Nash Nance always liked Tennessee — just from afar.
Truth be told, the 6-foot-3, 200-pound quarterback from Calhoun (Ga.) High School may have committed to play for the Vols even earlier, had it not been for the way he was recruited by UT’s former staff.
Nance got a strong feeling that former UT recruiting coordinator Ed Orgeron (who left UT with former coach Lane Kiffin for Southern California earlier this month) wanted Nance and his good friend, highly touted receiver Da’Rick Rogers, as a package deal.
That wasn’t the case when newly hired UT coach Derek Dooley came calling.
“In my opinion,” Nance wrote Thursday in a text message to the News Sentinel, “the Vol Nation has a new head coach with integrity, extreme drive to be successful and a common man that all young athletes will relate to and will love going to battle with every Saturday.
“… I am so relieved and blessed to have this opportunity to play football for the University of Tennessee!”
Nance, who committed to Vanderbilt last June, visited UT over the weekend and was offered by the Vols.
On Wednesday night, Nance had an in-home visit with Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson and de-committed.
In his text message, Nance said the decision to de-committ to Vandy was a tough, emotional one, but that the opportunity to play for Dooley and UT offensive coordinator Jim Chaney, who built some standout offenses at Purdue, was the better fit.
The fact that UT’s coaches like Nance just for Nance was a big factor as well.
“They like him because of his ability, not a package deal,” said Nance’s father, Mike Nance. “They want him because of his ability, whether Da’Rick comes or not.”
Now, that doesn’t mean that Rogers, who has been committed to Georgia since June, is a lost cause. Expect Nash Nance to sell the Vols until Rogers’ decision becomes final on National Signing Day. Mike Nance said he wouldn’t be surprised if the decision remained a secret until Rogers signs his letter of intent on Wednesday.
“That’s something we really don’t know about,” Mike Nance said. “That’s a decision that Da’Rick will have to make. Surely Nash is going to try to recruit him. He’d rather be playing with him than against him.”
And for good reason. Rogers is considered one of the elite receiver prospects in the nation, and the highest rated prospect in Georgia.
Mike Nance has served as mentor to the 6-3, 205-pound Rogers since shortly after he and his son met in the 10th grade and became good friends. The two even transferred together to Calhoun, in part, to participate in an offense more focused on the pass than the running attack they were used to at their previous school.
The move worked. Nance completed over 70 percent of his passes for 3,020 yards and 29 touchdowns while running for over 400 yards last season.
Rogers set the all-time Georgia receiving record with 1,647 receiving yards on 85 receptions, including 22 touchdowns.
All that despite being pulled from their games by halftime in seven of Calhoun’s 15 games because the score was too lopsided to keep the stars on the field.
“He had a really, really exceptional senior year,” Mike Nance said of Rogers.
That is an understatement.
Rogers was at his best when the games were the biggest. In five playoff games, Rogers caught 37 passes for 707 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Now the off-the-field, Nance-Rogers’ relationship will get interesting. Nash Nance didn’t have much of a chance of wooing Rogers to Vanderbilt, where Nance had been committed since June.
UT is a different story, especially after Rogers’ enjoyable official visit to Knoxville last weekend and the connection he’s made with the Vols’ new coaching staff.
However, there are also connections to Georgia that must be overcome. Calhoun coach Hal Lamb is the son of Ray Lamb, Georgia’s director of high school relations.
Mike Nance finds himself in an unenviable position. Sure, he’d like to see his son and Rogers play together, but a true mentor can’t be biased.
“It’s something I’m not going to push on Da’Rick,” Mike Nance said. “He needs to make his own decision.”
The Nances made it clear: they don’t believe Dooley was looking for a package deal. But he sure wouldn’t turn it down.
“Nash and Da’Rick have been close ever since,” Mike Nance said. “They’re just like brothers.”