published Sunday, March 25th, 2012

Mocs have ‘three slam dunks’ at DE

  • photo
    Quarterback Jacob Huesman throws the ball Saturday during the Mocs' second scrimmage of the spring held at Finley Stadium in Chattanooga.
    Photo by Ashlee Culverhouse /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Josh Williams is the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga’s sack master. Davis Tull could be by the time his career is finished. They could become the best defensive end duo in the Southern Conference.

And what makes Mocs coach Russ Huesman especially happy is that UTC doesn’t have just two ends who can wreak havoc. The emergence of Zach Rayl this spring has given the Mocs a trio, as the three demonstrated during Saturday’s scrimmage at Finley Stadium.

“We’ve got three slam dunks, in my opinion,” Huesman said.

The defense dominated the offense during UTC’s three practices leading up to the scrimmage, but the offense was able to move the ball on the ground Saturday. The passing game was less successful — Tull had a pair of sacks and Rayl had one.

The 6-foot-2, 235-pound Williams is the best known quantity of the three. He has the school record with 21 1/2 sacks, after just three seasons, and led the SoCon with 9 1/2 in 2011.

In his first season, after redshirting in 2010, the 6-3, 225-pound Tull had five sacks. He seems to get bigger, stronger and more tuned in to his position by the week.

“Tull’s an animal,” Huesman said.

“Tull’s a monster out there,” Williams said.

Williams and Tull help each other on the field. Teams that choose to double-team Williams leave Tull in a one-on-one situation that likely will work in his favor. If they don’t double-team Williams out of respect for what Tull can do, well, it’s a catch-22.

The addition of Rayl, Williams said, will make UTC’s pass rush even better because the players can rotate in and out to keep them all fresh.

“Zach has come along — his moves have gotten better — and you can see it,” Williams said. “In winter workouts he was a grinder every day, and it’s paying off for him. Me and Tull are going to anchor it and Zach will back us up.

“We’re firing on all cylinders this year.”

Huesman, Williams and defensive coordinator Adam Fuller all spoke of the big jump Rayl has made this spring. A quarterback and safety at McMinn Central High School, Rayl started out at UTC as a linebacker before switching to defensive end last spring because the Mocs had so many injuries at that position.

From his first practice it was clear that he’d found his position, though there was work to be done. Rayl, who’s now 6-3, 235 pounds, played in nine games last season and had one sack.

The Mocs are thin at defensive end and they needed for Rayl to step up his game, and he has.

“He’s really, really physical, for a 235-pound kid,” Fuller said.

Huesman raved about Rayl’s development, which he showed off by sacking Jacob Huesman for a 10-yard loss early in the scrimmage.

“He’s playing that position like we want that position played,” Coach Huesman said. “He’s been really good and I’m proud of Zach this spring.”

There might be other teams with two high-quality defensive ends, Huesman said, but “I don’t think anybody will have three.”

SCRIMMAGE STARS

The highlight of the night was 300-pound defensive tackle Chris Mayes’ 55-yard fumble return for a touchdown, followed by a sporty dance as he ran to the sideline. Quarterback Terrell Robinson twice connected with tight end Faysal Shafaat for touchdowns, and Jacob Huesman had some good runs, including a 60-yarder.

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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