published Monday, September 23rd, 2013

Improved returns helping Chattanooga Mocs

  • photo
    UTC wide receiver Tommy Hudson (8) plays in the game against Austin Peay at Finley Stadium.
    Photo by Angela Lewis /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Sooner or later, Chaz Moore believes he has a chance to break one. Tommy Hudson wants to break one, too.

Moore is the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga's primary kick returner and Hudson returns the Mocs' punts. Both have had some success already this season and are giving UTC's return game a much-needed lift.

"Obviously we're not perfect, but I think we're getting on some blocks and giving them a chance," Mocs coach Russ Huesman said.

In his first season returning punts, Hudson averaged 5.2 yards on his 15 returns in 2012. He had a long of 23 yards, and that one return made up nearly one-third of his total of 78 return yards. Huesman was more concerned with catching the punt securely than getting yards on the return. As a team the Mocs were more punt fielders than returners, averaging 4.9 yards a return, which ranked eighth in the Southern Conference.

Huesman said Hudson has more confidence this season -- and Huesman has more confidence in him -- and that has resulted in fewer fair catches and more returns. Hudson had a 27-yard return against Georgia State and a 15-yarder versus Austin Peay. He's averaging 9.8 yards per return, which ranks second in the SoCon.

"We have some good blocking schemes, and I'm very comfortable on the returns.," Hudson said. "[Returns coach Rusty] Wright, he's challenged us to have better stats on punt return, to help the offense out a little bit more. ... I'm just trying to take one to the house. We could always use that."

After enjoying an open date Saturday, UTC was back on the practice field Sunday. The Mocs (2-1) open SoCon play this Saturday at Georgia Southern (2-1, 0-1 SoCon), which is only averaging 30.4 yards net punting.

The Eagles punted four times in their overtime win against UTC last season. The Mocs returned one of the punts, gaining one yard. UTC's longest kickoff return in the game was 20 yards.

After three games in 2013, Moore's kickoff return average of 22.9 is fifth in the league. He's had a pair of 36-yard returns already, and he knows could have gone for more yardage on a couple of his eight attempts.

"I need to hit the hole full speed, and when I see a lane, just hit it," said Moore, who averaged 20.2 yards a return last season. "I feel like I'm hesitating a little bit too much; I've had at least two or three I should have scored on."

Super scouts

The value of a good scout team is probably never more evident than when a defense is preparing for a triple-option offense. If the defense can't get a good simulation of what's coming -- in this case Georgia Southern's attack on Saturday -- then it could be a long day for the Mocs.

UTC shouldn't have to worry about that. Huesman has been very pleased with the performance of the scout-team offense, which has freshman defensive back Jerkerious Scott playing quarterback and backup running back Tolerance Shepherd getting many of the carries.

"I think our scout team has been phenomenal -- the best I've ever seen running this offense," Huesman said last week. "They're giving us a great look."

A year ago, after the Mocs beat The Citadel 28-10 in UTC's first game of the season against a triple-option team, Huesman gave the game ball to running back Chris Awuah, who ran the scout-team offense that week.

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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