published Tuesday, March 26th, 2013

Chattanooga Mocs pad for chilly practice

  • photo
    Cornerback Sema'je Kendall (16) runs a two on two route during practice at Scrappy Moore Field on Monday.
    Photo by Tim Barber /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

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The search committee for the next University of Tennessee at Chattanooga athletic director met Monday and trimmed its list of potential candidates.

"We had a great meeting. We reviewed a lot of great candidates and we're excited, but we're not going to get into specifics at this time," said committee chairman Dr. Debbie Ingram, the school's NCAA faculty representative. "We are continuing to move in a timely fashion. We have a great pool of candidates and there is excitement amongst the committee."

Rick Hart resigned last July as AD to assume the same position at Southern Methodist University. Laura Herron has been the interim AD and has said she has not applied for the full-time position.

"There are 15 committee members and we probably had 13 of them here today," said Ingram, a physical therapy professor. "I think we have a great group of candidates and a great committee.

"I cannot get into any further specifics today."

The random snowflakes and icy eastward winds created football season conditions for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga's third supposedly spring practice Monday at Scrappy Moore Field.

"If anybody is cold out here today, it's because you're not working hard enough," Mocs coach Russ Huesman said loud enough for his players to hear as they walked to the field before practice, dressed in full pads for the first time since ending the 2012 season with a 24-17 win over Elon in November.

"When I thought we were starting at the end of March, I thought we'd get great days, but here it is snowing," Huesman said. "It's probably worse on me than anybody because I'm the one standing around the whole time."

He did more than stand around.

He coached, barking at players from time to time while observing the development of his team from the one that went 6-5 last year with two losses in overtime and another on a last-minute field goal.

Spring practices are a time for players to refine their skills, improve fundamental techniques and perhaps stand out from others playing the same position. It's also time for experienced players such as D.J. Key and Zach McCarter to heal from offseason surgeries.

Their observation -- instead of participation -- during practice has provided younger defensive backs ample chances to drill, play, learn and impress newly promoted defensive coordinator Adam Braithwaite, who coached safeties last season.

"With the two guys that aren't participating, there's an opportunity for guys who haven't played a lot of college football to get some snaps," said Braithwaite, who moved from a small office on the fourth floor of McKenzie Arena with a window to a larger office lacking sunlight.

"By the end of spring ball, being technique- and assignment-sound is what you're looking for," he added. "I want to see guys compete and prove they should be on the field helping us."

Key and cornerback Kadeem Wise started every game last season. Chaz Moore started all but one game, and McCarter started the last six at strong safety.

With all four expected to return for UTC's 2013 opener against UT-Martin, the secondary should be solid. The improvement of Sema'je Kendall, a rising sophomore, during this spring adds to the number of players Braithwaite can count on later this year.

"Spring ball is an evaluation time to see what you need to work in the summer," Kendall said. "Fall camp is really when you fight for your positions. Spring ball is when you get the attention of coaches. I want to be more of a dominant player going into the fall. I'm just a sophomore, so I still have a lot of work to do."

Contact David Uchiyama at duchiyama@timesfreepress.com or at 423-757-6484. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/UchiyamaCTFP.

about David Uchiyama...

David Uchiyama is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who began his tenure here in May 2001. His primary beats are UTC athletics — specifically men’s basketball and athletic department administration — and golf, which includes coverage from the PGA Tour to youth events. He also covers other high school sports, outdoor adventures, and contributes to other sections of the newspaper when necessary. David grew up in Salinas, Calif., and began working ...

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