published Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

Mocs have competition at safety

  • photo
    In this file photo, Jordan Tippit works on defensive plays with his team during the Mocs practice at Scrappy Moore field.
    Staff File Photo by Dan Henry/Chattanooga Times Free Press

There is competition this spring for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football team’s two starting safety spots. That wasn’t the case last season.

Jordan Tippit and Chris Lewis-Harris are returning starters and D.J. Key also is working with the first team. Three players in the mix is one more than the Mocs had in 2010 because Tippit and Lewis-Harris had the jobs to themselves.

“There was nobody pushing them, nobody in back of them. There was no backup plan,” defensive coordinator Adam Fuller said. “When they played well it was fine and nobody noticed, but when they didn’t play well there was no [other option].

“I think competition helps in practice. I don’t know how much it helps in a game, but it for sure helps Monday through Friday.”

Key started two games at safety last season when Tippit was out with an ankle injury, but he primarily was a backup linebacker — a very productive one. Key finished second on the team with 57 tackles and was named to the Southern Conference’s All-Freshman team.

“We’ve got to get D.J. on the field,” head coach Russ Huesman said, something he mentioned several times last season. “He’s one of our best 11 defensive players, so we’ll figure out a way.”

Tippit and Lewis-Harris are heading into their senior seasons. After making 60 stops and earning first-team All-SoCon honors in 2009, Tippit had a down season last fall. He missed two games and finished with 29 tackles, though he did have three interceptions.

After moving from cornerback to safety last spring, Lewis-Harris was third on the team in tackles last season with 55 stops.

Pro day today

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The Mocs’ offensive line had an “up and down” practice Tuesday, Geep Wade said. That’s about what the offensive line coach expected after a break of nearly two weeks.

At the end of practice the first-team offense and defense went at it in the two-minute drill, and Wade’s guys were able to get set for the quick snaps and protect the quarterback. Wade said there was one missed assignment but otherwise he was pretty pleased with the performance.

Former UTC cornerback Buster Skrine will be the star attraction during the Mocs’ pro day today. After posting some of the best running numbers at the NFL combine, Skrine and several other former Mocs will work out for scouts and position coaches.

Because of his good performance at the combine, Skrine will not run the 40-yard dash or anything else today. He said he will be doing only position drills.

Skrine, rated a possible third-round pick by ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr., said he also has five individual workouts with teams scheduled for the next few weeks, as well as a team visit.

Mocs strength coach Scott Brincks said six former players will participate in the pro day, including two-time All-SoCon left tackle Chris Harr and All-SoCon tight end Garrett Hughes.

Extra points

The Mocs held their first practice since March 9 on Tuesday, and as expected some of the players were a little rusty. ... Defensive end Davis Tull (broken hand) didn’t practice and will be held out of contact for the rest of the spring.

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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