(Second update with Derek Dooley saying he doesn’t expect Da’Rick Roger to play this season.)
Two years ago, when new Tennessee coach Derek Dooley made his debut at SEC media days, I made note of the first three subjects he was asked about: 1) His mother; 2) His father; 3) A bar fight that included several of his players. Suffice to say, he would welcome more questions about his mother and father again.
Dooley inherited a mess at Tennessee after the sudden departure of Lane Kiffin. That’s no secret. The fact that the guy’s job might be on the line this season is unfortunate because the image of the team and the character problems of too many players that he inherited takes a while to overcome.
The latest example: Da’Rick Rogers. The talented but often troubled wide receiver from Calhoun, who nearly signed with Georgia in 2010, was suspended indefinitely Thursday by Dooley. No reason was given, other than the standard, “violation of team rules.”
UPDATE: Dooley told the Knoxville News that “our expectation is” that Rogers won’t return to the program. Translation: Expect him to transfer.
But given that there has been no report of an arrest — or another bar fight — use your imagination.
The suspension appears open ended for now, but Rogers is not listed on Tennessee’s depth chart.
Tennessee probably wasn’t going to challenge for the SEC East title this season, anyway. But it has (or had) the potential to be decent and upset some teams. From a talent standpoint, Rogers’ loss would be significant. He led the SEC last season with 67 receptions, and was second with 1,040 receiving yards and nine touchdown catches.
But don’t blame Dooley for what’s going on in Knoxville. If we still don’t know how great of a coach he is, we can at least be certain Kiffin left him a rather large and malodorous bag.
(Many point out that Da’Rick Rogers was a Derek Dooley recruit in 2010. That is technically accurate. However, Rogers initially backed off his Georgia commitment to hear the recruiting pitches from then-Tennessee coaches Lane Kiffin and Ed Orgeron. It was Kiffin who offered Rogers and high school teammate Nash Nance the opportunity to go to Tennessee as a package deal, an offer that Dooley confirmed after he got the job. So, yes, Dooley shares some responsibility. I also wanted to added that rumors circulated that Rogers was interested in transferring to Georgia State in the spring, but that obviously never happened.)
In May, Dooley dismissed sophomore tight end Cameron Clear (yes, a Dooley recruit) following an arrest for felony theft charges. Last year he kicked off safety Janzen Jackson (a Kiffin recruit). Dooley said only that Jackson’s “personal issues” led to the suspension, but added, “I will always be there to help him as a person, but there comes a time when a player’s actions preclude him from the privilege of playing for [Tennessee].”
There have been multiple other suspensions. Sophomore safety Darren Myles Jr. was dismissed from the team and others were suspended for the aforementioned bar brawl, which took place not long after his hiring.
Rogers also was involved in that incident. He was arrested for disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. But the charges ultimately were dropped and Dooley chose not to suspend him. That was one time when giving a kid a break backfired. Rogers was banned for two weeks this past spring for offseason activities for unspecified reasons.
Referencing Tennessee’s problems in 2010, Dooley said, “I wish I could snap my fingers, but it just doesn’t work that way. It takes time.”
Problem being that SEC coaches don’t get a lot of that, regardless of whose fault it is.
By Jeff Schultz
Some recent typings (no charge)