Rogan finds niche on special teams

Freshman from Fulton threat returning punts and kickoffs

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Add Dennis Rogan's name to the list of Tennessee players who have put their stamp on the return game this season.

In the now 19th-ranked Vols' victory over Arkansas on Saturday, the true freshman became the third UT player to return a kickoff for more than 65 yards this season.

Rogan, a two-time Class 3A Mr. Football finalist at Fulton High School, had a 78-yard return, the longest by a Vol this season.

Tennessee ranks first in kickoff returns in the SEC entering Saturday's 2 p.m. game against Vanderbilt in Neyland Stadium (TV: Pay-per-view) and seventh nationally with an average of more than 25 yards a return.

"We're doing a much better job of blocking and staying on blocks and having guys back there with excellent vision," UT coach Phillip Fulmer said Sunday. "It usually gets back to the returner, to be honest with you, and we've had some guys back there that are very capable of doing that."

Starting tailback Arian Foster had his only three returns of the season in the season-opener at California, including a 68-yarder.

LaMarcus Coker, dismissed from the team two weeks ago, still ranks as UT's leading kickoff returner with 21 tries for 560 yards and a 74-yard return against Florida.

But Rogan is quickly becoming UT's guy on special teams.

Rogan took over for senior Jonathan Hefney on punt returns before the Louisana-Lafayette game and returned four punts against Arkansas for 32 yards with a long of 15 yards.

"He did a nice job," Fulmer said. "A very nice job actually. There were a couple plays that if we block it a little better they could have been real big. Dennis has good vision, he's going to handle the ball."

UT's coaches spent time drilling Rogan on various situations involved in returning kickoffs and punts.

Now that Rogan has gained their trust, he's found his place on the field.

"I think the future bodes very well for him, both as a kickoff returner and a punt returner," Fulmer said.

Injury Update: Special teams players Ja'Kouri Williams and LaMarcus Thompson did not practice Sunday night after each suffered minor concussions against Arkansas.

"They got their bell rung during the course of the game, and I think it's just a precaution," Fulmer said.

Beyond those two, Fulmer does not expect anyone to be limited this week, although there are plenty of accumulated bumps and bruises after 10 games.

"Several guys are sore," Fulmer said. "It was a very physical football game, but I don't expect anyone to miss any practice time or the game."

Colquitt Kicking: Through 10 games this season, punter Britton Colquitt is averaging 2.2 fewer yards per punt than he did last season.

Colquitt averaged 44.7 yards a punt last year and is averaging 42.5 this season.

"His standards are very high," Fulmer said. "He's getting very little return yardage on his punts. There are places certainly he can make a big difference. I don't think he's been hitting the ball quite as well as he did earlier in the year, but the results have been positive so far."

UT's net-punting average, which factors in opponents' return yardage, is within a yard of last year's 37.6-yard average.

Upon Further Review: All the things that Tennessee appeared to do well on defense Saturday turned up on film.

The Vols tackled well, maintained their assignments and played disciplined in holding Arkansas ground attack to just 127 rushing yards, Fulmer said.

"We tackled well in the ball game and played really well assignment-wise," Fulmer said. "We did not give them plays and chunks of yards. Just played really good assignment football and tackled well."

No Thanks For The Memory: Vanderbilt's trip to Neyland Stadium on Saturday will be the Commodores' first visit since they defeated UT 28-24 in 2005.

"There's nothing good to remember about it," Fulmer said. "They made the plays down the stretch to win the ball game."

Drew Edwards covers University of Tennessee football. He may be reached at 865-342-6274.

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Comments » 22

IceVol writes:

I'm excited to see Rogan down the stretch. Hope he can be a real impact like he has been in the past 2 games. Were in for a great finish... GO VOLS.

Bigger_Al writes:

Wow. I had to read that a 2nd time. We are #1 in the SEC in a Special Teams category!!

Come to think of it, maybe even more that that one. I guess Lincoln probably has the best FG and EP statistics as well.

ksteelescvol writes:

We are starting to look more like the UT teams that Fulmer has done so well with. Solid running, good return game, we have even got a hand on a couple of punts this year. If the defense keeps coming along we'll have a chance to get to Atlanta and anything is possible from there.

volgrog#210164 writes:

My guess is that we are #1 in the number of blocked punts as well. We've certainly improved in kickoff coverage and punt coverage from the beginning of the year. I don't want to jinx us, so no more on the subject.

amyslins writes:

lincoln was nominated as one of the top twenty kickers in the nation and broke either hall or wilhoit's (i can't remember which one specifically) freshman field goal mark this weekend of total field goals.

rogan is super fast. i had the opportunity of following the fulton high school football team around for the last two years and i got to see him break many ankles on the field. i am glad that he is keeping his head on straight, and continuing this trend. he just needs to learn when to take a fair catch...even though i enjoy not taking things for granted.

jclowers writes:

You think Rogan is doing good now. If we can get to the SEC Title game, think how fast he will be on the turf at the Georgia Dome. The real unfortunate thing is that people will start kicking away from him soon if he keeps being an impact special teams player. Arkansas already had a couple of kicks where they were trying to stay away from him. Hopefully Vanderbilt and Kentucky will be dumb enough to let him get his hands on the ball. Go Vols, lets beat up on our little brothers and get to the SEC Championship Game!!!

andy112382#209793 writes:

On top in a special teams category, wow. I may have orange shaded glasses on, but you would have to be wearing glasses with black sharpie smeared all over the lenses not to see the bright future for this team.


DenmarkVol_aka_Mbumburu writes:

Why on earth have we stuck with Hefney this long?

pdhuff#552644 writes:

Go Vols and beat the Dores! Pls do not slip into the Bama mode, whatever that was to look that bad against a mediocre John Parker Wilson. Get after the Dores early and coast home in this one! No death struggles, please!! Remind yourselves of the chance to play a #1 LSU! I know, a chance, but still a chance! Phil, play Hardesty as much as you can. Tough, tough runner! Creer has potential, remember, you left Jamal Lewis on the bench before giving him a chance! Go Vols!

lnbadger320 writes:

touchdowntn, i think you summed up a big problem fulmer has. it took this long for him to see what type of player rogan is. he still will not learn from the past.

callen825#321558 writes:

Dennis Rogan and Eric Berry are both extremely talented true freshmen. I am glad that they are showing the coaches what they can really do.
This was a nice article to read, in relation to the positive responses from the fans.
Don't go to sleep this Saturday guys! You, as well as your fan base, need 2 more wins this regular season.

vol52 writes:

Remember 1997 and Jamal Lewis played very little against fla and that was not good.

jweaver3#395614 writes:

It has become a new day and age for freshmen, They are more mature and readier now out of high school. I think Coach Phil needs to realize that also, you can trust them sooner these days. Maybe Berry and Rogan will make him realize this and it will help UT in the future.

amyslins writes:

the deal with rogan has been that he had an academic issue coming in and was not able to start practicing with the team until fall practice. and he did get some playing time during southern miss, so i would say that is an amazing turn around personally.

andefromtn#212139 writes:

If Dennis Rogan has great vision and can run, why doesn't Fulmer and Cutcliffe consider a special package for him in hte offense? This kid ran for over 5,000 yards in high school. He was also a good receiver.

beachdvs#623175 writes:

Speaking of injury update...was Chris Brown injured Saturday? I don't remember hearing his name or seeing him on the field vs. Arkansas

Ironcity writes:

Whats all this talk about Rogan not playing early enough. We are 7th in the country on kick returns. Coker is still way up there even though he is gone. Give the coach a break here. I have said this before and I will say it again, there are things Coach has done poorly but some of you are the biggest second guessers of all time! Lets take care of business against Vandy and then we are going to have play the road game of the year to beat KY. FYI I heard Jim Donnon on the radio in Atl. today and a UT fan called and was complaining abpout the team and the coaching and Donnon pretty much admonished the fan and asked what he was so upset about. He mentioned that UT fans should be showing love for the team and the head coach after such a big win and having the team on pace to be in the championship game of the best confernce in America.

webbofconfusion writes:

Fulmer recognized the talent or Rogan would not be on the team. I would be willing to bet that with a high pressure season at the start, it is hard to find the correct game situations to get him in to play. He played against LA Laf, because they were a very mediocre team with no threat of beating us. Once he proved himself, no reason not to start him.

I am glad they did... Rogan provided some spark for our more than lack luster offense. I hope he keeps it up the next couple of games, and every one gets the energy he brings to the game.

tenvolone writes:

The traditional college football system of playing upperclassmen seems to be less and less relevant. Coaches are recognizing the potential of freshman more than ever. High schools are producing superior physical atheletes, as well as, providing well developed players to colleges...

BigManVolFan writes:

All I can say about our special teams play is it's about time...I have been screaming all season to put Rogan back there on kick offs and punt returns and look what he did in his first real chance...He only had the longest return for the team this year...I was at the game Saturday and you could see the difference Rogan makes on returns...The one he returned for 78 yards...He hit the middle of the field and then bounced outside in full stride...He didnt slow down to make a cut....WOW!!!! Where have you been Mr. Rogan!!

utmdm writes:

beach ... the guys on the Sunday night show had a sheet they said was part of the Ark game plan. Just about every defensive lineup had Brown's number highlighted as if stopping him was a major key to their defensive game plan.

pdhuff#552644 writes:

BigmanVolFan, Rogan may not fit in Fulmer's the older guys always play system. Jamal Lewis wasn't good enuf at first! We'll need everybody to beat Dores! Go Vols!

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