That would be Dennis Rogan, a Knoxville native who grew up just a few miles from the UT campus. Further enhancing the experience is the fact the 5-10, 185-pound sophomore is a live wire – a guy with an abundance of energy and enthusiasm that his teammates find infectious.
“Dennis Rogan brings fun, excitement and joy ... on the defensive side and on kickoff and punt returns,” junior safety Demetrice Morley said. “That kid is awesome. I love him. I think he's going to do a lot of good things this year.”
Rogan certainly will have the opportunity to do a lot of good things this year. In addition to starting at cornerback vs. UCLA this evening, he is slated to return kickoffs and punts. He performed those last two duties brilliantly during the second half of 2007, averaging 29.5 yards on kickoff runbacks and 9.7 on punt runbacks. His 78-yard kickoff return helped spark a smashing defeat of Arkansas in Game 10 and his 45-yard fourth-quarter punt return set up the winning touchdown vs. Vanderbilt in Game 11.
Despite his youth and inexperience, Rogan beat out senior Antonio Gaines, junior Marsalous Johnson and sophomore Brent Vinson – all of whom were starters in 2007 – to win a first-team job at cornerback this fall.
“He's been working hard,” Morley noted. “He's got a lot to do (starting at corner, returning kickoffs and returning punts) so he's just got to take it one step at a time.”
One step Rogan is looking to make this fall is scoring his first career touchdown. He came close on several occasions last fall, only to be tackled each time by the opposing kicker.
“He's been working on breaking that last tackle,” Morley quipped, “and I think he's going to get it done this year. He's very humble, he's ready and he's excited. He can't wait to get out there.”
A lightly regarded prospect coming out of Fulton High School, Rogan scarcely left the Vol bench through the first half of the 2007 season. He has made incredible strides since then, however, and now has the complete faith of Tennessee's secondary coach.
“He has come along,” Larry Slade said. “Dennis has always had that great work ethic, so I expected him to come along.”