published Monday, August 13th, 2012

Mocs follow the signs: UTC coaches implementing system to keep offense moving quickly

  • photo
    The offense uses a new sign signal system to communicate plays to players on the field during UTC's afternoon scrimmage at Finley Stadium on Saturday. The offense squared off against the defensive line in the Mocs' first preseason scrimmage.
    Photo by Alyson Wright /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

The combinations of signs and signals the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga offense is using this season is a new twist — a means of rapid communication in the Mocs’ new, fast-paced system.

UTC is one of many teams that have switched to the signal system that incorporates signs or placards with one or more images on it. The sign, along with hand signals from assistant coaches and backups, tell the players on the field everything they need to know.

“It’s just us trying to play faster,” offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield said following Sunday’s practice at Scrappy Moore Field. “Since we’re not huddling as much, we need to be able to get lined up and on the ball and get as much communicated as quick as we possibly can.”

UTC doesn’t go quite as wild with the signs the way Oregon does — in the past the Ducks have used images ranging from ESPN anchor Scott Van Pelt to the University of New Hampshire logo to Bill Murray’s character in “Caddyshack” — but Satterfield said the signs do need to be eye-catching.

They also need to be something that triggers an immediate memory in the players, which is why Satterfield let the players pick the images. Among them are the ace of spades and Jim Carrey in “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective.”

“We just make them up as we go and if you learn it, you’re going to know it,” quarterback Terrell Robinson said. “If you don’t know it, you won’t play.”

Satterfield has yelled one word more than any other during the preseason: “backpedal.” That’s because the players have to backpedal to their position between plays and look at the signals on the sideline as they do so.

Not looking straight ahead as you jog to the line of scrimmage can be a hard habit to break if you’ve gone into a huddle your entire career.

“You look at the signs and see where you need to get lined up,” running back Marquis Green said. “You’ve got to get lined up fast and stay focused and you’ve got to keep looking to the sidelines because they may change the play. It’s just repetition, really.”

Mocs coach Russ Huesman didn’t have much to say when asked about the new system.

“Yards and points, that’s all I care about,” he said.

In other words, it doesn’t matter what the offense needs to do to get into the end zone as long as it gets there. The offense found the end zone often during Saturday’s scrimmage and Satterfield said the signal system worked well.

“I thought we’d be way behind where we are now, coming into camp, because nobody on our staff has ever done it and our players had never done it — and we changed every single thing about our offense,” he said. “We’ve got a long, long way to go, but at least we’re headed in the right direction.”

Extra points

The Mocs practiced without pads on Sunday but didn’t have things too easy. The end of practice featured a lot of running, and pressure on the field-goal unit. For every Nick Pollard miss, the team had to run — and there were several misses. ... Sema’je Kendall has been moved back to free safety from cornerback, a reversal of a switch made in the spring. The move comes following the return of starting corner Chaz Moore (hamstring).

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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