Tennessee Vols Football: An Interview with Nash Nance and Da'Rick Rogers
Three weeks of speculation were brought to a screeching halt on National Signing Day at a North Georgia high school when QB Nash Nance and WR Da'Rick Rogers officially inked their names to a Tennessee Letter of Intent.
After weeks of "will they" or "won't they," they finally did.
Nance and Rogers have been friends throughout high school. They have played together all but one season in the last four years.
According to Rogers, the one year they didn't play on the same team, they still threw together every other Sunday.
Needless to say, these guys are tight.
On how that friendship will translate to the field, Rogers told me, "Having that relationship, we both know how each other is going to react...how the route is run...where the ball is going to be thrown."
Anyone want to underestimate the advantages of such a bond between a quarterback and wide receiver?
Go ask Tim Tebow and Riley Cooper how well that worked out for them. How about Colt McCoy and Jordan Shipley?
Obviously I'm not going to compare a couple of high school kids to greats like McCoy, Tebow, Shipley, and Cooper. But I use those examples to make the point that when quarterbacks and receivers bond, good things usually happen.
When they do not bond, things do not work out as well. Just ask Quinton Hancock and Jonathan Crompton, who literally bounced a football off Hancock's helmet during a game this season as the receiver ran a crossing route.
I realize both guys are going to be freshmen coming into an SEC atmosphere where freshmen normally do not fare well, but the football chemistry and personal friendship between these two cannot be overlooked.
In the hours since the two signed on the dotted line, I have heard people make excuses saying that Nance will never start at Tennessee. They hurled insults stating that Tennessee would have never signed the quarterback if there wasn't a top-rated wide receiver to go along with him.
I have to look no further than the fact that Jim Chaney has wanted this particular quarterback for nearly a year now.
Yes, Jim Chaney. The same Jim Chaney that helped develop Jonathan Crompton into a real, SEC-caliber quarterback in one season. The same Jim Chaney that took a short, skinny quarterback named Drew Brees and turned him into one of the most prolific passers in college football history and just won a Super Bowl.
Nance is right beside the dictionary definition of SEC/Pro-Style quarterback. 6'4", 205 pounds is right about the perfect size for the offense that Tennessee will run.
If you want to talk about his ability, we can do that too.
I've watched North Georgia high school football all of my life. In short, it's terrible. We can usually count on one team from the North Georgia area to play well and get into the playoffs, but as soon as they face an Atlanta-area team, there is no competition.
Calhoun has been the exception to that rule for a while. The last three seasons the Yellow Jackets are 35-5 and have played in the state championship game two years in a row.
Nash Nance is a big part of that success.
I asked Nance what has prepared him to be an SEC quarterback: "I'm probably the hardest worker that I know. I think that I've earned the right to play in the SEC."
The newest Vols quarterback went on to say, "I still have a lot of work ahead of me. I still think I'm a young quarterback. It's mostly just the mental part of the game [that has prepared me].
"Playing with this guy has also improved my game. We've prepared each other for the next level."
Who was "this guy?"
Da'Rick Rogers. The top athlete in the state of Georgia. The No. 9 overall athlete in the country. The No. 2 wide receiver in the land.
And his name is pronounced exactly as it looks, Vol fans. It's not Derrick.
On coming to Tennessee, Da'Rick said, "Mainly the campus lifestyle and getting to know the coaches. I feel like those coaches are all ex-NFL guys. They know what it takes to be a pro player."
Da'Rick considers himself a hybrid receiver. His size, strength, and speed all in one make him uniquely the total package out wide.
I asked Da'Rick about bringing the WRU moniker back to Knoxville along with the highly touted WR class that Derek Dooley brought in. Rogers said, "Peerless Price, Robert Meachem, and all them...with the recruiting class we've got now, we're gonna really try to step it up and let everyone know we're back."
The architect of WRU at Tennessee was Kippy Brown. Brown recently left the university after coming back from the NFL only to be passed over for the head coaching job once Kiffin left for USC. Brown worked with Alvin Harper, Peerless Price, Carl Pickens, and many other great Vol wide receivers in his day.
Taking his place as WRs coach is coach Charlie Baggett. Baggett worked with guys like Cris Carter and Randy Moss. Nice résumé. Da'Rick knows all about that too.
"Coach Baggett is a stand-up guy. He knows all the facts in and out of football. That's one thing I loved about him."
Rogers went on to say, "Being that he coached a lot of greats, I know he knows what it takes to become an NFL receiver."
Finally I asked both about their impressions of Coach Dooley.
Nance said, "Coach Dooley is a great guy. I know a lot of people don't know him because he's a new coach, but he's one of the best coaches I've met. He's picking the right coaches not only just if they have a name, but he wants to pick coaches who will make things better for Tennessee and help that program. Tennessee is going to be a great program in the next few years [because of that]."
Rogers offered his views on Dooley: "Professional. Stand-up guy. He's never gonna BS you. He's always gonna give you the straight-up answer and be real about it."
Make no mistake about it though, Da'Rick and Nash have their dream scenario—which includes Nash throwing the ball to Da'Rick on Saturdays for the next few years. "That's the plan," Da'Rick said.
With everything I've seen and heard of these two so far, it would not surprise me in the least to see that happen—sooner rather than later.
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