GREENEVILLE - The Toyota East vs. West All-Star Classic may be the first televised Saturday afternoon game for Zach Rogers, Dominique Allen and Eric Gordon, but it certainly won't be the last. The best players from both ends of the state will face off Saturday at Carson-Newman College's Burke-Tarr Stadium. Kickoff is set for noon (TV: WVLT).
Allen wasn't sure he would make the trip to the All-Star game when he first received the invitation. What brought him to East Tennessee was one more chance to play with teammate Marsalis Teague. The two have been highly sought after recruits from Henry County High School in Paris.
"This might be the last time I get to play with Marsalis," Allen said. "I'm looking forward to the game Saturday and believe West will come out the winner."
Allen was at one time part of the 2009 University of Tennessee signing class, but has since moved his commitment to LSU. While the Vols haven't given up on Allen just yet, he describes himself as "solidly with LSU." It's a decision he made long before the coaching change from Phillip Fulmer to Lane Kiffin on Nov. 1.
"I knew it from the first time I went down there to LSU," Allen said. "I made the decision before Coach Fulmer left. LSU told me they were going to put me in there and I'll have a baptism by fire. I want to make LSU a better place."
If Allen has his way, he won't be heading to Louisiana alone. Though Teague has already committed to Florida, Allen has been in his ear to change his mind. The two began their football careers together as children. If Teague does go to Florida, it will be the first time he and Allen have ever faced off against each other on separate teams.
"I'm trying to bring over Marsalis," Allen said. "He's already committed to Florida, and that's going to be kind of odd. We've played together since Pee Wee football."
There hasn't been a question where Rogers would play college ball for some time. Committing to UT in July, the David Lipscomb wide receiver never wavered. It probably didn't hurt that his brother, wideout Austin Rogers, was already on the team.
"I've always wanted to play with him," Rogers said. "We've always been one year off so we never got to play together. Next year should be special."
Part of what will make that special is the new staff and system set forth by Kiffin.
"I was a little shaky after the firing of Coach Fulmer," Rogers said. "But I like the hire in Coach Kiffin. He's a calm and sharp guy. I think he's a great coach and am looking forward to things he's going to do. He did some big things at USC and he's going to bring that winning tradition back over to Knoxville."
While Allen may be working on Teague for LSU, Rogers is spending his week talking up the Vols.
"This is a real chill weekend and I'm enjoying it," Rogers said. "I'm trying to help out the guys who don't know where they're going yet."
Hillsboro defensive back Eric Gordon doesn't need to be convinced. On Tuesday he made his decision to joins Rogers at UT.
Before his announcement, the line on Gordon was that he would be heading out of the state to play. Kiffin worked to change that within hours of being named coach of the Vols.
"Coach Kiffin talked to me on his first day on the job," Gordon said. "He crowded it all up in two minutes, then he came out to see me. He knows what he's talking about. He has a lot of playmakers coming and we're hopefully going to build a dynasty."
Rogers is looking to end his high school career on a high note, after a heartbreaking loss to in the Class 3A semifinals to Memphis Mitchell.
“I want to put the pads on again with some guys from my school,” Rogers said. “After that devastating loss in the semifinals, that was really the deciding factor. It still hurts and I want to get some revenge and play a good game.”
For Gordon, the All-Star game is all about enjoying himself. For once, he’ll be lining up with the best players from West Tennessee, not against them.
“It’s a relaxed time to go out and compete,” Gordon said. “I’m used to going hard against these guys so this time, I’m going to have a lot of fun out here.”