Elite WRs enhance Vol class

Tennessee's reputation as "Wide Receiver U" is a fast-fading memory but new head coach Derek Dooley may have taken a step toward reviving it earlier today.

The 17 players Dooley added on National Signing Day included two of America's elite pass catchers - Da' Rick Rogers of Calhoun, Ga., and Justin Hunter of Virginia Beach. Scout.com rates Rogers a five-star prospect and gives Hunter four stars plus a No. 11 position ranking nationally.

Counting mid-term enrollees Matt Milton (Mascoutah, Ill.) and Ted Meline (Miami), the Vols arguably have the best incoming group of wideout signees in all of college football. Both Milton and Meline are accorded four-star ratings by Scout.com, with Milton tabbed No. 20 nationally at his position.

Dooley concedes that quality pass catchers are an important component of a winning team.

"Every year I think you're always looking for game-changing, play-making offensive weapons," he said. "When it gets down to the fourth quarter and it gets tight, usually the guys on the perimeter - a running back, a quarterback or a receiver - are the guys that'll win the game for you."

After conceding that Rogers and Hunter are "two high-profile players we were able to swing," the new coach added, "I'm glad they're with us but time will tell how good they're going to be."

Rogers, a 6-3, 215-pounder, played his best when the stakes were highest. In five career playoff games he piled up 707 receiving yards and 15 touchdowns. As a senior at Calhoun High he caught 84 passes for 1,641 yards, a state record, and 22 touchdowns. He wasn't too shabby as a junior, either, catching 66 balls for 1,300 yards and 11 TDs.

Asked if the signing of a prospect with Rogers' reputation makes a statement, Dooley shook his head.

"I'm not big on recruiting statements; I'm not big on game statements," the new coach said. "I think your body of work is measured over time. Assume Da'Rick does turn out to be a great player. What about the other 20 guys? He's not going to win it alone. The better players we get in this program, the better chance we have to have success in this league."

Hunter, a 6-5, 180-pounder, put up some nice numbers during his career at Ocean Lakes High in Virginia Beach, too. He caught 34 passes for 545 yards and 13 touchdowns as a junior, then followed with 45 catches for 714 yards and nine touchdowns as a senior. A superior all-around athlete, he is ranked America's No. 3 long jumper, No. 7 high jumper and No. 14 triple jumper by Track & Field News.

Milton, a 6-6, 200-pounder, was more of a running threat than a receiving threat at Mascoutah High. He rushed for 1,309 yards and 20 touchdowns as a senior but still found time to catch 14 passes for 232 yards. He flashed a little more of his pass-catching skill as a junior, snagging 40 balls for 797 yards and nine TDs.

Meline, a 6-3, 170-pounder from North Miami Senior High, saw his senior year cut short by injuries. In the five games he played, however, he managed to reel in 15 passes for 487 yards, an eye-popping average of 32.5 yards per reception. He averaged 18 yards per catch as a junior in 2008 for a team that finished 4-7.

Naturally, wide-eyed Vol fans are wondering if this highly touted quartet can rekindle Tennessee's reputation as Wide Receiver U. Dooley is wondering, too.

"Who knows?" he said. "Wes Welker nobody wanted but he turned out pretty good for Texas Tech and in the NFL. We're trying to get every position when we go recruiting.

"There's not a guy we go out and recruit and sign that we don't hope turns into an All-America or an all-conference football player. But every time I think it's going to be this guy, it's the other guy."

That may be. With four wideouts the caliber of this quartet, however, there's a good chance at least one of them will be THE guy.

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