PART I OF A SERIES:
CALHOUN – When he committed to Georgia way back in June, Da’Rick Rogers thought he was headed toward a nice, calm recruiting experience. Then, soon after the calendar flipped to 2010, Rogers made what may turn out to be a fateful decision.
“It was getting close to crunch time so I just started thinking I needed to check out some other places,” the 6-foot-3, 205-pound wide receiver from Calhoun said. “And that’s what I did.”
What Rogers did was unleash a weeks-long storm of controversy that, days before national signing day, rages on in the small northwest Georgia town in which he resides.
Rogers, along with Calhoun quarterback and best buddy Nash Nance, decided to crack the door open just a little and let in then-Tennessee coaches Lane Kiffin and Ed Orgeron to hear their recruiting pitches. Tennessee offered Rogers and Nance, a Vanderbilt commitment, the opportunity to come to Rocky Top as a package deal. And that was an offer new coach Derek Dooley and the Vols re-extended after Kiffin and Orgeron bolted for Southern Cal.
In fact, Nance accepted Tennessee’s offer this past week. That, of course, led to rampant speculation that the Vols may also peel away Rogers from the Bulldogs.
Meanwhile, rival recruiters figured if Rogers would reconsider his long-standing pledge to Georgia for Tennessee, then why wouldn’t he reconsider it for them? So that resulted dozens more college coaches calling into the Calhoun coach Hal Lamb to see if they might be able to get in front of this bluechip prospect.
“The whole thing has been driving me crazy,” said Lamb, whose recommendation was for both players to stick with their original commitments.
Now in the 11th hour of recruiting, this is most definitely a Georgia-Tennessee skirmish. Calhoun is located almost as close to Knoxville (140 miles) as it is to Athens (130 miles). But getting both Nance and Rogers to come north to Rocky Top would represent a coup not seen in these parts since General William Tecumseh Sherman rode his horse down the south side of Lookout Mountain.
“Oh it’s definitely a Bulldog town,” Rogers says of Calhoun. “Everybody here’s a Georgia fan.”
So how often does he hear from locals that he ought to stick with Georgia?
“Every hour,” Rogers sighed. “Every time I’m in public. They’ll say, ‘You still a Bulldog, Da’Rick? We gonna see ya in a red uniform?’”
Of course, Rogers has only himself to blame. He could not have know what a wildly successful senior season he would end up having. As the main offensive weapon for the Yellow Jackets, Rogers established a state record for receiving yards with 1,641 while leading his team to a 14-1 record and runner-up finish in Class AA.
Those on-field accomplishments along with some head-turning performances in combines, elite prospect camps and national all-star competitions brought Rogers accolades and attention unimaginable when he made his Georgia announcement at the beginning of last summer.
“I’m just kind of taking everything in,” Rogers said. “I’m kind of chillin’ with the media how and trying to be low key. I want to keep it to myself and my family what I’m going to do.”
Definition: A prospect that has the choice of signing a scholarship with literally any school in America. Coaches fly in from all over the country to see him and make almost any promise to sign him.
The example: Da’Rick Rogers, WR, 6-foot-3, 205-pounds, Calhoun High School. AJC No. 1-ranked prospect.
Fun fact: Rogers said he lost count a while ago but believes he has received somewhere in the neighborhood of 70 to 80 official scholarship offers. He has kept all the letters in a chest at his house. His favorites he has framed, including ones from Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Florida and USC. “I even got one from some Christian school in the middle of Wisconsin,” Rogers said with a laugh. “It was a private school. I think they had fewer students than we do here and we’re a double-A high school.”
Recruiting situation: Chaotic. Committed to Georgia since June of 2009 but embroiled in a tug-of-war between the Bulldogs and Tennessee.
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