July 14, 2009

Moore injury a setback, opportunity

The news went from bad to worse for the University of Tennessee football team Tuesday.

After VolQuest.com first reported senior wideout Austin Rogers would be lost for the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament, it was also indicated that junior wideout Denarius Moore also is expected to miss an indeterminate amount of the season with a broken bone in his left foot.

A 6-foot-1-inch, 190-pound native of Tatum, Texas, Moore emerged last season as Tennessee's most reliable downfield threat. He had the Volunteers' three longest receptions of the season � each covering more than 50 yards � and averaged 24.6 yards-per-catch on 11 receptions.

Confirmation of the injuries sustained by both Moore and Rogers also came on a day when the health status of electrifying junior Gerald Jones likewise was called into question by head coach Lane Kiffin. Jones earlier this year injured his hand and has been in a cast, as reported here several weeks ago. The pace and success of Jones' rehabilitation will determine if he likewise could miss a portion of the upcoming season.

While senior Quintin Hancock garnered most-improved honors in the spring and junior Brandon Warren, a former Freshman All-America tight end who's been converted to wide receiver, give the Vols a pair of bigger targets, several freshmen now are likely to be called upon to step up. Four-star signees Nu'Keese Richardson and Marsalis Teague have impressed in summer workouts; so, too, has Rogers' younger brother, Zach � a state champion sprinter.

"Whenever these new guys have time, I'm just trying to grab them and work with them and teach them as much as I can so that when August comes around, they're not thinking too much," junior quarterback Nick Stephens said. "Zach, actually, I called a long play yesterday and Zach was split out, and I said, 'What do you have?' And he knew right away. These guys are studying and learning quickly. Along with their talent, it's going to be a good deal."

New strength coach Aaron Ausmus, hired at the first of this month to replace the dismissed Mark Smith, said Richardson's speed is obvious.

"I can just tell he's a great athlete. He's definitely got a background where he's very fast," said Ausmus, an NCAA shot put champion while at UT in the 1990s. "He will, in the program as he gets stronger, we expect this guy to get bigger over the next couple of years and not lose a step of speed -- if anything, gain speed. He's definitely a special athlete that will definitely blossom in this type of training."

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