Miami native and Louisville receiver Eli Rogers hasn’t quite figured out which schools are in which division, but he knows he’s going to line up against the ACC’s best next fall when Louisville officially joins the ACC’s Atlantic Division.
Rogers, who was the team’s third-leading receiver last season with 536 yards and four touchdowns and one start, is a graduate of Miami Northwestern and had originally committed to Miami with Teddy Bridgewater. Rogers said he “definitely” has a little bit of extra motivation for the Cards’ season-opener against the Canes, but that’s not the only thing he’s looking forward to.
I spoke with Rogers recently to get his take on the program’s move, and the offensive outlook heading into the first season in the Atlantic Division. Here are the highlights of our conversation:
What are you looking forward to most about joining the conference?
Eli Rogers: Really I’m just looking forward to the great competition, playing teams like Florida State, who just won a national championship, Clemson, Miami. The competition all throughout the conference is good. I’m just looking forward to getting into that.
You’re a Miami guy. What kind of a statement do you think you made about playing in the ACC when you beat them in the bowl game?
ER: We made the statement that we can play with any team, any competition. That goes all the way back to Florida in the Sugar Bowl. We went into the Sugar Bowl and beat them, and we came back the next year and beat the University of Miami. We put a statement out there that we can play with any team, with the best of the best competition.
What do you think about opening against them?
ER: I think it will be exciting. Although we just played each other at the end of the season, I think it’s going to be a very exciting game, bringing the momentum of college football back here, the excitement. It will be a great game.
Everybody wants to know if you can keep this up without Teddy Bridgewater. What do you think?
ER: Yeah, we’re a team. It’s not about one guy. Teddy just controlled everything and kept everything under the system. We’re working really hard with [quarterback] Will Gardner this offseason, focusing on getting our timing down, landmarks, things like that. It should be a really good season. We shouldn’t have too much lapse from last year.
So many things have changed for you guys since you last played, from the coaching staff to the roster. What can ACC fans expect from Louisville this fall?
ER: They can expect a tough team, a relentless team. A lot of big plays.
For people who haven’t seen you guys play before, how would you describe Louisville football?
ER: Exciting. Exciting to watch.
Is there a team in particular you’re looking forward to playing the most?
ER: Not really, but I do want to play Florida State, but there’s not really a team in particular.
So what does the offense look like right now heading into spring ball?
ER: We’re looking pretty good. We have returning guys on the offensive line ... Jamon Brown, we have Jake Smith back. We have some veteran guys out wide in the backfield, Dominique Brown coming back, we have Michael Dyer, who should be an addition to the team next year, Corvin Lamb. We have a lot of playmakers this season going into the spring. We just have to put everything together and get acclimated to the new system.
What do you think of the new coaching staff so far?
ER: They’re a great group of guys. They’re really interested in us outside of football. We haven’t really had a chance to get coached by them, so I can’t really give you my perception on how they are as coaches, but so far, just off the field and being on top of us with school and things like that and being on time, they’re some good guys.
What is the scouting report on the quarterback position right now?
ER: We have Will Gardner and we have Kyle Bolin, who’s another great passer. He’s just working on his arm strength right now. Will Gardner, he’s been coached under Teddy, followed under his footsteps. He picked up a lot from him. I’m pretty excited to see him play.
How different do you think the offense will look?
ER: I think it will look pretty different because we may be in more of a spread look instead of a pro style. There’s going to be more receivers on the field vs. more tight ends, like we had last year.
Do you guys feel like you have something to prove? Because from the outside looking in, it seemed like a lot of people questioned you guys because of the strength of schedule you played. Obviously joining the ACC, that won’t be a question anymore. Did you guys sense that as you went through the season?
ER: Oh yeah, we definitely have something to prove. We’ve had something to prove since Day 1. People always said our conference wasn’t strong enough, and our schedule wasn’t strong enough. This is a good opportunity for us to go out and prove to the world we are a top program.