published Friday, January 18th, 2013

UTC's Durden likes 'fast,' 'loose' offense

Jeff Durden is the new offensive coordinator for the UTC Mocs.
Jeff Durden is the new offensive coordinator for the UTC Mocs.
Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

In a few short words, here's new University of Tennessee at Chattanooga offensive coordinator Jeff Durden's philosophy: "Go reckless, stay loose and score."

During a phone interview with the Times Free Press, Durden was asked to describe his philosophy in a nutshell. He said he told UTC's offensive assistant coaches the same thing during his interview at the AFCA convention in Nashville earlier this month.

"They kind of looked at me and did a double take," said Durden, who was born in Chattanooga -- he grew up in Dublin, Ga. -- and is joining the Mocs after nine seasons at James Madison.

Here's a fuller explanation of the approach he'll bring to the Mocs' offense:

"We want you to play fast, play wide open -- that's the reckless part. Stay loose: Don't worry about what happens on first or second down -- third down's the money down. And then it doesn't really matter how we do it, running or throwing, we've just got to score points."

Mocs coach Russ Huesman saw firsthand what a Durden offense can do while coaching against him for five seasons as Richmond's defensive coordinator. In 2008, Richmond's national championship season, James Madison beat the Spiders 38-31.

JMU's offense was the best in the Colonial Athletic Association that season, and quarterback Rodney Landers was the player of the year. Landers was athletic and fast and made good decisions running and throwing -- a description that could also fit Mocs quarterbacks Jacob Huesman and Terrell Robinson.

Durden and his new boss both want to spread the ball around. Last season quarterback Huesman had team highs in carries (195) and rushing yards (904). That's 138 more attempts than anyone else; add in Robinson's 52 runs and the quarterbacks had a combined 247. Robinson also had a team-high 40 pass receptions.

"We've got to get the ball to more people," Coach Huesman said. "Obviously Terrell's a huge part and he's got to get the ball a lot, but it can't be the Jacob Huesman/Terrell Robinson show. It just can't be that next year."

Durden will arrive in town Sunday. After nearly a decade at James Madison, he was fired in December, and he said he's excited about a fresh start with the Mocs. He said he hasn't watched any UTC video yet.

"My first priority is to get down there and get with that staff and meet those players and see what makes them tick," he said. "I don't have any preconceived ideas; everybody gets a clean slate. ... Everybody's got a fresh start and let's see who can play."

Durden will have some time to get to know the team before spring practice. It starts on March 22 and the spring game will be April 20.

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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