N.C. State dynamic changes with Rogers out

N.C. State dynamic changes with Rogers out

Published Aug. 24, 2012 7:31 p.m. ET

At the beginning of the week, fans were comparing the passing-game potential of this Tennessee team to the halcyon days when Peyton Manning wore orange and white.  

And why wouldn't they?

Tyler Bray, the Vols' 6'6" 215-pound quarterback, when healthy, has shown himself to be one of the best in the league. And his receivers - Da'Rick Rogers, Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson – constituted one of best crop of targets in the nation.

Plus, Tennessee offensive coordinator Jim Chaney coached no less talented quarterbacks then Drew Brees and Kyle Orton at Purdue.  If anybody could maximize the passing talent and potential of the Tennessee offense, it was Chaney.  

That was part of what made the upcoming Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic between Tennessee and N.C. State so inviting. The Wolfpack promised to field perhaps the best secondary in the ACC.

Best passing offense in one conference versus the best defensive secondary of another: what could be better?  

But best laid plans can never overcome the vagaries of human nature.  

On Thursday morning, Da'Rick Rogers, 6'3" 206-pound receiver who was projected to be the best receiver in the SEC if not one of the best in the nation, was indefinitely suspended for repeated violations of team rules. 

Rogers had a history of problems, having already been suspended once for a bar fight. Still, he was expected to be a first-round NFL pick.

Now, he isn't likely to play a down.  

After practice on Thursday, Coach Derek Dooley said, "Our expectation is that he won't (return to the team.)"

That puts a huge crimp in the offensive scheme, and has to leave Vols fans banging their heads against the wall and saying, "Not again."  

Last season Hunter went down during the Florida game with a torn ACL, and then Bray broke his thumb the first week of October, leaving Tennessee with little offensive firepower going into the meat of their SEC schedule.  The Vols finished 6-7.  

"There's not one player on the team that we're not prepared to play without," Dooley said. But he would certainly be better prepared against the Wolfpack with Rogers on the field.  

N.C. State's defensive backfield ranked sixth in the nation in turnover ratio last year, and they are returning their most dynamic players.  All American cornerback David Amerson led the nation in interceptions with 13, and the other corner, C.J. Wilson, has 31 tackles and one interception. Both are bigger and stronger now than they were a year ago.

They are backed up by safeties Earl Wolff, who has 113 tackles and 3 interceptions, and Brandan Bishop (99 tackles, 5 INTs).

Before this week, the matchups favored Tennessee, because even if Amerson and Wilson covered Rogers and Hunter, Bray still had Patterson as a big, fast target. Now, the Vols are one man down against a secondary known for game-changing plays.  

It is exactly where Dooley didn't want to be before the opening snap of the season, although he tried to put a happy face on the affair.  

"When you get into the coaching profession, you quickly learn that the number one professional hazard is the behavior of 18-22 year olds," he said. "Our focus is on the guys here and what opponent is coming up next.  It's a great quality opponent so that is where we are. We had a real good practice and the players are going to get a couple of days off to recover physically and then we will crank up heavy game week come Sunday."

Anything to keep from focusing on the weapon the Volunteers no longer have in the arsenal.