With the news of Tennessee wide receiver Da’Rick Rogers’ indefinite suspension, it brings a whole other slew of questions thrown in the Vols’ direction. It is the toughest player personnel loss for any team in the SEC this off-season.
Mike Dyer. Isaiah Crowell. Tyrann Mathieu. Da’Rick Rogers.
The SEC has lost a bumper crop of talented players in just those four. But Rogers is the toughest thus far. Yes, even tougher than the Honey Badger was for LSU.
This is a make-or-break season for Derek Dooley and the Vols, and they don’t exactly have a whole mess of talent waiting to suit up in orange, especially at wide receiver. Tennessee was expected to line up in several three-wide receiver sets, letting Justin Hunter, Rogers and JUCO transfer Cordarrelle Patterson make video game-like plays in the open field.
Absent Rogers, Tennessee will be running out Hunter, who suffered a season-ending ACL injury last year, and Patterson, who has never taken a snap in a Vols’ uniform and has been injured for most of the preseason.
Most notably, Tyler Bray loses his go-to receiver in Rogers, who was the SEC’s top returning receiver with 1,040 yards and nine touchdowns. The combination of Bray, Hunter, Rogers and Patterson would have been lethal.
If that’s not bad enough, you look no further than the running game, averaging an SEC worst 90 yards per game in 2011.
Behind Hunter and Patterson, now, will be true freshman Cody Blanc and senior Zach Rogers. Blanc is unproven, and Rogers only caught 14 passes last year, even with Hunter not in the lineup.
While Rogers may have had an attitude problem, he was the one guy Bray could count on to make a play. He was almost the complete receiver, physically, lacking only a good attitude to become elite.
Georgia will plug in four running backs to replace Isaiah Crowell who was dismissed earlier this year. Likewise, LSU is so deep and has numerous corners oozing with playmaking potential they can plug in, especially with the defensive line’s ability to rush the quarterback. Honey Badger may have been up for a Heisman, but it would have been tough for him to accomplish what he did last year. Rogers means more to Tennessee.
In the long run, it may be better that Da’Rick Rogers is gone, considering most have expressed that he could be a major team cancer. But for the short run, namely NC State in almost a week, this is a big, big loss…not to mention Tennessee’s head coach boasts the hottest seat in the SEC.
We’ll find out if Tennessee can overcome Rogers’ absence, and whether Bray, Hunter and company have grown up any over the off-season.