Austin anonymous

You need a special knack to catch 50-plus passes in a season. You need an extra special knack to catch 50-plus passes in a season and remain obscure.

Welcome to the world of Tennessee's Austin Rogers.

As a Vol sophomore last fall he caught 56 passes. That was two more than Kentucky's Steve Johnson, who was a third-round NFL Draft pick in April. That was four more than Florida's Andre Caldwell, another third-round pick. That was six more than Florida's Percy Harvin, regarded by some observers as the most dynamic receiver in college football.

Whereas Johnson, Caldwell and Harvin parlayed their 2007 reception totals into big-time reputations, Rogers remains almost as anonymous as he was after catching five balls during his redshirt freshman season of 2006. The 6-2, 185-pound Nashvillian is even overshadowed by fellow Vol wideouts Lucas Taylor, Josh Briscoe and Gerald Jones. That's odd when you consider Rogers' accomplishments:

He started all 14 games in 2007. He exploded against Southern Mississippi, recording seven catches for 112 yards ... ALL IN THE FIRST HALF. He led all UT receivers in big wins over Georgia (61 yards) and Arkansas (62 yards). He caught the game-tying touchdown pass in Overtime No. 2 at Kentucky, then reeled in the game-winning conversion pass in Overtime No. 4.

"He's a kid that doesn't complain or pout about the attention he's not getting," first-year Vol receivers coach Latrell Scott notes. "He just continues to be productive in our offense."

While many observers seem to undervalue Rogers, his position coach is not one of them.

"Austin Rogers is very, very important to what we're trying to do in this offense," Scott says. "Austin is one of those game-tested SEC receivers that we're going to count on heavily to make plays for us this season."

Starting with tonight's game against UCLA, which kicks off at 8 o'clock Eastern in Rose Bowl Stadium.

While Rogers may not get the respect he deserves from many observers, he has the unbridled respect of his Vol coaches and teammates. They see all of the little things he does in practice to help make Tennessee a better team.

"You can't measure what Austin Rogers does by just watching him play," Scott says. "Austin Rogers comes in and helps the younger guys learn the offense. Austin knows all four positions in the offense and Austin is a joy to coach."

Rogers, Taylor, Briscoe and Jones will be counted on for clutch catches tonight against the Bruins. All four are coming off exceptional preseason camps. For that matter, so are fellow UT wideouts Quintin Hancock, Denarius Moore and Ahmad Paige.

"I think the biggest improvement of these guys is knowledge of the offense," Scott says. "This was a very well-rounded group when we got here but I think the depth has improved.

"The competition level definitely has gone up. I don't think any of these guys has missed a practice all summer. It's very tough to miss a practice when you know you've got six or seven guys battling for reps. It's been a very competitive situation."

Helping make the situation competitive – in his own obscure way, of course – is Austin Rogers.


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