AUBURN — Less than twelve months ago, Carlos Rogers had to make a decision.
AP Photo by Todd J. Van Emst
After not even making All-SEC last season, Auburn cornerback Carlos Rogers had a senior year in which he made All-America and won the Thorpe Award as the nation's best defensive back.
Should he stay at Auburn for his senior season of football? Should he leave for the possible riches of the NFL?
It seemed unusual for him to consider turning pro, considering that neither the Southeastern Conference's coaches nor the Associated Press media named him first- or second-team all-league.
Even so, he considered leaving before announcing that he would return — on the same day that All-SEC running backs Carnell Williams and Ronnie Brown told reporters that they would play their senior seasons, too.
"At the beginning of the season, I was confident in my choice to come back," said Rogers, a four-year starter at cornerback. "Before this, I don't think that I had gotten the recognition that I should, and that is one of the main reasons that I came back."
With Rogers, Brown and Williams back, Auburn attained a No. 3 national ranking at the end of the regular season and posted a 12-0 record, winning the Tigers first Southeastern Conference championship in 15 years. Also, Auburn can match the 1992 Alabama squad and Tennessee's 1998 team with the only 13-0 records in SEC history Jan. 3 when the Tigers face No. 9 Virginia Tech (10-2) in the Sugar Bowl (7 p.m., WAAY-31).
The impact of Rogers' return might be the most underrated of all three. He helped solidify what turned out to be the nation's toughest defense to score against. Auburn is allowing a national-best 11.2 points a game and is giving up 269.5 yards a game, good for fifth nationally.
Additionally, the defense is eighth best against the pass, allowing only 165 yards a game. Rogers has played a large part in that success.
He got the recognition he wanted, too, earning All-SEC, first-team consensus All-American and the Jim Thorpe Award, which is given annually to the country's top defensive back.
He said he was nervous when he attended the awards ceremony in Orlando on Dec. 9.
"I didn't think that they would call out my name," Rogers said. "I was so scared. Then they called my name and I was a little relieved. I was really happy about it."
Rogers added, "To win this award was one of my main goals for this season, along with being the SEC champs."
Rogers' numbers this year are telling.
In 12 games, teams completed only 27 percent of the passes they threw to his side.
Here's the statistic that shows the true story: All 12 opponents combined to throw 329 passes against Auburn, and only 65 of those were thrown to Rogers' side, with only 18 completions.
Not that he's complaining about having so few passes to defend.
"I was so bored at some games last year — no balls were coming my way," Rogers said. "The quarterback would just turn and look the other way.
"I would jump up and down and wave my hands, but he still wouldn't throw it to me. It hasn't been like that this year. I don't have time to look back on last season and complain."
Fellow senior Jason Campbell has thrown against Rogers in practice for the past four years as Auburn's quarterback. He said he has always known how good his teammate was.
"His recovery speed is so fast, and I think a lot of people don't realize that," Campbell said. "He is just real quick and athletic in the way that he runs. Putting all of that together is why he is so great and why he won the Jim Thorpe Award."
Not a good enough endorsement? OK, try sophomore receiver Courtney Taylor, who has gone against Rogers in practice for the past two years.
Taylor said he's thought Rogers was the best ever since he first went against him.
"A lot of people always ask me about other cornerbacks, and I tell them we got the best cornerback here," Taylor said. "I said that last year — Carlos Rogers is the best cornerback, period. That's how I always felt.
"He showed and proved it this year."
Should we listening to the journalism geek at TSN or the Jim Thorpe panel that includes coaches/conference representatives?
It's not Rolle, Webster or Jackson. It's Carlos Rogers and it should be obvious to anyone who has seen the top corners multiple times this year.