Vols' Rogers achieves 1,000-yard season

Tennessee wide receiver Da'Rick Rogers (21) makes a catch for a touchdown during the second quarter of an NCAA college football game as Vanderbilt defensive back Trey Wilson (8) defends at Neyland Stadium Saturday, Nov. 19, 2011.  (AP Photo/News Sentinel, Adam Brimer)

Tennessee wide receiver Da'Rick Rogers (21) makes a catch for a touchdown during the second quarter of an NCAA college football game as Vanderbilt defensive back Trey Wilson (8) defends at Neyland Stadium Saturday, Nov. 19, 2011. (AP Photo/News Sentinel, Adam Brimer)

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — With the confidence he had in quarterback Tyler Bray, Tennessee wide receiver Da'Rick Rogers figured a 1,500-yard, 100-catch season might be possible.

Since Bray missed five games with a broken thumb, Rogers is happy for now with exceeding 1,000 yards and flirting with a few team records.

"Of course any receiver's goal coming in is to get over a thousand yards, maybe even hope to get 100 catches," the sophomore from Calhoun, Ga., said. "I was looking at 1,500 yards and over a hundred catches. That's the kind of faith I had in Bray and this offense. Next year, we'll make sure we get that."

Rogers's 91.1 yards per game and 5.9 receptions per game ranks him second in the Southeastern Conference in both categories behind Arkansas's Jarius Wright. With 116 yards on 10 catches for Tennessee (5-6, 1-6) in an overtime win against Vanderbilt on Saturday, his season totals jumped to 1,002 yards and 65 catches.

That puts him in the company of elite Tennessee wide receivers Robert Meachem, Marcus Nash and Joey Kent, who helped the program gain a "Wide Receiver U" reputation.

Rogers currently is sixth on both Tennessee's single-season yards receiving and single-season receptions lists and seventh on Tennessee's single season receiving touchdowns list with nine.

He lacks 296 yards to tie Meachem's 1,298 yards single-season mark and would match Nash's record 76 catches with 11 receptions against Kentucky (4-7, 1-6) on Saturday. With four more touchdowns he would tie Nash's single-season record of 13.

"It's an honor when you look back and see all the receivers that have come through here, being that this is Wide Receiver U," Rogers said. "Being able to be put in a group with those names, it's just crazy."

Kentucky coach Joker Phillips has another name in mind for Rogers: NFL wide receiver Terrell Owens.

"He's just a big strong guy, real strong hands. He looks like T.O. to me," Phillips said. "That's what he looks like on the football field. He runs his routes really, really hard and catches the ball real physical, real aggressive."

His stats no doubt would be higher had Bray played all season. During Bray's five-game absence, Rogers had just one score and averaged 74.6 yards and 4.6 catches compared to an average of 104.8 yards and seven catches and eight total TDs in games with Bray.

"He's been playing good, but yeah, Tyler's his guy," Tennessee coach Derek Dooley said. "They've got a little body language going."

Rogers benefited from extra targets after the Vols' top receiver, sophomore Justin Hunter, tore his ACL in the third game of the season. But he had to learn how to handle the extra attention heaped on him by opposing defensive backs.

"It made me open my game up and work on a lot of things that I wasn't as good at before," Rogers said. "I really just had to do a lot of things that I wasn't doing before and it really helped me as a player."

Kentucky cornerback Randall Burden, who will be tasked with covering Rogers at times when the Vols visit on Saturday, said the difference in his game is noticeable.

"I played against him last year and he was just a freshman last year, really didn't do too much," Burden said. "Now it seems like he's really the go-to guy. It's a big challenge going against him because he's a tall receiver and he's a big receiver."

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AP Sports Writer Colin Fly in Lexington, Ky., contributed to this story.

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Comments » 3

Rich_Is_Re-born writes:

The complete package! Can go deep, can catch over the middle, can run after the catch...Who said 5*s don't matter?

iowavol writes:

It's been a long time since we've seen a guy that can catch a ball in traffic like Da'Rick. Amazing that he is so strong and focused and then can let a simple pass slip through his hands. Ever since he re-committed himself to focus all the way through the catch, I have seen him only drop one. If he's a 100% on, nothing gets by this guy, even the ones that should.

CroKev writes:

I'll never forget "the 20-yard ride" he gave Honey-Badger...

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