Dennis the menace

A lot of folks may not have noticed but superstar safety Eric Berry – for all of his greatness – is not the only guy playing well in Tennessee's secondary.

Fellow sophomore Dennis Rogan may not hit as hard, run as fast or electrify a crowd the way his celebrated teammate does, but he is playing almost as productively.

"Rogan is lights out," Vol secondary coach Larry Slade said this week. "He really played well, graded high, did a super job playing bump-and-run and those kind of things last week. He's one of those guys that is constantly improving."

Berry and Rogan come from opposite ends of the recruiting spectrum. Berry was rated the No. 1 cornerback prospect in high school football as a senior at Creekside High in Fairburn, Ga. Rogan hardly got a glance from UT recruiters, even though he grew up in Knoxville and led Fulton High to a state title. The Vols eventually decided to take a chance on Rogan, however, and that decision has paid handsome dividends.

"He has overachieved," Slade said. "You look out there and say, 'Well, this guy right here ought to be your best corner.' Well, the guy that's emerging as our best corner is Dennis Rogan."

Rogan saw some late-season action as a reserve safety in 2007 but primarily made his mark as a return man – hauling back kickoffs 78 yards (vs. Arkansas) and 41 yards (vs. Vanderbilt). He also had a 45-yard punt return against the Commodores.

Rogan honed his coverage skills during the offseason, however, then beat out fellow sophomore Brent Vinson to win a first-team cornerback job for 2008.

Why is he so much better than a year ago?

"I think it's understanding," Slade said. "I think it has helped him at corner and playing safety. He understands what the stresses are and all of that. His understanding of the entire package has gotten better."

Though undersized at 5-10 and 185 pounds, Rogan exhibits the toughness and tenacity to play safety. In fact, he is the first sub behind starters Berry and Demetrice Morley.

"He's gotten a lot better man-to-man. He's a tough guy," Slade noted. "If you watch that tape from last week (vs. Bama), you say, 'Wow! The guy does some good things.'"

Rogan is proof that you don't have to be a five-star prospect to be a top-notch college player. Described by Slade as "very coachable," Rogan is one of those guys that performs above his talent level by playing smart and playing hard. He had a 38-yard interception return vs. Auburn. He had nine tackles (six unassisted) against Georgia. He had four tackles, two pass breakups and a fumble recovery last weekend vs. Alabama.

"Rogan probably played one of the better ball games last week. He took the challenge," defensive coordinator John Chavis recalled. "He's where he needs to be; there's no question about that. You wish you had two or three Dennis Rogans and you wish you had two or three Eric Berrys because you'd be really, really set.

"He played the entire game last week at corner and did a tremendous job for us. I couldn't be any happier with the way Dennis Rogan is playing right now."

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