published Tuesday, August 21st, 2012

UTC shows good answers for five questions

At the start of preseason camp, the Times Free Press looked at five questions facing the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football team heading into the 2012 season. With two scrimmages completed and the Sept. 1 season opener at South Florida 11 days away, here's a look at how those questions have been answered:

1. Can UTC's defense be even better than the 2011 squad that led the SoCon?

After both scrimmages, coach Russ Huesman expressed concerns about whether or not he was a playmaker or two short on defense. A coach will always want more, but the Mocs have as many playmakers on defense as any team in the Southern Conference.

The Mocs have loads of depth on the defensive line and Muhasibi Wakeel has had a good enough preseason to emerge as the fourth linebacker, behind the starting trio led by All-American Wes Dothard. Three members of the secondary are high-quality returning players, but the free safety spot and UTC's nickel and dime defensive backs are far from settled.

UTC's defense can lead the SoCon again, but it might not be ready to do so at the start of the season.

2. How will the new offense perform with Terrell Robinson and Jacob Huesman taking over for B.J. Coleman and splitting time at quarterback?

The offense hasn't always been perfect or played at the speed offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield likes, but it has been effective. Running and throwing, Robinson and Huesman both have been very effective leading the offense.

Huesman has done the bulk of the passing and was a combined 40-for-61 for 490 yards, with three touchdowns and an interception, in the two scrimmages. Robinson was 20-of-30 for 209 yards with a touchdown and two INTs, and he had 20 carries for 111 yards and three touchdowns.

The new offense also is a better fit with the Mocs' line, which has quickness and gumption but not a lot of size.

3. Does UTC have a corps of receivers who can make the passing game effective?

The passing game not only has been effective in practice without Joel Bradford lined up out wide, but it has been solid, and sometimes explosive, with top returning wideout Marlon Anthony on the sideline with a bad ankle.

Sophomore Tommy Hudson -- five receptions for 30 yards in 2011 -- continues to emerge as a go-to guy in the Bradford mold. In UTC's scrimmages, he had a combined 14 receptions for 154 yards and a touchdown. Sophomore Bryant Belew caught eight for 144 yards in the second scrimmage, and now that his confidence is up, his game could jump a few notches.

Freshmen Tray James, C.J. Board and Al Thompson IV all have had good moments.

4. Could the Mocs have the best defensive line in the SoCon?

The play of ends Josh Williams and Davis Tull has never been a question during the preseason -- they might be the Mocs' hardest-working pair -- but the guys in the middle have had their ups and downs.

There's no reason to question the abilities of UTC's defensive tackles, but playing the way their coaches want them to play sometimes has been an issue. With Toyvian Brand, Chris Mayes and Derrick Lott poised to lead the way, the Mocs can be big, mean and physical inside.

5. Which new players will have the biggest impacts?

Georgia transfer Derrick Lott has been just about everything one would expect out of a former four-star defensive tackle at a prominent Southeastern Conference school. He's a legitimate 6-foot-4, 300 pounds, and he moves like someone who weighs at least 30 pounds less.

It remains to be seen what North Carolina State transfer safety Dean Haynes can do because he's been out since the third practice with a foot injury. He looked like one of the best athletes on the team during summer workouts, but it may take a while to regain that form whenever he returns.

Contact John Frierson at jfrierson@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6268. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/mocsbeatCTFP.

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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