If there were any doubts about Da'Rick Rogers being able to step up in the absence of Justin Hunter (from the UT receiving corps), that doubt was pretty well squashed by Rogers' performance vs. the Buffalo Bulls. Seven receptions, 180 yards, two touchdowns and a long reception of 58 yards all adds up to a dazzling display by the standout Sophomore Calhoun, GA product. The game vs. Buffalo must be taken with a grain of salt, however. I am not trying to fully squelch the glee and joy over Rogers' play, but it was against the Buffalo Bulls.
The upcoming game vs. the rival Georgia Bulldogs will give the 6'3" Rogers a shot to shine vs. an SEC defense. Ironically, the Vols could very well be preparing this week to cover Rogers instead of finding ways to utilize his athletic prowess vs. Rogers' home-state Bulldogs. It has been well documented that Rogers was a longtime commit to the University of Georgia, but Coach Dooley was able to snatch him away in the 11th hour on Signing Day 2010. This recruiting victory for Coach Dooley was a major achievement, and it began paying dividends in the '10 season. As a Freshman, Rogers was a complimentary player (along with Hunter) to Denarius Moore and Gerald Jones. In his limited role, Rogers still played well, averaging 7.3 yards per carry and 15.2 per reception. It looks like his Freshman numbers will be dwarfed this season, as we are officially in the midst of the "Da'Rick Rogers Coming Out Party". With the state of Tennessee producing a limited amount of SEC caliber players from the TSSAA ranks, it's a familiar tale in the Volunteer State. A kid from the south (i.e. Eric Berry) spurns his home-state SEC school to sign with the University of Tennessee, and the player's home state fans have to deal with the frustration of watching the player perform against their team. It was a heated recruitment for Da'Rick, and luckily for UT fans, the Vols came out on top.
The same day the Vols defeated the Buffalo Bulls, Georgia took out SEC opponent Mississippi State by a score of 24-10. The win was between the Hedges, and it was the third in a row for the resurgent Dawgs. There is a similar National Signing Day story to the Rogers/Georgia/Tennessee soap opera. It involves the same two schools and a WR from Memphis, TN. Just like Rogers forged his own path by leaving his home state for (in his eyes) greener pastures, Marlon Brown did the same thing the year prior on National Signing Day 2009.
My favorite part of Marlon Brown picking UGA over UT is the fact that his grandmother "Miss Calvary" proved to be wiser than most in the Volunteer State. She steered Brown to Georgia over Tennessee because she loved Richt and his assistants. Miss Calvary saw Richt as a "man of God", a great role model for her grandson. It's obvious that she didn't see these traits in renegade Coach Lane Kiffin nor his staff. If she were looking for men to guide her young grandson, I can't say I blame her for not letting him near Coach O and the "wildboys". It's not as if Kiffin didn't have a burning desire for Brown to wear the orange and white. In fact, during Lane's introductory press conference on The Hill, he quipped "When this thing's done, I'm on a plane. I'm going to Memphis to see the Number 1 recruit."
While the Marlon Brown to UGA story is a feel good story for everyone who loves his/her grandmother, the on the field results have not been there as they have for Rogers at UT. (Recently, I have seen Brown listed as a TE. Is he a TE or WR?) In Brown's defense, the Junior has battled ankle injuries this season on his way to four catches for a paltry 34 yards. For his career, he has 17 grabs, 182 yards and one touchdown. Those are eye opening numbers in a bad way; Rogers accumulated only two fewer yards vs. Buffalo than Brown has in his career, and Rogers doubled Brown's career TD number in only four quarters vs. the Bulls. The numbers posted by Brown just don't live up to the hype that he had in the recruiting rankings. For example, he was the #5 WR "in all the land" (Tressel), #53 overall player and #1 recruit in Tennessee per Rivals.
How does this tie into this weekend's game you may be asking. Other than the fact I find it interesting to examine in-state kids who leave for other state schools, I firmly believe that if the Vols have a shot at winning this weekend vs. the Dawgs, Da'Rick Rogers will have to explode for huge numbers. The Volunteer defense is certainly not at the top of the SEC pack; nor is their running game. During the meat of the Volunteer schedule, they are going to win and lose games based on how far the passing game can take them. Bray has been very studly this season. With the loss of Justin Hunter, Da'Rick Rogers is obviously his favorite target. Can the Calhoun, GA product give the Bulldog faithful ulcers this weekend? Absolutely. Will he? I guess we'll have to watch the game to find out, but I know one player he'll outshine regardless, the M.I.A. Marlon Brown.