Frosh on the corners?

Don't be surprised if some of Tennessee's heralded freshmen make major contributions at cornerback this season.

After starting 10 games at corner last fall, junior Dennis Rogan worked exclusively at free safety during Tuesday's first preseason practice. With DeAngelo Willingham out of eligibility, the Vols find themselves looking to replace both of 2008's first-team cornerbacks.

Playing Rogan at safety suggests UT's staff may be looking at using true freshmen at corner. Cornerback is a much easier position for a freshman to play than safety because it involves a lighter mental workload.

"Corner is more natural instincts - just turning and running with people," Rogan said. "At safety you have to think a lot more and do more to help the rest of the defense, instead of just worrying about one person."

Tennessee's freshman class includes a quartet of ballyhooed cornerback prospects - Janzen Jackson (Lake Charles, La.), Eric Gordon (Nashville), Mike Edwards (Cleveland, Ohio) and Nyshier Oliver (Jersey City). Each was accorded a four-star ranking by Scout.com last winter and each could earn playing time as a true freshman this fall.

"Man, they all looked real good out there, especially with it being the first day and not getting to go over a lot of the plays with the coaches," Rogan said following Tuesday's workout. "They looked REAL good."

Should they continue to look real good in practice, two or three of the freshmen could be in the mix at cornerback this season. If so, Rogan is likely to remain at free safety.

No stranger to the position, Rogan was a key backup at free safety as a freshman in 2007 and started two games at the position in 2008. Perhaps he'll start all 12 games there in 2009. Then again, maybe he'll return to cornerback. Or perhaps he'll split time between safety and corner, as he did last fall.

"I'm not sure right now what the plans are," he said. "It really doesn't matter to me where I play. I just want to play."

Those freshman cornerbacks want to play, too. Based on early indications, some of them will get that chance.


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