published Thursday, November 14th, 2013

Chattanooga Mocs line key in rushing improvement

UTC defensive lineman Davis Tull (90) sacks Wofford quarterback Evan Jacks (3), forcing a fumble.
UTC defensive lineman Davis Tull (90) sacks Wofford quarterback Evan Jacks (3), forcing a fumble.
Photo by Doug Strickland /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

The numbers show the dramatic improvement: 1,845 rushing yards in 11 games during the 2012 season compared to 2,352 through 10 games this season.

One reason the 18th-ranked University of Tennessee at Chattanooga has moved to the top of the Southern Conference football standings and clinched at least a share of the crown has been the Mocs' improved running game. And a key factor in that has been the play of the offensive line.

"We've gotten a whole lot better as a group, in general," redshirt sophomore left guard Synjen Herren said, citing the increased experience of the four returning starters and the beyond-his-years play of redshirt freshman left tackle Corey Levin.

"Corey's the youngest guy, and he's held his own, for sure," Herren added.

The Mocs (8-2, 6-1 SoCon) had six straight games with at least 200 yards on the ground earlier this season and they have eclipsed the 200-yard mark eight times overall, including rushing for 233 in last week's 20-10 win against then-No. 15 Wofford.

On Saturday, UTC will face a Samford (6-3, 4-2) squad that ranks sixth in the SoCon in rushing defense, allowing 199.4 yards a game on the ground.

Quarterback Jacob Huesman leads UTC and is fourth in the league with 89.6 yards per game. With 896 yards on 161 carries this season, including 116 on 18 carries last week against Wofford, Jacob has a shot at a 1,000-yard season, the program's first since Eldra Buckley rushed for 1,204 in 2006.

"Probably the biggest thing with those guys is Revis," Jacob said Tuesday, referring to redshirt senior right guard Kevin Revis. "His leadership has been unbelievable. He kind of holds them together and drives them as a unit. He's a hard-nosed, aggressive kind of guy, and they take that mentality into the run game."

Jacob and wide receiver/backup quarterback Terrell Robinson have split repetitions at quarterback so far this week, with Robinson getting the repetitions on the quarterback runs. Jacob tweaked his left knee late in the Wofford win, Mocs coach Russ Huesman said after Wednesday's practice, and UTC is playing it safe in practice, both by giving Jacob some rest -- the knee stiffens up a bit during the down times in practice, especially in the cold conditions the past two days -- and by making sure Robinson is ready to go if needed.

Robinson ran the ball from the quarterback spot twice during the Mocs' final full drive against the Terriers. Huesman said Jacob "should be full speed" by Saturday.

"We need to run the ball with our quarterbacks, that's what our offense is, and I think Jacob should be fine," he said. "He should be all right, he's a tough kid, and they feel like with treatment he'll be 100 percent by Saturday. But you never know, and we've got to have Terrell ready to go just in case."

Running back Keon Williams was on pace to reach Buckley's single-season record of 1,233, but an ankle injury early in The Citadel game on Oct. 26, derailed that. Williams returned to practice this week with his left ankle heavily taped.

Contact John Frierson at jfrierson@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6268. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/MocsBeat.

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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