Prospect of the Week: Charles Rogers/Michigan State
After a pair of dented seniors including Wisconsin's Lee Evans, who tore a knee ligament during the spring and hopes to see action in the middle part of this season, and Fresno State's Bernard Berrian, another that hurt the same joint during the first game of the 2002 campaign, the nation's best collegiate receivers are underclassmen and all are great pro-prospects.
The talent is deep and not much separates the top players in this group. Many feel Roy Williams of Texas is the best wideout in the country and would be the first receiver selected if he leaves Austin for the draft while others think Andre Johnson is continuing the tradition of great pass catchers coming from the Miami Hurricane program and will be a sure-fire top ten pick should he declare. Some point to Kelly Washington of Tennessee, a former semi-pro baseball player and over-aged sophomore that is a complete receiver. But to our minds the nations best wideout resides in East Lansing, Michigan and wears a Spartan uniform.
Bursting onto the scene last year, Charles Rogers is both a game controlling and game-impacting receiver that makes the difficult catch over other middle in traffic or breaks the contest wide open dusting opposing corners down the flanks. Add in the ability to quickly turn the tide of a game with a long punt return and you're looking at a complete offensive skill player that warrants getting the ball in his hands as many times as possible during a sixty-minute football game.
A Prop-48 player academically ineligible to see action in 2000, all Rogers did last year was set the Michigan State single-season records for receptions (67), receiving yards (1,470), touchdown receptions (14) and 100-yard receiving games (6) during an initial campaign on the active roster. Rogers also became the first Spartan receiver since Andre Rison to average at least 20-yards per reception and has caught a touchdown pass in twelve straight games, one shy of the Big Ten Conference record.
Off to a sizzling start in 2002, Rogers has caught 22 passes through the first three games of the campaign, averaging almost 21 yards per reception and hauling in four touchdowns. Though his duties on punt returns has been restricted thus far this year, he's still averaging 21 yards each time he's asked to bring one back. Impressive numbers considering more than 60 percent of the Spartans offense from a year ago left when TJ Duckett, Chris Baker and Herb Haygood were all selected in the 2002 NFL Draft, and the talent presently surrounding Rogers a little sparse.
Consider this: At the combine last March when the topic of receivers in the draft came up amongst scouts during an afternoon lunch, many were unimpressed with the upper echelon talent available in 2002 but one person did speak up to say, "What'll you see the Michigan State kid in a year or two!" (Though, point of fact, it was the same person hollering about Brian Poli-Dixon on the sidelines of the 2000 Senior Bowl!)
A receiver with tremendous size/speed/strength numbers, Rogers out-muscles and out-runs defenders, possessing the top end speed to beat opponents down the field or the strength to physically defeat them when battling to make the reception . Agile, he makes the tough catch in contorted positions running full tilt, displaying focus, timing and solid overall receiving skills. He sells his routes, shows adequate quickness which enables him to get separation from defenders but is also an unstoppable force that goes up against double teams to pull the ball out of the air.
This week he has his work cut out for him as Michigan State goes up against the very hot Notre Dame Fighting Irish with a defensive secondary that is one of the best in the country. The Irish corners and safeties have been opportunistic all season long, coming away with the big play during the important moments of a contest. Expect safety Gerome Sapp and corner Vontez Duff to double team Rogers all afternoon but also keep an eye on ballhawking cover-man Shane Walton. This could be a classic battle and one that would really propel Rogers towards the front of the draft should he come out on top and continue his rampage this season.