Much is expected from those at the top. Da’Rick Rogers seems to have figured that out by now.
There was never any question about the talent overflowing out of Tennessee’s junior receiver – it is present, alive and well – but rather if that ability would ever culminate in on-field production.
First, during the summer before his freshman season, Rogers was charged for disorderly conduct and resisting arrest for his involvement in a brawl at a Knoxville bar. Then, the rumblings began in the midst of that first season him and his five-star rating were overhyped. Though he showed flashes of brilliance, he never could put it all together – he finished the year with just 11 catches.
Those early warning signs were a distant memory in 2011.
Rogers led the Southeastern Conference in receptions last season, and is the league’s leading returning receiver after catching 67 passes for 1,040 yards. Additionally, he found the endzone nine times. His 6-foot-3, athletic frame makes him an equal threat in the red zone as his 4.4-second speed does in the open field.
When Volunteers’ All-SEC-caliber quarterback Tyler Bray drops back in 2012, he will have the enviable selection of Rogers and Justin Hunter, the No. 3 wide receiver on our list and perhaps the conference’s best pro prospect at the position. Hunter got off to a fast start last season before a season-ending ACL tear, but is expected to bounce back in a big way.
Separating the twin, orange-clad towers is Arkansas’ 6-foot-3 Cobi Hamilton, who will step into the Razorbacks’ pass-happy offense and be the primary target for hotshot signal-caller Tyler Wilson. Hamilton has collected 977 career yards over his first two seasons, but with standouts Joe Adams and Jarius Wright gone, his role will increase significant next season.
The rest of the list is led by two conference newcomers – including a stud freshman expecting to take the college football world by storm – two national runner-up players and a Georgia Bulldog going on season No. 5.
But none were more productive than Rogers last season.
And with Tennessee’s high-flying attack, it will be tough to catch him.