Rogan makes mark in return game

What you have seen out of Dennis Rogan as a true freshman at Tennessee has come as a surprise to many people who watched Rogan run up remarkable numbers in leading Fulton High School to two state championships.

But Tennessee assistant Dan Brooks felt he had a jewel when he signed Rogan.

And he felt his impact would initially be running back kicks and punts.

``I really thought that was his spot – the return game,'' Brooks said. ``He has an uncanny confidence in himself with catching the football in traffic. You're catching kickoffs and punts with a lot of big guys running at you in a bad mood. I think it takes a special guy.''

Rogan is a special little guy. He's listed at 5-10 and 182, but he doesn't look that big. No matter. Brooks was never worried about Rogan's size.

Brooks mentioned Trindon Holiday at LSU, Brandon James at Florida and DeSean Jackson at California as small players who have made a terrific impact on their teams in the return game.

``When they are that size, they have to have special stuff,'' Brooks said. ``Recruiting is an inexact science, but we thought he had that kind of stuff.''

While recruiting can be a crap shoot, Phillip Fulmer felt the fact Rogan helped Fulton win two state titles displayed his ability to compete, just like other true freshmen who came from winning programs, like Eric Berry, Gerald Jones and Chris Walker.

``It means a lot when you've come from an outstanding team and you've been coached hard,'' Fulmer said.

Rogan is averaging 13.0 yards per punt return and 31.7 on kick returns. If he qualified, he would rank third in the SEC in punt returns and second in kick returns.

Rogan has also moved into the No. 3 cornerback slot.

``I think he's probably come along faster in the secondary than I envisioned,'' Brooks said.

Offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe liked what he saw of Rogan in the state championship game.

``It was fun to watch the state championship game and see the Dennis Rogan show,'' Cutcliffe said. `` Dennis played like a man. He knew how to work and we knew he had toughness. He's a ballplayer.''

Rogan has had the greatest impact of any Knox area skill player since James ``Little Man'' Stewart started as a true freshman in 1991 and rushed for 939 yards.

Rogan showed he could be a factor in the return game when Tennessee's junior varsity played Hargrave Military Academy last month.

``He's good with the football under his arm,'' Cutcliffe said. ``He's a weapon.''

That weapon returned a punt 45 yards to help set up a game-winning field goal against Vanderbilt. In that game, he had 146 yards on six punt and kick returns, earning SEC special teams player of the week.

Rogan has earned the respect and admiration of his teammates.

``Dennis Rogan has made play after play,'' UT receivers coach Trooper Taylor said. ``He's exciting. Even in the huddle when we're getting ready to go, the kids blocking for him are excited. He's so much smaller than them, it's like they're taking care of little brother.''

Taylor said another true freshman, Lennon Creer, tells Rogan to field kicks ``and I'll go block for you and you score.''

Said Taylor: ``You don't see that often. It's not that he (Creer) is afraid. He wants to see Rogan do well.

``When they go play for each other, it makes a big difference.''

Rogan could make the difference in Saturday's game at Kentucky.

In what figures to be a close contest, a big return on special teams could make the difference.

And against Vandy, Rogan helped make the difference.


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