Few familiar faces

There's a bunch of new faces in Mr. Rogers' neighborhood these days. If he wants to view a familiar face, he almost has to look in the mirror.

There's a reason Tennessee sophomore Zach Rogers sees a lot of newcomers when he scans the other members of the Vol receiving corps this preseason. It's called attrition. Here's a recap:

Brandon Warren was dismissed midway through last season. Austin Rogers, Zach's older brother, exhausted his eligibility last fall. So did Quintin Hancock. Todd Campbell transferred following spring practice. Marsalis Teague and Ted Meline moved to the secondary last week, then speedy walk-on Evander Wells suffered a season-ending ACL tear on Sunday.

Clearly, the Vols' receiving cast has been gutted.

"It's going down quick," Rogers said with a shake of his head. "But we've got to keep working with what we've got. We've got a strong receiver corps coming in with Da'Rick, Justin, Matt and those guys. We'll just keep working at it."

The reference is to freshmen Da' Rick Rogers (6-3, 215), Justin Hunter (6-4, 183) and Matt Milton (6-5, 220). Each has shown flashes of brilliance in preseason camp.

"They're going to be something special," Rogers said. "They're hard workers, and that's what's going to get them to be the great receivers they're touted to be.

"Da'Rick is everything we'd hoped for. He's a big, physical guy who can block or go up and get the ball. Justin Hunter ... I've never seen anybody jump as high as that kid. Matt, with his size, is great in the red zone.

"All of them are good in the red zone. That's what they're going to be best at ... going up and getting it over the smaller DBs."

While waiting for the three freshmen to develop, Tennessee will rely heavily on seniors Gerald Jones and Denarius Moore, along with Rogers. Whereas Jones caught 46 passes last fall and Moore 40, Rogers reeled in only three. Still, he is the third-most experienced wideout on the roster.

"I've got to step up and be a leader now," he said. "Next year, when Gerald and D-Mo leave, I'll be the oldest guy, which is pretty crazy when you think that I just got here last summer.

"I've got to show a sense of stability to those younger guys, help them out any way I can. That's what I'm going to keep doing."

At 6-0 and 178 pounds, Rogers isn't as physically imposing as his heralded freshman competitors. He isn't as flashy or explosive. He is steady and dependable, however, and those are valuable traits.

"I've got to keep working," he said. "Regardless of where I am on the depth chart I'm going to keep working."

In addition to being steady, Rogers is versatile. He can play any of the three receiver spots - a knack the rookies do not yet possess.

"I might play more positions this year because the young guys don't know it all yet," he said. "I've got to step up and any (receiver) position on offense I've got to be ready to roll."

Rogers played exclusively at the Z position last fall. This year he is playing both outside positions (X and Z), along with the slot (F). Learning the assignments for all three was no walk in the park.

"It was tough," he said. "It's good that last year we ran a kind of similar offense, so I was acclimated with most of the stuff. There was still some stuff I had to learn but, with the help of my brother and some of the older guys, I was able to grasp most of it.

"Now I'm just trying to stay on top of things and help the young guys."

Yeah, that was a sophomore referring to someone else as "young guys."


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