The fact is, Rogers has excellent speed and average hands. He can outrun most defensive backs. Moreover, he can drop a pass now and then – an unfortunate knack he exhibited several times in last Saturday's 48-27 defeat of Arkansas State.
Asked if some mental or physical problem was responsible for the sudden case of the drops, receivers coach Trooper Taylor shook his head.
"There's nothing going on, mentally or physically," the Vol aide said. "He's just got to make those plays."
Actually, there WAS something going on physically. Before he went into Neyland Stadium and lost the handle on those passes Rogers went into the bathroom and lost his lunch. Struggling with a sinus infection and upset stomach, he was nowhere near peak health at kickoff time last Saturday night.
"He was sick before this last game, throwing up," Taylor conceded. "But when you step between those lines all of that's behind you. It has nothing to do with dropping balls."
Well, apparently it did. Prior to Game 4 Rogers' hands appeared to be a little better than average. Against Arkansas State he caught three passes but failed to make two routine catches and a couple more tough catches. As a result, he is now being criticized for a perceived lack of speed AND a perceived lack of concentration. Taylor thinks the comments are a bit harsh.
"I turned the TV on Sunday (and heard Rogers criticized)," the Vol aide said. "Everybody's not going to make every play. But the effort that he's given, being where he's supposed to be and all of that stuff I'm really proud of … AND his leadership."
Rogers, a 6-2, 185-pounder from Nashville, was the state's Gatorade Player of the Year as a senior at Lipscomb High School. Still, he was considered something of a sleeper when he signed with the Vols in February of 2005.
After seeing some backup action as a freshman in the fall of '05, he redshirted in '06 due to a shoulder injury and mononucleosis. Thanks to hard work and consistent performances in preseason, he has started every game this fall. Basically, he has made himself into a major-college player.
"One thing you know is that Austin's going to give his very best," Taylor said. "Whether it's playing golf or playing football, you're going to get his very best, and I appreciate that. He's taken a lot of flack from people – the newspapers and things – as far as not being able to make plays, but he's gone out there for the most part and done that."