published Sunday, August 28th, 2011

Mocs 'biggest': Experienced talent, freshmen pressure

In this file photo, UTC coach Russ Huesman talks to players during a spring scrimmage at Finley Stadium.
In this file photo, UTC coach Russ Huesman talks to players during a spring scrimmage at Finley Stadium.
Photo by Angela Lewis.

Biggest strength: The Mocs have more experienced talent than they’ve had in many, many years. This senior class has an All-American in wide receiver Joel Bradford and a big group of players that have earned All-Southern Conference honors, including quarterback B.J. Coleman and linebacker Ryan Consiglio. As a whole UTC has a young team, but the Mocs have veterans in a lot of key positions, especially on defense.

Biggest weakness: True and redshirt freshmen will be counted on heavily as starters and backups. Two freshmen will start on the offensive line, two will start on the defensive line and three freshmen will be counted on in the passing game. As many as 20 freshmen likely will see significant playing time this season, so a lot of guys are going to have to grow up in a hurry.

Biggest star: Joel Bradford came out of nowhere last season to set a UTC single-season receiving record with 1,284 yards. He caught 81 passes, earned third-team All-American honors and was the only Football Championship Subdivision player in the country to have two receiving games of 200 yards or more. He will surely see more attention from defenses this season, but the 6-foot, 162-pound Bradford has a knack for getting open and making big plays.

Biggest future star: Davis Tull might be UTC’s best all-around athlete, and the redshirt freshman will be lining up at defensive end. He’s got a 41-inch vertical leap and the strength and quickness to get into the backfield and cause problems. He should benefit from Josh Williams playing at the other end position, which could open things up for Tull to have a big first season.

Biggest game: It’s not a SoCon game, but nothing on UTC’s schedule stands out quite as much as the Sept. 10 matchup with Jacksonville State. The Gamecocks have won the last four meetings, including a 21-17 come-from-behind win last season. Along with being a rival, Jacksonville State is a preseason top-10 team, so it’s a chance for the Mocs to make an early statement in their home opener.

Biggest finish: The Mocs have the talent and experience to challenge for the SoCon championship and earn the program’s first trip to the playoffs since 1984 (UTC’s only appearance). However, UTC has a daunting schedule that includes four teams ranked in the top 10 of numerous polls, plus the opener at Nebraska. Winning six games will be an achievement given the schedule, but if UTC can stay healthy and finish better than it did in 2010, eight wins is within reach.

about John Frierson...

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 ...

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