Zach of all trades

One Tennessee wide receiver can play outside or he can play in the slot. He just can't play in the training room, which happens to be where he spent much of his first two years on The Hill.

Nashville native Zach Rogers caught 14 passes and averaged 14.8 yards per reception as a sophomore last fall. His 72-yard touchdown catch/run vs. UAB was Tennessee's second-longest pass play of 2010. Clearly, he's a valuable Vol when he's healthy; he just isn't healthy very often.

"Zach's problem has been durability," coach Derek Dooley said recently. "He's got skills. He can run fast; he can catch, and he runs good routes. But every time he has a good game, he's out for three. That's his issue. If he can become a durable player, he's certainly got all the capabilities."

Wide receivers coach Charlie Baggett adds a hearty amen to that. He values Rogers' versatility, and hopes to fully exploit it this fall.

"I'm very hopeful that Zach will be able to contribute in a lot of ways," Baggett said this week. "He can play outside, he can play inside, he can get deep. He has a lot of skills. He just has not been able to stay healthy."

The reason is painfully simple.

"I think he had a frail body," Baggett said. "He wasn't as strong as he needed to be to play at this level, and he's really improved that over the course of one year. He's really worked at getting bigger and stronger."

Rogers, who has added 10 pounds since arriving on The Hill as a 6-0, 170-pounder, admits that missing so much time due to injuries has hindered his development and frustrated him beyond words.

"It was tough," he said. "Once I'd get in the rhythm of things and start playing pretty well, an injury could come up. This year I'm healthy right now, and I'm trying to keep it that way."

Still, durability concerns sometimes pop into his head.

"A little bit," he said. "But you can't play scared. You've got to go out there for this university and give 100 percent every play. You can't let injuries affect you. You've got to go play hard."

Asked what he brings to the lineup, Rogers replied: "I'm sort of a utility guy. They can throw me in at whatever position they need me to play. I'm the old guy now, so the younger ones kind of look up to me as a leader."

Zach, in turn, looks up to Austin Rogers, who lettered as a Vol receiver from 2005-09 and just happens to be his older brother. Naturally, he has some sound advice for his younger sibling.

"He tells me to stay focused," Zach said. "He said you've got to bring full effort every day; you can't take a day off. You have to improve with every snap. He's taught me to keep my mind on the bigger picture."

A key aspect of the "bigger picture" for the 2011 Vols is replacing departed seniors Gerald Jones and Denarius Moore. They led the 2010 team with 55 and 47 catches, respectively, so replacing their production is no small challenge for this wideout corps.

"Absolutely," Zach Rogers said. "They were two of the great receivers to come through this program, and they taught me a lot while they were here. They're both with pro teams now, so we've got some big holes to fill. We've got the guys to do it, though, and we look forward to it."

Although the 2011 receiver corps lacks experience - there are no seniors and Rogers is the only junior - it is not short on talent. Justin Hunter and Da' Rick Rogers have All-America potential. Fellow sophomore Matt Milton (6-5, 210) is a huge target. Freshmen Vincent Dallas and DeAnthony Arnett exhibit mind-boggling potential. Throw in versatile Zach Rogers, and you've got the makings of an exceptional wideout group.

"We've got a lot of talent," he noted. "Justin and Da'Rick are phenomenal athletes. DeAnthony and Vincent are coming along great. We're going to have a good group, and we'll come ready to play in the fall."


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