Pleasant surprise

While more heralded classmates keep making headlines, one Tennessee freshman is content to keep making catches each day on the practice field.

He may be somewhat overshadowed by four-star recruits Nu'Keese Richardson and Marsalis Teague, but three-star recruit Zach Rogers is looking just as good in the Vols' preseason camp. He isn't the most dynamic of the three, but he's probably the most dependable.

"He's very mature," head coach Lane Kiffin said following Thursday's practice. "Zach comes out here and very rarely ever blows an assignment. We're excited about him, and he continues to improve daily.

"I never talk about surprises because it's not a surprise to me. But I'm sure to a lot of people maybe it's a surprise to see him hold his own with those guys who were, technically, higher (rated) players."

One advantage for Rogers is having his own personal tutor on the team. That would be his older brother. A fifth-year senior receiver, Austin caught a career-best 56 passes in 2007 but will miss the 2009 season due to a torn ACL.

"He's been there every step of the way for me, and I appreciate it," Zach said of his sibling. "He knows what it takes to get it done at the big level, and he's always there for any questions I have. It's a good thing to have someone like that to look up to and go to for advice."

Before tearing his ACL, Austin spent spring practice learning UT's new pro-style offense. That has enabled him to help Zach learn the fine points of the attack scheme. The younger of the Rogers boys says he's picking it up quickly.

"They're installing the offense - a couple of installs a day," the 6-2, 170-pound Nashville native said. "We're studying it a lot in meetings, and we're getting it all down. The coaches are doing a good job of teaching it, and we go out every practice and try to do our best at it. We're ready to play ball."

Like most freshmen, Rogers is finding the college game to be considerably different than the high school game.

"Everything is a lot faster - the D-line, the secondary - everybody is chasing the ball all the time," he said. "You've got to play fast and physical every play, take no plays off.

Although he dropped a couple of passes on Thursday, Zach Rogers has been a dependable receiver throughout preseason camp. There's more to winning the trust of UT's coaches than making plays, however.

"You've got to be there for every meeting - 10 minutes early, at least," he said. "To stay on the coaches' good side you've got to be physical every play. You've got to give it your best every play. They'll notice that. And you've got to make plays when they give you the opportunity."

When given the opportunity, Rogers is making plays these days. He just isn't making headlines.


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