Vols’ WR corps now needing help
Posted: Thursday, September 22, 2011 7:03 pm
By BETH RUCKER
AP Sports Writer
KNOXVILLE (AP) — Tennessee sophomore wide receiver Da’Rick Rogers knows he’s going to be a little more popular now with opposing teams’ defenses.
Rogers and Justin Hunter were the Vols’ dangerous receiving duo through the first two games. But with Hunter now out for the season thanks to a torn ACL, Rogers knows defenses will try to double team him more often.
He also expects the rest of the Vols wide receivers and tight ends to keep those opponents honest.
“It’s imperative,” Rogers said. “If they don’t do that, who knows where the offense goes. Those guys have got to step up. Everybody’s got to step up. Everybody’s got to play at a higher level now because we did lose a big player.”
Hunter injured his left knee catching a pass on the third play of Tennessee’s 33-23 loss at Florida on Saturday but still leads the Southeastern Conference with an average 104.7 yards receiving. Rogers is second in the SEC with 87.3 yards receiving and leads the league with 6.7 catches per game.
“Justin’s a heck of a good football player, there’s no question about that, but injuries in football is a part of life,” offensive coordinator Jim Chaney said. “We’ll move right on and we’ll continue to push the ball down the field.”
Quarterback Tyler Bray still has plenty of targets, even if one of his favorite ones is gone. The sophomore connected with nine different targets against the Gators and finished 26-for-48 for 288 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions.
“We have guys stepping up, we just need more of them to,” Bray said.
Tight end Mychal Rivera led Tennessee against Florida with 71 yards and a touchdown on five catches, Rogers had five catches for 62 yards and a touchdown and freshman wide receiver DeAnthony Arnett had eight catches for 59 yards.
Rivera has been key for the Vols in the slot on slant routes across the middle, so it will be up to junior Zach Rogers, sophomore Matt Milton, freshman Vincent Dallas or Arnett to take some pressure off Da’Rick Rogers on the outside.
Milton said just being around Da’Rick Rogers and Hunter has helped him improve.
“It’s just the way they practice, and trying to model my game off of things that they do, it’s made me much better,” he said. “My hands, getting on the jugs after practice with Da’Rick, a lot of things like that. Running my routes with Justin, that helped me out a lot with that because he struggled a little bit early with that, too, so we kind of both came along in that.”
The Vols (2-1, 0-1) are off this weekend, and the bye week is giving coaches a chance to try the wide receivers out at different positions.
“We’ve just got to figure out who can do what and how they can help us,” coach Derek Dooley said. “That’s not going to get solved in a practice or two.”
Published in The Messenger 9.22.11