The wide receivers as a group on the University of Louisville football roster this season have been generating a lot of talk and hype during the preseason.
Sophomore DeVante Parker caught six touchdown passes last season and is the perceived leader of the group, while Scott Radcliff and Andrell Smith are the seniors and Charles Gaines and Damien Copeland are receiving a ton of attention because of their speed and improvement during the offseason.
”We have a little bit of everything in the group,” offensive coordinator Shawn Watson said. “It’s a deep, solid group.”
The one player from that group flying a bit under the radar during the preseason is Eli Rogers. The 5-foot-10, 185-pound sophomore from Miami Northwestern led the Cardinals in receptions with 41 as a true freshman.
Rogers started four games and finished just one yard behind Michalee Harris for most receiving yards on the team last season with 454. He averaged 11.1 yards a catch, 37.8 yards a game and had one touchdown.
In a recent interview U of L head coach Charlie Strong said he hadn’t forgotten Rogers, noting “he’s a guy who has really improved with a lot of those other young guys. Those guys have to step up for us.”
Rogers is listed as the No. 2 ‘H’ receiver – behind Radcliff – and said he’s ready to try and better his performance from last season. While he likely won’t start, Rogers will be on the field a lot in Sunday’s Governor’s Cup game against Kentucky.
“It’s a different year for me,” Rogers said. “I just kind of did it last year, a lot of times not doing it the right way. And I am still learning, just trying to come out here every day, working hard, critiquing my work and learning from my mistakes.”
Rogers became one of quarterback Teddy Bridgewater’s favorite targets last season and finished with at least four receptions in seven games.
His 41 catches ranked third all-time for a freshman in U of L history, his total yards ranked sixth for a freshman and he had the longest catch of the year for the Cardinals, a 58-yard reception against Cincinnati.
He’s dependable,” said Bridgewater, who played with Rogers in high school. “He’s one of those possession receivers that if there’s nothing there, he’s always in the right place at the right time for me.
“He’s become a third-down receiver too and he can move the chains for us also. He’s one of the guys that will be good for us this year.
Rogers, who also led the team with 54 punt return yards last season but isn’t listed on the depth chart at that position, said last year was “so tough,” being young but believes he has improved and matured in the offseason.
“I think I am way better at technique this year and better in the detail of my work, like my routes,” he said. “My route running has really improved from last year.
“But it’s not about me. I am just here to help the team. It was my mindset when I first came in and it’s still my mindset now, we are all out here to work together. We have one goal and that’s to win. But I do feel like I can help the team win, anywhere I am at on the field, and that’s what I want to do.”