The University of Tennessee announced Thursday that All-SEC wideout Da'Rick Rogers has been suspended indefinitely. The reason for his suspension, as well as the length of the possibility of his being allowed to return to the team this season wasn't immediately made clear by the university.
Throughout much of his career, the 6-3, 215 pound Rogers played second fiddle to fellow junior Justin Hunter. However, when Hunter went down last season with a torn ACL, Rogers emerged as a dominant prospect in his own right. He led the SEC with 67 receptions last season and was second in the conference with 1,040 receiving yards, establishing himself as NFLDraftScout.com's No. 5-rated wideout in the 2014 draft class. Whether he plays with the Vols (or anywhere else this season), with three years having elapsed since his high school graduation date, Rogers will be technically eligible for the 2013 NFL draft.
Rogers' talent on the field has been obvious. Some talent evaluators have compared his natural talent to the likes of former SEC stars A.J. Green and Julio Jones. Sources close to the Tennessee program, however, have indicated that he has struggled with a "poor attitude" in the past and that this event may simply be the "culmination of several mistakes along the way." Bruce Feldman tweeted that he was surprised that Rogers was even on Tennessee's roster given the problems he's had along the way, including a "complete meltdown at UK gm that sources say COMPLETELY crossed line w UT staff."
Needless to say, character concerns have become an increasing concern with NFL teams when it comes to the draft. Last year's fall of clear top 20 talent Janoris Jenkins into the second round is just the latest indication of how seriously NFL teams take the perceived blights on a player's character grade, whether the mistakes are of the illegal nature or not.
Even without Rogers, the Volunteers boast as talented a group of wide receivers as there is in the SEC. Hunter, who looked like a potential top 10 prospect prior to his injury and has reportedly been progressing quite well in his recovery from the injury is, of course, the headliner but junior college transfer Cordarelle Patterson has also turned heads in camp. Of course, Hunter will be returning from a serious injury and Patterson hasn't yet gained the trust of the team's quarterback(s) in live game action.
As such, the loss of a talent like Rogers could have a significant impact on head coach Derek Dooley's Tennessee squad that is largely built on their offensive firepower.
The Volunteers boast one of the country's most talented quarterbacks in junior Tyler Bray, a 6-5, 210 pound junior with an absolute whip of an arm. Bray, himself struggled with injury last year but when healthy, he (and his replacements Matt Simms and Justin Worley) relied on Rogers' exciting combination of size and speed to make big plays. Rogers eclisped the 100 yard in six games for the Vols last season (one short of the school record) and looked poised to take yet another leap this year. Without Rogers, Bray's potential stock with NFL scouts could take a hit. While certainly talented in his own right (Bray is currently rated as NFLDraftScout.com's No. 4 rated QB in the 2014 class), some of his most impressive throws a season ago were intermediate and long balls in which Rogers made defenders miss to rack up extra yardage.
Rogers signed with Tennessee as a very highly regarded prep prospect, ranked as high as the No. 4 prep receiver by some recruiting experts. He only caught 11 passes as a true freshman in 2010 but demonstrated his big play ability by averaging 15.2 yards per reception and catching two touchdowns. He also was used as a runner on reverses, averaging 7.3 yards per attempt in this capacity and as a kick returner, averaging an impressive 24.8 yards per return.
Tennessee opens the season August 31 in Atlanta against North Carolina State. The loss of Rogers could be felt immediately as the Wolfpack boast NFLDraftScout.com's top-rated cornerback in the country, returning All-American David Amerson.