This one's for Austin

Zach Rogers probably has twice as much motivation as Tennessee's other freshmen. He's looking to produce for himself and for a sidelined sibling.

Austin Rogers was supposed to be a vital cog in Tennessee's passing attack this fall. When the senior receiver suffered a season-ending ACL tear during the summer, the Vols lost a weapon and Zach Rogers lost a chance to team up with his older brother on Shields-Watkins Field.

Now that only one Rogers will be representing the Big Orange this fall, Zach insists that he's playing even more for his brother than for himself.

"Definitely," he said. "This season is for him. It's tough coming out here every day, seeing him on the sideline - not being dressed out. It's tough to go through it but I'm going to strive to do my best for him."

At 6-2 and 170 pounds, Zach is 20 pounds lighter than his brother but very similar in every other respect: He's fast. He's a good route-runner. He's got soft hands. He's dependable and determined. And he's a Nashville native who is thrilled to be playing for his home-state university.

"It's an honor to play here," he said.

Rogers should play a lot this fall. In addition to his brother, Vol wideouts Gerald Jones (high-ankle sprain) and Denarius Moore (foot) also are sidelined as Saturday's season opener vs. Western Kentucky approaches. That means the Vols are counting on major contributions from Zach, plus fellow freshmen Nu'keese Richardson and Marsalis Teague.

"It's a big opportunity for us," Zach said. "Our role has expanded but, with the preparation we've put in, I think we're ready for it."

One thing young Rogers wasn't ready for was Tennessee's first preseason workout. It was a three-hour session conducted at a brisk pace in oppressive heat and humidity.

"That first practice was the longest practice I've ever been a part of," Zach recalled, shaking his head. "It seemed like it was never-ending."

Preseason camp was especially taxing for the wideouts because the injuries to Austin Rogers, Jones and Moore meant more practice repetitions for the healthy receivers.

"We're running a lot of routes because we are short at receiver," Zach noted, "but it's only going to make us better."

So is the vigilance of receivers coach Frank Wilson. He's a stickler for detail, an attribute his troops have come to appreciate.

"Coach Wilson has been coaching us harder than I've ever been coached," Zach Rogers said, "so that's really gotten me ready for practices and, hopefully, for the games. I've learned from my mistakes. He's good about pointing them out, so you can learn from them."

Once he survived the marathon opening practice, young Rogers began making progress on a weekly basis. He believes that progress will show up Saturday afternoon at Neyland Stadium.

"The hardest part has been adapting to the physical nature of the college game, the speed of everything," he said. "I'm starting to come around. I had a rough start - things were kind of slow at first - but I'm coming around and I'm looking forward to Western Kentucky."


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