The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football team was back on the field Sunday, the Mocs' first practice since their 31-21 season-opening loss to UT-Martin last Thursday.
The players' heads were up, the coaches did far more instructing and encouraging than yelling and as a whole the team seemed way more focused on Saturday's game against Georgia State than dwelling on a disappointing loss to the Skyhawks.
UTC's defense gave up 451 yards, allowed a pair of 100-yard rushers and missed 36 tackles, so there's room for improvement.
"We're moving on. It's in the past and we're ready to move on and improve," defensive coordinator Adam Braithwaite said after Sunday's practice, which was delayed for nearly two hours because of storms and lightning around Scrappy Moore Field.
One thing the defense won't be doing this week, despite the missed tackles, is tackling in practice. The Mocs do what they call "thud," which is have defensive players get in position to make tackles and then get their hands on the ballcarrier, but they don't take him to the ground.
Mocs coach Russ Huesman said UTC is too banged up on defense to go live in practice and risk an injury on a tackle. This week and for the rest of the season, he said, the defense will take a more intense and fundamentally-sound approach to thud tackles.
"Normally in thud we hit and let them go," he said. "We're going to thud and keep them up. We're going to work on wrapping them up, thudding them up and running our feet -- and emphasize that."
UTC also did tackle drills Sunday, with an emphasis on wrapping up. Huesman said there were too many occasions against UT-Martin when players went for big hits instead of making good fundamental stops.
"Sometimes you don't get the great tackle," he said. "Just get them on the ground."
Offensively the Mocs have made one change, replacing senior Hunter Dockery at right tackle with junior Brandon Morgan. Dockery started seven games at left tackle last season after Morgan was injured and moved to right tackle following the graduation of Adam Miller.
Morgan has made 11 career starts. He lost his starting spot at left tackle in the preseason to redshirt freshman Corey Levin.
"We're going to give him a shot to see how he does, how he responds," Huesman said. "We're going to get the guys that are playing the best out there. ... Bottom line is, you've got to play and you've got to produce. It's Brandon's turn and hopefully he keeps it and hangs in there.
"If he doesn't, Hunter's still a guy we're obviously going to play and play a lot."
Huesman said he liked what he saw Sunday from his team, but the proof will come later.
"I'll let you know Saturday night," he said. "Kids are resilient. They get over things pretty quick. Coaches, I don't think it happens quite as quick for us."
UTC's loss to UT-Martin was part of rough opening weekend for the Southern Conference. Only two teams, Samford and Georgia Southern, started the season 1-0. ...C.J. Murrell, who started at strong safety in the opener but left with a high ankle sprain, was on crutches and did not practice. Huesman said Saturday that Murrell could be out a couple of weeks.
Contact John Frierson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6268. Follow him on Twitter 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 ...
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