for going to Tennessee, and he's even playing and having a great season. I respect him."

Rogers leads Tennessee with 27 receptions, 442 and six touchdowns this season. He figures to play a more prominent role than a year ago.

"Most definitely, it's a little personal, this game is," he admits.

"It's a big game," Volunteers quarterback Tyler Bray said. "For him he's playing the school that was recruiting him and he was committed to and then de-committed and came here. It's a big game. They're going to be talking a lot of trash. If we just keep him level headed, we should be fine."

Georgia players may or may not talk trash. Nothing will change the fact that Rogers will be wearing orange instead of red, catching passes from Bray instead of Murray, replacing Justin Hunter instead of A.J. Green.

"I don't think you can judge that situation unless you were on the inside and knew exactly what was going on," Frix said. "Kudos to him. He's gone up there and done great. He's had a chance to step up and has done really well. Maybe there's a plan in everything. It would be nice to have him at Georgia though. He's a great, great athlete and receiver and from what I hear a hard worker and a good kid."

Rogers against Dalton in the fall of 2009. (Dean Legge/Dawg Post)

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