VOLS vs GATORS
KNOXVILLE — Da'Rick Rogers doesn't mind the increased attention he'll start getting from opposing defenses.
Tennessee's sophomore receiver from Calhoun, Ga., actually prefers it.
"A lot of people would be like, 'Well, I don't want them to key on me,'" the 6-foot-3, 215-pound Rogers said after the Volunteers wrapped up practice Tuesday morning. "Well, I want them to key on me. The more they key on me, that opens Justin [Hunter] up, that opens Zach [Rogers] up, it opens [Tauren Poole] up. We're all just going to play together and see what happens."
Da'Rick Rogers and Hunter figure to be a focal point for Florida's defense when the 16th-ranked Gators host UT on Saturday. Quarterback Tyler Bray has targeted the duo 20 times apiece in two games, good for nearly 60 percent of the sophomore's 68 passes.
The tandem already has become the first set of receivers in UT history to catch 10 passes in the same game and have consecutive 100-yard games.
"Everybody recruited them. Everybody in the country wanted them," first-year Florida coach Will Muschamp said Monday at his weekly news conference. "They've certainly done a nice job of getting the ball to those guys in different situations vertically down the field and in the quick passing game to make sure they get them the ball and get their touches."
As the Vols face better defenses and stepped-up strategies to slow the sophomore receivers, UT will need to adjust. The Vols already move both among the three receiver spots in the offense.
"We started doing that in training camp," coach Derek Dooley said Tuesday, "because when you've got some pretty good wideouts, what you can't do is just put them in the same spot all the time. "Any average defense will take them away, much less a good one. We'll try to keep moving them all over and creating ways to get the ball to them, and hopefully they can continue the production."
Florida likely will try a lot of man-to-man coverage with freshman Marcus Roberson and sophomore Cody Riggs at cornerback and sophomore Matt Elam and freshman De'Ante Saunders at safety. Da'Rick Rogers said his and Hunter's versatility within the offense is important.
"It helps me get open a lot because I can go against any kind of matchup, whether it's a corner or a linebacker, and create mismatches," said the former five-star recruit. "It just helps us as an offense when you can line up and put anybody anywhere. You can really run a lot of different plays that you can't usually."
UT also can take pressure off him and Hunter by spreading the ball around to other targets. Tight end Mychal Rivera caught six passes against Cincinnati, and junior receiver Zach Rogers was targeted three times and caught a 16-yard touchdown pass in UT's 45-23 win against the Bearcats.
"Zach's only issue ever has been durability, and as long as he's out there, he's fast, he's a good route-runner, he knows what to do [and] he can play all the positions," Dooley said.
Bray has targeted running backs 11 times, including seven throws toward tailbacks Poole and Marlin Lane. Poole caught three passes against Cincinnati: one when he lined up wide and got 11 yards and a first down, one on a circle route for 14 yards on second-and-17 and a third on a swing pass.
"They tell me get out and give Bray other options," Poole said Monday. "We've got two great receivers out there, but maybe they'll double up on them sometimes, so I've got to be available. I try to incorporate that into my game and give Tyler another option and just spread it out a little bit and have people guessing."
Dooley has indicated the Vols will throw to Hunter and Da'Rick Rogers as much as they can, but he also knows a great offense needs more weapons.
"It doesn't mean we're ignoring everybody else," the coach said. "We got good production from [Rivera], from Tauren and Zach last week. You need that. If you're going to throw it 41 times, it's hard to go 20 and 20 because they're going to need oxygen. But if we could, I'd probably do it."
Muschamp and first-year defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, a 10-year NFL coaching veteran, certainly are aware of that.
"They take the ball to different spots, and [Bray] does a nice job of taking the ball where he knows he can get it in, coverage wise," Muschamp said. "We're going to need to do a good job of keeping guys cut off down the field, mixing it up in coverage a little bit and picking our spots to pressure."
Patrick Brown has been the University of Tennessee beat writer since January 2011. A native of Memphis, Brown graduated from UT in May of 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Electronic Media and worked at the Knoxville News Sentinel for two years on the sports editorial staff and as a freelance contributor. If it’s the NBA, the NFL or SEC football and basketball, he’s probably reading about it or watching it on TV. Contact him ...