Gary Rogers: New No. 2 ready to compete

PULLMAN—For the third time in his short Washington State career, quarterback Gary Rogers is being promoted for reasons beyond his control. The sophomore-to-be instantly became the Cougars' No. 2 quarterback shortly before Thanksgiving with Josh Swogger's decision to transfer. But Rogers doesn't plan on settling into that backup role without a fight for first.

If conventional wisdom holds true -- and you know what they say about conventional wisdom -- Gary Rogers won't get his chance to be the Cougars starter until his senior season, 2008, after Alex Brink leaves. It's not something he planned on when he chose to attend WSU out of Kamiak High School in Mukilteo, Wash., but it hasn't taken him totally off-guard.

"I knew I could play here, but that I'd have to beat people out," Rogers said. "We were pretty stacked at QB when I got here. I knew I'd have to compete for a job.

"But I'm not coming in (spring ball) just thinking I'm second-string," he added. "I'm gonna compete."

ROGERS WASN'T SURPRISED when 2005 backup Josh Swogger announced his intentions to transfer to a Division 1-AA school. It also meant Rogers was now but "a play away" from becoming the starting quarterback for Washington State.

"Yeah, I saw it coming," Rogers said. "There was some talk about it. He's going to be a senior, and getting beat out by an underclassman, that put him in a tough position."

AS A TRUE freshman in 2004, Rogers came into fall camp as the Cougars' fourth-string quarterback. He moved up to third-string after Mike Reilly quit the team and eventually transferred to Central Washington. Later that season, Rogers was bumped up again to second-string after injured starter Swogger was shut down for the year and backup Alex Brink assumed the top spot.

It was feared the coaching staff would have to burn Rogers' redshirt should the slighter-built Brink get injured, but Brink stayed upright and Rogers kept his redshirt eligibility, all while gaining invaluable time taking snaps with the first-team offense.

After Brink beat out a healthy Swogger for the starting nod in ‘05, Rogers was firmly entrenched as WSU's third-string QB ahead of true freshman Arkelon Hall and grayshirt frosh Cole Morgan. Rogers made the best of what could be expected in his role, which involved seeing minimal game action, seeing even less practice action, and learning a lot while watching from the sidelines.

THIS PAST SEASON was—in Rogers' own words—both productive and frustrating. He played well in spring practice and drew several public compliments from head coach Bill Doba and quarterbacks coach Timm Rosenbach. But once the real season got going, Rogers was caught in no-man's land as the third-stringer.

Gary Rogers: "But I'm not coming in (spring ball) just thinking I'm second-string. I'm gonna compete."

Between Brink and Swogger, he hardly got any snaps with the first- and second-team offense during game weeks. And with Hall and Morgan assigned to run the scout-team offense, Rogers actually spent less time under center than the two players behind him on the depth chart.

"I didn't get as many reps. I got maybe one rep a week, so I had to make the best of it," Rogers said in a recent interview. "I had more of a watching role; watching and learning. A lot of film time. But I stayed after practice a lot to work on things."

HIS TIME TO shine in front of the coaches came during one-on-one practice drills, when the top three QBs took turns throwing to one receiver at a time matched up with one defensive back. On those occasions, the 19-year-old showed he could throw an impressive deep ball, and that his accuracy had improved from one year ago.

At times, Rogers looked better than Swogger -- at times even better than Brink. And other times, he looked every bit the third-stringer he was.

Rogers saw limited playing time in games against Nevada, Grambling and USC, all in mop-up duty. His only opportunity to throw the ball came against the Trojans, where he completed two of five attempts for 12 yards: a five-yard completion to Chris Jordan and a seven-yarder to Greg Prator, well after USC had put the Cougars to bed.

"It was cool, just getting a feel for everything and getting my feet wet," Rogers remembered.

AT 6-FOOT-6 and 228 pounds, Rogers looks every bit the classic drop-back passer that WSU fans have fallen in love with in the past. He has the size of a Ryan Leaf with the arm of a Drew Bledsoe. One of his nicknames in high school, in fact, was "The Prototype."

The biggest knock on Rogers has been his lack of foot speed and mobility. He has been clocked at 4.7 seconds in the 40-yard dash, and from what he shows in practice, isn't exactly going to make anyone forget Randall Cunningham.

"That's what a lot of people assume," Rogers answers, "but if I have to get out of the pocket, I can do that."

AS THE ODD man out in a quarterback controversy that stretched back to a Week 2 loss to Colorado in ‘04, Rogers was a close spectator in the Brink vs. Swogger debate that raged in Cougar Nation for over a full year. For his part, Rogers said Brink "had a good year" in '05.

"He put up good numbers," Rogers added.

Something Rogers plans on doing himself. Starting with spring ball in about three months time.

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