published Wednesday, September 14th, 2011

UTC needs work on special teams

University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football coach Russ Huesman did a lot of yelling during Tuesday's practice, directing much of it at the special-teams units.

In last week's 38-17 win over then-No. 10 Jacksonville State, the Mocs made play after play on offense and defense. But the special teams play lagged far behind, Huesman said.

"The kicking game in general, all the way across the board, was horrible," he said. "Coverage, kicks, punts, missed tackles, a kick out of bounds -- horrible. We've got to get that fixed. You'll lose games with that."

Nick Pollard has had a field-goal attempt blocked at Nebraska and an extra-point try blocked against JSU. Both were the results of low kicks, Huesman said, so this week the emphasis is on Pollard getting the ball up quickly.

During practice Tuesday, coaches stood at the line of scrimmage with 5-foot tackling dummies held above their heads as Pollard kicked.

"He got the ball up," Huesman said.

Opponents are averaging 12 yards per punt return, and Huesman said Mike Hammons needs to have more hang time on his punts, which have a net average of 31.2 yards.

"It helps coverage when you kick it high and kick it where you want it to be kicked," Huesman said. "[Hammons] knows that, and he's more than capable of doing it."

Huesman also stressed the need for the coverage players to tackle better on punts and kickoff returns.

"Some of these [special teams players] better start tackling or I'm not taking them on trips," he said.

The Mocs' coverage units will need to be sound Saturday against Eastern Kentucky, which features a dangerous returner in senior Jeremy Caldwell. The Chattanooga native has three career kickoff returns for touchdowns, including an 88-yarder last week against Missouri State.

Short SoCon schedule

UTC is one of just three SoCon teams in action this week. While UTC visits EKU, Appalachian State hosts Savannah State and Elon visits North Carolina Central, the rest of the league will be enjoying an off week.

Georgia Southern, now ranked No. 1 in both major polls, is off after beating Division II Tusculum last week. Eagles coach Jeff Monken said the break came at a good time for his team.

"Our guys really could use it," he said. "We had a long, hot camp. ... We practiced in the heat and I worry about our guys getting leg-weary."

As for being No. 1 in the FCS, Monken isn't buying it.

"We don't deserve the No. 1 ranking right now," he said. "There's a lot of 2-0 teams in the country, very good football teams. We're 2-0 just like they are, and I don't know what necessarily makes us the No. 1 team at this point."

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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