Josh Williams was in the crowd at Finley Stadium last Saturday, watching the assault on his record. And watching with pride.
Williams remains, for now, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga’s all-time sack king with 23.5. The former All-Southern Conference defensive end had two sacks as a senior last season to give himself a small bit of breathing room ahead of his pursuer, and protégé, Davis Tull.
In the Mocs’ 31-9 win over Furman last week, Tull had a career-high 3.5 sacks, giving him 23 for his career, halfway through his junior season. He was named the national co-defensive player of the week by The Sports Network and the SoCon defensive player of the week.
Tull set a UTC record and led the SoCon with 12.5 sacks in 2012, when he had 18.5 tackles for loss. Throughout last season’s postseason honors parade — he made multiple All-America teams and was the SoCon defensive player of the year — Tull frequently credited Williams, along with defensive line coach Marcus West and others, with teaching him the tricks of the position.
“I do feel kind of like a proud older brother,” said Williams, who was a junior when he passed the old record of 14.5 sacks. “He does give me a lot of credit and I always tell him, it’s your grind and you put the work in — it’s all you.
“I’m always proud of him. He works so hard and he puts his all into it when he does something. I’m happy for him, always.”
For a while after the Furman game, when a statistical inputting error credited Tull with 4.5 sacks instead of 3.5, it appeared that Tull had the record. His postgame smile grew even bigger when informed during an interview that he’d passed Williams.
“He texted me about it right after that,” Williams said with a laugh
The error was corrected, leaving Tull half a sack behind his buddy. He may get the record Saturday when UTC (4-2, 2-1 SoCon) visits Elon (2-5, 1-2) at Rhodes Stadium.
“Now I know that it’s right there and it’s coming,” Tull said. “Last week I wasn’t thinking about it.”
Sacks may not come easily against the Phoenix. Elon has attempted a SoCon-high 263 passes but has allowed just five sacks.
Williams, who is a personal trainer at The Rush Fitness Complex, said he can’t make the trip to Elon because he has several appointments Saturday. But he will be following the action as closely as possible, waiting for the inevitable.
“I know he’s going to get it, so I’ve just got to let it go,” Williams said.
Tull, who is second in the SoCon this season with 5.5 sacks, is fifth among active players in the Championship Subdivision with his 23. And he’s the only junior in the top five. San Diego’s Blake Oliaro leads the way with 27.5.
A Knoxville native and former invited walk-on, Tull also is in the top five among active career leaders in several categories, including solo tackles for loss (third, 34.0), tackles for loss per game (fifth, 1.25) and sacks per game (thrd, 0.82).
Offenses are adjusting and accounting for Tull more than they did last season, including more double-teams. He doesn’t seem to mind.
“It’s kind of nice — nice, that sounds funny to say — but it’s like a new puzzle, a new challenge, as opposed to getting complacent,” he said. “It gives you something else to figure out, so things don’t get old. You’ve got to constantly improve on different things.”
If Tull keeps improving, he might be able to challenge theSoCon career sack record of 36.5, set by Appalachian State’s Josh Jeffries (1999-2002).
Contact John Frierson at firstname.lastname@example.org 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 ...