No matter how talented a player is, there comes a point where you just have to let them go. Tennessee may have reached that point with receiver Da’Rick Rogers. The junior has been suspended indefinitely from the team, putting his status for SEC play and the entire 2012 season in doubt.
Making matters worse for Tennessee is this isn’t Rogers’ first incident. The junior missed a portion of spring practice and there was some thought he may be transferring out of the program. However, Rogers came back to the team and was expected to be the Volunteers’ No. 1 receiver early in the year.
Rogers was one of the top receivers in the SEC last season, catching 67 passes for 1,040 yards and nine touchdowns. He recorded six 100-yard efforts in 2011, including 116 yards and two scores in the 27-21 win over Vanderbilt. Rogers earned first-team All-SEC honors last year and was ranked as one of Athlon’s top 15 receivers for 2012.
Without Rogers, Tennessee will have to rely even more on Justin Hunter and junior college recruit Cordarrelle Patterson. Hunter is returning from an ACL tear but if healthy, should be one of the top receivers in the SEC. Patterson was one of the top junior college recruits but it will take him some time to adjust to the FBS level.
Losing Rogers will be felt immediately in the season opener, as the Volunteers take on NC State. The Wolfpack own one of the nation’s top defensive backfields, led by All-American cornerback David Amerson. With Rogers suspended, NC State can leave Amerson on Hunter, forcing Patterson or one of the other Volunteer receivers to become the No. 1 target for quarterback Tyler Bray.
Rogers’ suspension is just another distraction for Tennessee going into 2012. The Volunteers are coming off a disappointing 5-7 season, and coach Derek Dooley is squarely on the hot seat with a 11-14 record over the last two years. Tennessee still has plenty of firepower on offense to make some noise in the SEC, but Rogers was expected to be a key part of the passing game.
Considering Rogers’ incident in the spring and his fall suspension, Dooley and the coaching staff has to wonder whether he is worth the trouble anymore. Although Rogers is one of the best receivers in the SEC, dealing with a constant distraction just isn’t worth it – especially for a coaching staff that needs a big year to save their jobs.
Even if Rogers returns during the year, there’s no telling how rusty he will be. It will take some time for Bray and Rogers to develop a connection once again, which could slow down Tennessee’s offense. Considering the Volunteers’ schedule, there’s no time for the offense to jell. After the opener against NC State, Tennessee takes on Florida in Week 3 and Georgia in Week 5.
Eliminating Rogers as a distraction would be the best move for Dooley and the Tennessee staff. However, considering what Rogers brings to the field, it’s a tough decision facing the Volunteers, especially in a make-or-break season.
by Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)
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