Dead periods have little effect on the recruitment of Amari Rodgers. Sure, Tennessee’s coaches can’t call the 4-star receiver at certain times. However, the NCAA has no jurisdiction over his classmates.
The 5-foot-10, 195-pound Rodgers hears about the Vols constantly. There’s no way to avoid it. He attends Knoxville Catholic (Tenn.) alongside the children of several Tennessee coaches, including head coach Butch Jones, defensive coordinator John Jancek and offensive line coach Don Mahoney.
“I would say he definitely does,” Catholic coach Steve Matthews said. “I would say he hears a lot everywhere he goes in Knoxville.”
For Rodgers, who has been committed to Southern California since June, the Tennessee talk especially applies to his peers.
“I get recruited a lot by them,” Rodgers said with a chuckle. “After every game, if Tennessee wins and USC loses, they always rub it in my face. It’s a family thing.”
Despite his friends’ best efforts, Rodgers doesn’t need convincing that signing with the Vols would be a solid choice.
“Tennessee is a great place,” he said. “It’s home, so you always have to be open to the home school. They’re getting things right up there. Coach Jones knows what he’s doing.”
Of course, there’s a reason why Rodgers committed to Southern California and remains a public commitment. His father, former Tennessee quarterback Tee Martin, is the current receivers coach for the Trojans.
“It’s a big factor,” Rodgers said. “That’s been my dream for a while, to be coached by him since he started coaching in college. Him being a coach is a big factor.”
Rodgers has insight that other prospects would kill for given his father’s current position.
“My dad tells me everything straightforward,” Rodgers said. “If he doesn’t feel like USC is the best place for me, he’s going to tell me not to go there. I’m always going to listen to him. He’s been there before. He’s been in the recruiting process and now he’s in college recruiting people. He knows what’s going on.”
Martin is a beloved Tennessee alumnus, especially after he led the Vols to the 1998 BCS National Championship. For some fans, the relationship isn’t quite the same since Martin, who is from Mobile, Ala., recruits in the Southeast — often against Tennessee.
That’s likely the case again, even if Martin isn’t retained by Southern California. Former Trojans coach Steve Sarkisian was fired in October. That means a new coach could be in place after this season and, in turn, a new coaching staff. Rodgers would consider any school where Martin is coaching.
“Especially if it’s closer to home,” he said. “That would definitely be a big factor. If he did move I would definitely consider that school because I definitely want to play with my dad.”
Rodgers said Martin has told him he wants to remain in Los Angeles. That would make things tough on the Vols if he’s retained.
“I’m still with USC right now,” Rodgers said. “I’m going to see what they do after the season and see who they hire… I’m still open with my recruitment but I’m still with USC currently.”
That doesn’t mean the teenage recruiters at Catholic High School are going to lay off anytime soon.