The stage was set for University of Tennessee at Chattanooga kicker Nick Pollard. It was the end of practice Sunday morning at Scrappy Moore Field and his Mocs teammates were very eager to see Pollard put one through the uprights.
If the redshirt sophomore made the 43-yard field goal attempt — the field goal unit had only 20 seconds to run on the field, get set and snap the ball — the team wouldn't have to run. If he missed, everyone would do "gassers."
A preseason second-team All-Southern Conference pick by the league's coaches, Pollard didn't miss. That shouldn't have been a surprise, but his teammates' reactions may have been. Pollard was swarmed by the entire team, which celebrated like the kick was for the win over a SoCon rival.
The Mocs got along and supported one another last season, but there weren't many celebrations like Sunday's. It was a team-wide moment at the end of spirited practice.
"[The coaches] have always wanted us to be enthusiastic about everything we do, but we're just kind of taking it upon ourselves right now," senior right tackle Adam Miller said. "We want to make sure we get behind our teammates and in this case make sure Pollard knows that we're behind him. We are trying to make sure we have high spirits as we go through camp."
The Mocs' new pro spread offense lends itself to playing with more energy and pep.
"Our change in offense has brought a little more excitement," Miller said. "We always have to be on our toes. And our defense is always ready to go. I think those two combined have added to it."
UTC practiced in helmets and shoulder pads for the first time and had some contact in the team periods. Coach Russ Huesman said he liked the energy and effort that he saw.
"I like seeing them practice and run hard," he said. "I don't think we're executing great on either side of the ball yet, but that's why we're out here."
Asked to name a few players that had stood out to him during the Mocs' first three practices, Huesman was quick to point out running back Keon Williams and defensive backs Deshion Kendall and Will Johnson.
Williams, who was suspended for the 2011 season and returned to the team in the spring, looks leaner and quicker than he did as a freshman in 2010.
"Keon looks really good and I've been really pleased with him," Huesman said.
Kendall, a redshirt freshman, and Johnson, a true freshman, have been getting extra work with the first team while starter Chaz Moore is out with a hamstring injury.
"This freshman class, we've got some really nice looking kids in it," Huesman said. "I'm really pleased with it."
Safety Dean Haynes was helped off the field midway through practice after suffering a foot injury and did not return. ... The Mocs will be back at Scrappy today at 7 a.m., 45 minutes earlier than the previous two practices, in order to be finished in time for the summer school students to get to class.
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 ...