The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga offense has been up and down through its first five games this season, but one thing has been consistent: the play of tight end Faysal Shafaat.
The redshirt sophomore, a preseason second-team All-Southern Conference pick, goes into Saturday's game at Furman (2-4, 1-2) with a team-high 19 receptions -- his 3.8 catches per game is tied for seventh in the SoCon -- and three touchdowns.
"I feel all right, but I'm not satisfied at all," he said.
When UTC (2-3, 1-1) has needed a catch in a critical situation, such as fourth-and-goal against The Citadel two weeks ago, Shafaat usually has been the target.
"Going in, we thought he'd have a big year," offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield said before UTC's 28-10 win over the Bulldogs. "We didn't know how big it would be and we still don't know how big it will be, but he's a young man that works hard and competes.
"It's not an accident that he's getting a lot of balls. I'm really proud of where he is and where he's going. He's only going to get better the harder he works."
Against The Citadel, the big 6-foot-5 target caught a 1-yard touchdown pass in the closing seconds of the first half to put the Mocs up 14-3 at the break. Shafaat had perhaps his best game the week before against Appalachian State, when he caught five passes for 58 yards and a touchdown.
Two of those catches went for 21 yards and first downs, on a third-and-10 and a third-and-17.
"I just like when my number's called," Shafaat said. "I know in certain situations, tight end is a really good option. I just like to take advantage of it when Coach calls a play for me."
Shafaat is on pace for an All-SoCon season. In 2010, UTC tight end Garrett Hughes was first-team All-SoCon with 25 catches for 346 yards and five touchdowns. For Shafaat to make first team he will have to outplay Furman's Colin Anderson, a preseason All-American.
Like Shafaat, Anderson has 19 receptions. But while Shafaat's have covered 196 yards, Anderson has 321 receiving yards. UTC head coach Russ Huesman said teams have to account for Shafaat and Anderson on every play.
"The problem with those two guys is that, some games you go into a game and you just ignore the tight end," he said. "He catches a 6-yard deal, so what. This game, you can't ignore a tight end. We just can't ignore the guy, and I think people are starting to find out about Faysal, too: You can't ignore him.
"Faysal's a threat to do something downfield, and Colin is the same way."
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 ...