No pressure, Rogers says

When two of a team's three starting receivers are injured, you'd figure there's a lot of pressure on the third guy to produce.

Even with Lucas Taylor (turf toe) and Josh Briscoe (concussion) sidelined during the second half, however, Tennessee's Austin Rogers says he was generally unaffected last Saturday against Alabama. Moreover, he says he isn't worried if Taylor and Briscoe - recently cleared to play against South Carolina - are less than 100 percent this Saturday.

"I don't really feel that much pressure," Rogers said earlier this week. "Our young guys can make plays, too. They're playmakers. That's why they recruited them – because they're big-time athletes – and they can make plays, too."

Head coach Phillip Fulmer also downplayed the idea that Vol quarterback Erik Ainge is at a disadvantage when freshmen Gerald Jones and Denarius Moore are in the game replacing juniors Taylor and Briscoe.

"Nobody does a better job of getting young guys (reps) in practice than we do," Fulmer said. "Our second team gets 50 percent of the reps in practice, so we have guys that are coming and ready."

Still, Taylor had 41 catches heading into the Bama game, Briscoe and Rogers 28 each. By comparison, Moore had only 4 receptions and Jones, who played in just one of the first six games, had yet to catch a pass.

"Gerald would've been playing a lot more if he hadn't had that hamstring pull," Fulmer said. "He went in the Alabama game and played very well."

Rogers thought so, too, noting that Jones "made two tough catches," including one across the middle that should go "a long way with Erik, knowing he can trust somebody over the middle like that."

Fulmer's comment about giving the second-teamers 50 percent of the practice reps notwithstanding, Rogers says it's what a receiver does on game day that wins a quarterback's confidence.

"I think you've got to go out there and prove it in a game because that's where it counts," he said. "If you can get some of those pass connections in the game that will prove down the road that Erik can trust you."

Asked if the veteran wideouts – Taylor, Briscoe and himself – already have Ainge's trust, Rogers nodded.

"Definitely," he said. "Erik does have a trust and confidence with the older guys who have been in there every game, over and over again. It's hard to get into that trust but, once you do, it pays off. If you can't be out there but 20 snaps a game, it's hard to get that consistency."

One task facing Moore and Jones is learning to read the defense as a play is unfolding and adjust their routes accordingly. This is the toughest part of the job.

"It definitely is," Rogers said. "Reading coverages is not easy. It comes with experience. You've got a lot to think about. You've got to think about your route and how it's going to change, depending on what coverage it is."

Offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe concedes that he can help Moore and Jones by "putting them in situations where they know what they're doing. We're not going to put a confused player on the field."

Jones caught two passes for 17 yards against Alabama, while Moore added one grab for 16 yards. Both exhibited considerable potential, even in defeat.

"I'm really excited about some of the things I saw from them," Cutcliffe said. "It's something to build on."


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