For more than a week University of Tennessee at Chattanooga cornerback Chaz Moore was limited to running his mouth because of a bad hamstring. He's a talker, one with an unusual Memphis twang, and that was about all he could do in practice.
The speedy and fearless junior, who plays bigger than his 5-foot-10, 170-pound frame, started four games in 2011 and played plenty in the Mocs' nickel and dime packages. During the Mocs' Monday morning practice at Scrappy Moore Field, Moore was finally on the field in full pads and made his share of plays.
"The hamstring's getting looser day by day, and today was the first day of me being live," Moore said. "It felt good out there today."
Redshirt freshman Sema'je Kendall had been working in Moore's place on the first-team defense. Kendall practiced at safety last season before being moved to cornerback during spring practice.
The 6-foot, 175-pound Kendall played well enough at corner during the first 10 days of practice that he earned the chance to keep playing with the starters following Moore's return. That meant returning him to free safety, ahead of Zach McCarter on the depth chart.
"Sema'je has been playing so well -- he's a ballplayer and he's been playing so well -- and we're trying to find ways to get the best 11 on the field, however it occurs," Mocs coach Russ Huesman. "Right now I think Sema'je's among the best 11. For him to play behind Chaz doesn't make a whole lot of sense."
Kendall said moving back to safety didn't require much of an adjustment, and like former Moc defensive back Chris Lewis-Harris last season, Kendall could see action at both positions during the season. Going through his second preseason hasn't been quite as physically demanding as last August, Kendall said, but mentally the challenges are still there.
"Physically last year I was sore, and it was hard to just walk down to the practice field," he said. "Now I can run around, but I'm learning so much that it's almost like I'm catching brain cramps."
Safety Dean Haynes, the North Carolina State transfer who has been out with a foot injury since the third practice, is still in a cast. Haynes is expected to challenge for the starting job when he returns, but that may not be until September.
Moore wants more
Moore was No. 19 in the Football Championship Subdivision last season with an average kickoff return of 26.0 yards. His long was 44 yards, a number he'd like to push to 80 or more once or twice this season.
"Hopefully when I cross the 50 this year I can take it to the house instead of being tackled whenever I cross the 50," he said.
Wideout Tommy Hudson will replace Joel Bradford as the Mocs' punt returner, Huesman said, with Moore possibly serving as the backup. UTC ranked No. 116, out of 120, in punt returns last season with an average of 3.08 yards a return.
Huesman said the Mocs need to do better, but not at the expense of making a mistake and giving the ball away.
Defensive tackle Derrick Lott (shoulder) left the field near the end of practice and did not return. ... Cornerback Will Johnson (head) returned after missing a few days with concussion-like symptoms, while fullback Taharin Tyson and safety Keith Mayes are still sidelined. ... The Mocs will conduct their last two-a-day today.
Contact John Frierson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6268. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/mocsbeatCTFP.
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 ...