Vols look for better play from WRs with Hunter out

By: AP
By: AP

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Tennessee sophomore wide receiver
Da'Rick Rogers knows he's going to be a little more popular now
with opposing teams' defenses.
Rogers and Justin Hunter were the Vols' dangerous receiving duo
through the first two games. But with Hunter now out for the season
thanks to a torn ACL, Rogers knows defenses will try to double team
him more often.
He also expects the rest of the Vols wide receivers and tight
ends to keep those opponents honest.
"It's imperative," Rogers said. "If they don't do that, who
knows where the offense goes. Those guys have got to step up.
Everybody's got to step up. Everybody's got to play at a higher
level now because we did lose a big player."
Hunter injured his left knee catching a pass on the third play
of Tennessee's 33-23 loss at Florida on Saturday but still leads
the Southeastern Conference with an average 104.7 yards receiving.
Rogers is second in the SEC with 87.3 yards receiving and leads the
league with 6.7 catches per game.
"Justin's a heck of a good football player, there's no question
about that, but injuries in football is a part of life," offensive
coordinator Jim Chaney said. "We'll move right on and we'll
continue to push the ball down the field. That's who we are."
Quarterback Tyler Bray still has plenty of targets, even if one
of his favorite ones is gone. The sophomore connected with nine
different targets against the Gators and finished 26 for 48 for 288
yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions.
"We have guys stepping up, we just need more of them to," Bray
said.
Tight end Mychal Rivera led Tennessee against Florida with 71
yards and a touchdown on five catches, Rogers had five catches for
62 yards and a touchdown and freshman wide receiver DeAnthony
Arnett had eight catches for 59 yards.
Rivera has been key for the Vols in the slot on slant routes
across the middle, so it will be up to junior Zach Rogers,
sophomore Matt Milton, freshman Vincent Dallas or Arnett to take
some pressure off Da'Rick Rogers on the outside.
Milton said just being around Da'Rick Rogers and Hunter has
helped him improve.
"It's just the way they practice, and trying to model my game
off of things that they do, it's made me much better," he said.
"My hands, getting on the jugs after practice with Da'Rick, a lot
of things like that. Running my routes with Justin, that helped me
out a lot with that because he struggled a little bit early with
that, too, so we kind of both came along in that."
The Vols (2-1, 0-1) are off this weekend, and the bye week is
giving coaches a chance to try the wide receivers out at different
positions.
"We've just got to figure out who can do what and how they can
help us," coach Derek Dooley said. "That's not going to get
solved in a practice or two."
Tennessee is also taking a hard look at its running game, which
had minus-9 yards against the Gators. The Vols are averaging just
81.7 yards on the ground, ranking them last in the SEC and 105th in
the FBS in rushing offense.
They'll try out some different looks and work on implementing
some of the younger tailbacks. Primarily, the coaches are expecting
the tailbacks to lower their heads and run harder and the offensive
linemen to deliver nastier hits on the defense.
Just a little improvement on the ground could take some pressure
off Da'Rick Rogers and company.
"At the end of the day, until we run the football better and be
able to attack the line of scrimmage better, we're going to
struggle," Chaney said. "That's ultimately the point of emphasis
for us."


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