published Thursday, August 9th, 2012

Mocs handle grind UTC players continue to show good energy

Will Johnson (29) chases down the ball while practicing at Scrappy Moore Field early Tuesday morning
Will Johnson (29) chases down the ball while practicing at Scrappy Moore Field early Tuesday morning
Photo by Dan Henry /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Will Johnson jogged toward the Scrappy Moore Field exit Wednesday morning with his head up and shoulders back. This was not the look of a player feeling overworked or overwhelmed.

Despite it being the end of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football team's sixth preseason practice — and part one of the team's first two-a-day — there was a spring in the cornerback's step and a clear look in his eyes.

Wait, should't he, like any true freshman anywhere, be "swimming" or "in the jar" or any other expression coaches use to describe a player that's cracked or been given more than he can handle?

"At first, I'm not going to lie, I was kind of overwhelmed," said Johnson, a Class AAAA all-state defensive back Chattahoochee (Ga.) High School last season.

"You get in meetings and have your notebook, and you write down everything you can. Then you go back home and study it that night. ... I'm just trying to stay on top of my studies because everything they throw at me, I've got to be ready for it."

Guys like the 5-foot-11, 185-pound Johnson, an excellent all-around athlete who is working with the first-team nickel defense, should be able to run around all day. For an offensive lineman like center Patrick Sutton, who is actually undersized at 6-1, 265 pounds, the preseason grind takes a bigger toll.

Despite the physical punishment, Sutton said he felt good.

"The physical part of it is a little tough, as far as the two-a-day goes, but I'm not too worried about it," he said.

Sutton said he and the rest of the team would do a lot of damage at the lunch table between practices. They have to in order to stay energized. The Mocs will have the second of their three preseason two-a-days on Friday.

"I'll probably eat about two or three plates of food and drink three of four bottles of water and Powerades," Sutton said.

Practicing in full pads in the morning, UTC's offense stuck it to the defense quite a few times. Running back Keon Williams broke free on some big runs and several times wide receivers got behind the defense for long touchdown catches.

"They caught some good balls over the top of us and that can't happen, but that's good playing and you have to give them credit," said Mocs coach Russ Huesman, who still often talks like a defensive coordinator with his "us versus them" descriptions.

Huesman said the younger players "aren't dragging at all," while some of the veterans are needing too much instruction.

"I think mentally right now we're not where we need to be," he said. "We've got too many coaches having to tell too many players, older players, how to line up, where to go, what route to run, what coverage we're in."

During the evening practice in shells (helmets and shoulder pads), the Mocs didn't take it easy. Along with the standard offensive and defensive work, UTC spent a lot of time on special teams.

Extra points

Wide receiver Marlon Anthony sat out part of the morning practice with an ankle injury but was back on the field in the evening before limping off the field early, while defensive end Zack Rayl (ankle) did not practice. .... Running back Tollerance Sheppard reported to camp for the first time after waiting to be declared eligible by the NCAA clearing house.

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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