THE BIGGEST SURPRISES OF 2007: #1 - DENNIS ROGAN

I intend to do a more thorough review of the Class of 2007 later, but let's just take a quick look now. Here are the players and how they ranked according to the RTT Jars System:

The 2007 Class

Now, quick, off the top of your head, which freshman played the most significant roles on the team this year? Berry, Vinson, Creer, Jones, Moore, McKenzie, Willingham, and Rogan, right? Berry, Vinson, Creer, and Jones were all in the top ten, so as well as they played, saying they were a "surprise" might be a bit of a stretch. Moore, McKenzie, and Willingham were ranked middle-of-the-road preseason and had fine, but unexceptional, performances.

Dennis Rogan, on the other hand, was ranked 25th out of 32 in the class, and he did in fact have an exceptional season. His five jar rating was a result of three stars each from Rivals and Scout, an ESPN score of 74, and offers from the likes of Miami, Virginia Tech, Ole Miss, Arkansas, and Middle Tennessee. Yes, we knew that he had rushed for 2,112 yards and 31 (not a typo!) touchdowns as a junior at Fulton High School in Knoxville and 2,876 yards and 44 touchdowns as a senior. Yes, we knew that he gained 255 yards on the ground and had 406 all-purpose yards versus Pearl-Cohn in the state semifinals and that his 208 yards helped his team win the state championship over David Lipscomb.

But . . . there was the matter of those pesky three stars a piece from the recruiting experts. Shouldn't overlook those, right?

Should've.

Rogan spent the first half of the season as he spent most of the recruiting season -- in relative obscurity. After the first five games, he had a grand total of one kickoff return of 31 yards against Florida. But in late September, Rogan dominated Tennessee's first junior varsity game since 1992, racking up a total of 191 all-purpose yards, including 72 yards on two punt returns and 104 yards on three kickoff returns.

So get that guy some touches, stat, right? Not really. It was nearly a month later, after senior Jonathan Hefney continued to struggle returning punts, that the Tennessee coaching staff truly discovered Rogan's talent by giving him an opportunity to return punts in Hefney's stead. Against Arkansas, Rogan returned four punts for 32 yards and one kickoff for 78 yards. Vanderbilt? Three for 72 and three for 74. Kentucky? Three for 24 and two for 48. By the time the end of the season rolled around, Rogan had piled up 165 yards as a punt returner and 383 yards as a kickoff returner all despite the fact that he'd had meaningful touches in only half of the season's games.

Not bad for a three-star, five-jar guy, huh?

See also:

What have I missed? Leave your biggest surprises of the season below.

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