The Tennessee Volunteers have been blessed with not one but two of the nation's top receivers over the past two years, Justin Hunter and Da'Rick Rogers. This fall, they'll leave no doubt in anyone's mind that they are the best receiver duo in the country.
Hunter and Rogers were signed in the 2010 class that was primarily built by Lane Kiffin, but completed by Derek Dooley. Dooley was able to retain Hunter and add Rogers, both of whom have become essential to the success of the Vols.
In what could be their last season with the Big Orange, here are five reasons that Hunter and Rogers are the nation's best pass-catching combo.
First and foremost, Justin Hunter and Da'Rick Rogers are the best wide receiver duo in the country because they've actually shown what they're capable of.
This isn't just a "they have potential" situation. This duo has done it already and has the "potential" to do even more.
Hunter has only 33 receptions in his two years at Tennessee due to youth and injury, but he has made the most of those catches. Averaging over 22 yards per reception, Hunter scores a touchdown on more than a quarter of his catches with nine career scores.
(Imagine if Hunter can catch 67 balls in 2012 like Rogers did in 2011. That'd mean 18 touchdowns!)
Rogers is the epitome of a tough receiver. He goes over the middle, takes huge hits and just smiles. He has some NFL swagger about him already—both a good and bad thing for a college player—but it's clear that he simply doesn't get rattled.
Even though he had to play with three different quarterbacks last year, Rogers compiled 1,040 yards and nine touchdowns. He made two of the best catches of the year against Vanderbilt and was integral in getting that game to overtime.
This wide receiver duo is the best because they've done it before and need no adjustment period.
A good wide receiver duo has one tall, fast guy who can stretch the field and make leaping catches, while the other is stronger and more physical for open passes across the middle.
Check and check.
Justin Hunter is 6'4", 200 pounds, precisely the same size as Randy Moss while he was at Marshall. Obviously, Hunter is no Moss (yet), but his style of playing is extremely similar. He has terrific speed that he shows on go-routes down the field and has the leaping ability to catch long passes.
Da'Rick Rogers is just an inch shorter than Hunter at 6'3", but adds nearly 10 more pounds to his frame. It makes a huge difference when you look at the pair. If Hunter is compared to Moss, then Rogers must be compared to the Baltimore Ravens' Anquan Boldin. Rogers is a little lighter than Boldin, but I've little doubt they'll resemble one another when Rogers reaches nine years of NFL experience.
Who wouldn't call the future Randy Moss and Anquan Boldin the best college wide receiver combo?
Tennessee fans are hoping that the running game is better this fall. Last year, the Vols fielded the worst ground attack of any SEC team.
I believe running back Marlin Lane and his crew of freshmen and sophomores will do better this year, but it still won't be above the average within the conference.
That bodes well for Justin Hunter and Da'Rick Rogers, who will be called upon numerous times to loosen up the defense. After all, Arkansas didn't start running the ball with any authority in 2011 until their trio of receivers kept linebackers deep and defensive backs honest.
The talented (and finally veteran) offensive line was the best pass-blocking line in the SEC last year, allowing the fewest sacks. Either they've come to like pass blocking or they know where the offense's bread is buttered.
You don't like having a mediocre running game, but it helps make the case for Hunter and Rogers being the best receiving duo.
Even though they're rising juniors, you'll be hard-pressed to find a more experienced wide receiver duo than Justin Hunter and Da'Rick Rogers.
When Derek Dooley came on board in 2010, he had only Denarius Moore and an underperforming Gerald Jones at receiver, so Hunter and Rogers were able to see plenty of playing time as true freshmen. They made the most of it and combined for 37 catches, 582 yards and nine touchdowns.
Rogers was also a regular on wide-receiver sweeps and tallied 16 carries for 117 yards.
Hunter was off to a blazing start as a sophomore until he went down with a season-ending knee injury at Florida, but Rogers was healthy the whole year and got incredible experience.
Hunter and Rogers have had the kind of attention—both from coaches and opposing defenses—that most wide receivers don't see until their senior year. They're battled tested.
Finally, Justin Hunter and Da'Rick Rogers are the country's top receiver duo because they have Tyler Bray slinging balls to them.
Bray needs to become a leader and a student of the game this year in order for the Vols to do well, but he has always had a cannon of an arm, so Hunter and Rogers are okay either way!
Bray averages over 239 yards and two touchdowns per game, most of which are aimed in the direction of his top two targets. Like Hunter, Bray had injury issues last season, so we weren't privileged to an entire year of the Tennessee gunslinger.
A healthy year from Bray means Hunter and Rogers could be the SEC's first 1,000-yard receiving duo in more than a decade.