According to his new coach, All-SEC wide receiver Da'Rick Rogers will be in uniform Thursday night for Tennessee Tech's season opener against Hampton, less than a week after Rogers was suspended by Tennessee and barely 96 hours after his arrival on Tech's campus. First, though, he had a little talking to do, confirming for reporters Tuesday that his tumultuous departure from Knoxville was the result of multiple failed drug tests.
"There were a couple of drug tests," Rogers said at a press conference, with Tennessee Tech coach Watson Brown looking on. "And it was about me being a young, immature guy and those are things that I've got to work on. I plan to do that. When it came to review my next school and I met coach Brown I most definitely felt like he was a guy that could help me with all my things and the situation that I had going on."
Rogers is the second reigning All-SEC pick in the crosshairs for multiple failed drug tests in as many weeks, following LSU cornerback/punt returner Tyrann "Honey Badger" Mathieu, who was abruptly dismissed earlier this month due to a failed test and has since decided to sit out the upcoming season to focus on rehab. Unlike Mathieu, Rogers was not officially kicked off the team: According to a statement released by Tennessee, "His status for the remainder of the season is yet to be determined" as of last Friday. Still, the writing was on the wall when coach Derek Dooley told reporters immediately following the suspension that he didn't expect Rogers to play at all this season.
Tennessee Tech is an FCS school in Cookeville, Tenn., about 100 miles west of Knoxville. Assuming he remains academically eligible and otherwise kosher under NCAA rules, Rogers has two years of eligibility to spend, though Brown said he hasn't determined whether he'll be allowed off the bench in Thursday's opener. The move will also reunite him with his old high school teammate, Tre Lamb, whose father was Rogers' head coach at Calhoun (Ga.) High and vouched for Rogers' character to Brown. Lamb is entering his third season as Tennessee Tech's starting quarterback after leading the Eagles to the Ohio Valley Conference championship as a junior.
In Knoxville, Rogers was a regular target of speculation almost from the moment he signed with Tennessee as a five-star, blue-chip headliner in 2010, after spurning Georgia on signing day. By the time he stepped on the field for the first time that fall, Rogers had already been arrested for his role in a brawl involving multiple UT players; from that point on, he was followed by periodic rumors of his pending dismissal, suspension or transfer, right up until they came true.
Last year, multiple sources told CBSSports.com colleague Bruce Feldman that there were several incidents in which Rogers crossed the line with Vol coaches and staff, including a "complete meltdown" during UT's season-ending loss at Kentucky and another episode in the team weight room. The incidents were so troubling to some staffers that they felt Dooley was risking the locker room dynamic by allowing Rogers to remain in the program.
That reputation, along with the team's dismal record, may have obscured the fact that Rogers was one of the most productive deep threats in the SEC in 2011, hauling in a league-best 67 passes for 1,040 yards, nine touchdowns and a second-team all-conference nod from SEC coaches. Given his obvious pro potential at 6-foot-3, 215 pounds, he is almost certainly bound for the 2013 NFL Draft next spring, where a respectable effort on the field this fall could make him a middle to late-round pick.