The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga ran 763 plays on offense last football season. Quarterback Jacob Huesman ran the ball, threw it or caught it on 459 of them. Terrell Robinson, the Mocs' other run-throw-catch triple threat, was involved in 136 plays.
When the 25th-ranked Mocs open their season Thursday against UT-Martin at Finley Stadium, those two again will be heavily involved in making the offense go. But they should have a lot more help under new offensive coordinator Jeff Durden.
"He's spreading it around and getting the ball to other people, and I hope that helps us this year," head coach Russ Huesman said.
Getting the running backs and wide receivers more involved has been a priority in the preseason. As they've developed and grown more confident, so has the offense as a whole.
"I think our guys are pretty confident that we can move the ball and score some points," wide receivers coach Will Healy said. "I think Durden's done a really good job of developing confidence in our offense, and our guys are confident in him -- that he's got a system, knows what he wants to run, he's done it before and been successful with it."
UTC hasn't had an abundance of production from its running backs the past few seasons. Jacob Huesman led the Mocs with 904 yards last season and running back Kenny Huitt was second with 288. Keon Williams and Marquis Green are the lead backs entering the season.
"I like what we're doing running the ball and throwing the ball," right tackle Hunter Dockery said, "and I think we'll have some big plays this year."
The Mocs will be facing a Skyhawks defense that lost five starters and had problems in the second half of the 2012 season. In UT-Martin's final six games, the defense gave up 37 or more points four times.
"Statistically we struggled the last six games of the year," UT-Martin coach Jason Simpson said. "We had some injuries and never really recovered. As our offense got better, our defense got worse. But the thing we did was, we were No. 7 in the country in [turnover margin]."
The Skyhawks forced 26 turnovers, tied for 13th in the Championship Subdivision, and their turnover margin was plus-1.2. UTC was 14th in the FCS with a turnover margin of 0.73.
Durden repeatedly preaches ball security, making smart decisions with the ball and "how to avoid the bad play." The Mocs gave the ball away just nine times in 2012, in part by not being particularly aggressive in the passing game.
"You've got to be real careful because the one thing you can do is coach caution into your kids," Durden said. "I hope we've done that in certain elements of the game, but others I want them to play. What we say is: 'Go reckless, stay loose and score.' ... But that doesn't mean be careless. That's that fine line that we're walking."
UTC's receiving corps should be improved with the continued development of Robinson, who will still play some quarterback, Tommy Hudson and C.J. Board, a redshirt freshman who came on strong in the spring and continued to play at a high level in the preseason. Also new to the corps is true freshman Xavier Borishade.
The Mocs also have a preseason first-team All-Southern Conference tight end in Faysal Shafaat, who was second on the team, and first among SoCon tight ends, with 37 catches last season.
Speaking to the Chattanooga Quarterback Club on Monday, Coach Huesman said he expected true freshmen Borishade, running back Derrick Craine and walk-on long snapper Joe McMahon to play this season. ... Huesman said true freshmen quarterbacks Tyler Roberson and Alejandro Bennifield will travel with the team but he's hoping to redshirt both.
Contact John Frierson at email@example.com or 423-757-6268. Follow him at twitter.com/MocsBeat.
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 ...