published Thursday, April 10th, 2014

Chattanooga Mocs looking forward to spring game

The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football team wrapped up its final practice before the Blue & Gold spring game with a nearly two-hour workout Wednesday. There was a little extra bounce in players' step after their last practice of the spring on Scrappy Moore field.

"Everybody was more upbeat today, and we're all excited for the game on Friday," defensive lineman Daniel Ring said. "Especially since we're going to get our (Southern Conference championship) rings. I've seen pictures, but haven't seen the ring yet. We've already been talking that we'll definitely wear our rings out after the game Friday night."

Seniors will be given their SoCon championship rings during a halftime ceremony, and all other players will get theirs following Friday's game, which begins at 7 p.m. at Finley Stadium. It was the program's first share of the SoCon title since 1984 and the 6-2 league mark was the most since joining the SoCon in 1977.

The format for the game itself will have the first-team offense and second-team defense on the same team, which means the first-team offense will go against the starting defense. None of the special teams -- kickoffs, punts, field goals -- will be live, to cut down on the potential for injury.

One of the most consistent and versatile players throughout the spring's 14 completed practices so far has been rising sophomore running back Derrick Craine. There is no drop off in intensity when the 5-foot-10, 205-pound McDonough, Ga., native comes in for starter Keon Williams.

"Hard-nosed football is what I want to bring," said Craine, who said he feels more confident this spring after a year of getting stronger and a season of action under his belt.

"I love running between the tackles, and I want to be counted on to get the hard yards," he continued. "Being a running back, you get hit every play so it's a matter of bringing your hit to them. To me, you don't want to be the guy getting hit, you want to bring the hit to whoever is in front of me. I'll do whatever is needed to get me on the field as much as possible."

Last season he averaged 4.5 yards on just 44 carries but should see a lot more action this fall. Mocs coaches praise not only his ability as a tough runner but also his versatility as a pass catcher and blocker and the fact he will likely see action on special teams.

"He's so good because he's a guy -- the only one we have right now -- that can do a little bit of everything," Mocs coach Russ Huesman said. "He's really an all-purpose guy. He knows the offense so well now and is real dependable.

"When we were recruiting him, the thing I liked about him, besides his film, was that during my in-home visit, I asked him what he does in his free time and he said he watched films of old running backs to try to learn more. He's all about ball. He loves every aspect of the game and we think he's really going to help us in a lot of ways."

Bagley attends practice

While most of the Mocs' signing class will be at Friday's spring game, heralded running back Richardre Bagley was at Wednesday's practice instead. He will miss the game to attend his senior prom, but stayed the entire practice, talking with coaches and current players and looked anxious to get started. Bagley was a late flip to UTC, after having been committed to Furman. A four-year starter at Hillgrove High in Powder Springs, Ga., he ran for nearly 1,700 yards as a senior, including several dynamic runs that are featured on the 5-10, 180-pounder's highlight tape.

"He's a good looking kid," Huesman said. "We're excited to get him here and see what he can do."

Scrappy Awards set

The third annual 'Scrappys', the all-sports awards banquet for Chattanooga Athletics, will be held Thursday, April 10 beginning at 7 p.m. at The Chattanoogan Hotel. Space is limited and the $50 tickets can be reserved by calling Joe Levine with the UTC Mocs Club at (423) 425-4233 or by emailing joseph-levine@utc.edu. There is also a private VIP reception with the Mocs coaches at 6:30 p.m. UTC athletes and coaches from all 17 men's and women's sports programs will be honored for the accomplishments in competition, the classroom and the community.

Contact Stephen Hargis at shargis@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6293.

about Stephen Hargis...

Stephen has covered local sports in the tri-state area for more than 24 years, having been with the Times Free Press since its inception, and has been an assistant sports editor since 2005. Stephen is among the most decorated writers in the TFP’s newsroom, winning numerous state, regional and national writing awards, including seven in 2013 and a combined 12 in the last two years. He was named one of the top 10 sports writers ...

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