The light has come on for University of Tennessee at Chattanooga tight end Faysal Shafaat.
A 6-foot-5, 238-pound redshirt freshman from Orlando, Shafaat has built on what UTC coaches have described as remarkable summer — after a so-so spring — and moved ahead of Sean Stackhouse into the No. 1 spot at tight end.
“He’s done an unbelievable turnaround, from even last spring,” Mocs coach Russ Huesman said after Saturday’s practice. “Last spring was ugly — he could catch the ball but that’s about all he could do. This year: great effort, catching the ball, blocking, fighting and that’s all you can ask.”
It’s the “fight” Shafaat is showing that has impressed Huesman the most. Shafaat was primarily a wide receiver in high school so he had to learn to battle the big bruisers on defense.
“I think last spring he thought he was a wide receiver. You know, ‘Here I am, throw me the rock!’ No, we’ll throw you the rock after you get done blocking some people,” Huesman said. “The transformation from the spring to when he showed up in the summertime has been unbelievable; just a completely different person in every aspect of his life.”
Offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield said Shafaat has matured, learned to work in the weight and film rooms and that commitment has paid off in practice.
The driving force behind the growth? Shafaat said it was time to do it if he wanted to make an impact this season.
“This year I’ve really got something to work for,” he said. “I’m not a redshirt anymore and I want to get on the field and help my team.”
After studying the film of Friday’s scrimmage, in which the defense had the upper hand throughout, Satterfield said the offense didn’t look as bad as he’d originally thought.
“When I walked off the field I thought, oh my goodness, we’re the worst offense in America,” he said. “Then you watch the film and see that we were close to having a pretty good scrimmage. ... It wasn’t as bad as it looked — it never is.”
Huesman didn’t take it too easy on the Mocs during Saturday’s practice despite Friday’s 108-play scrimmage on the scalding turf at Finley Stadium. UTC was in shoulder pads and helmets instead of full gear, but they still went at it for more than two hours on a hot, muggy afternoon at Scrappy Moore Field.
It was among the team’s best practices of the preseason and Huesman let his players know it afterward.
“It could have been brutal out here today,” he said. “That’s a pretty good sign, that they came out and got after it pretty good.”
Defensive end Davis Tull suffered a broken hand in the scrimmage and did not practice Saturday. Wideout Joel Bradford, meanwhile, returned after missing two days with concussion-like symptoms. ... Former UTC running back Erroll Wynn, last season’s leading rusher, went through graduation ceremonies Saturday ... The Mocs practice at Scrappy today at 2 p.m.
John Frierson is in his seventh year at the Times Free Press and seventh year covering University of Tennessee at Chattanooga athletics. The bulk of his time is spent covering Mocs football, but he also writes about women’s basketball and the big-picture issues and news involving the athletic department. A native of Athens, Ga., John grew up a few hundred yards from the University of Georgia campus. Instead of becoming a Bulldog he attended Ole ...