Chris Mayes admits there are still times when, as the team breaks into groups, he starts to take a step toward going with the defensive line. It doesn't happen as often, but it's understandable why Mayes would migrate to that side of the ball since it's where he played for the first four years of his University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football career.
With just one season of eligibility remaining, and an overflow of talent on the defensive line, Mayes agreed just before spring practice to switch from the defensive line, where he had played for 23 games including 11 last season, to the offensive side.
After several weeks of spring practice, working on the new assignment on his own during the summer and now through preseason camp, the 6-foot-3, 295-pound senior, who hadn't played offensive line since five years ago as a 12th-grader at Murfreesboro Riverdale, is penciled in as the Mocs' starter at right guard.
"I feel a lot more confident since we started camp and all the work we put in over the summer," Mayes said. "I've been working a lot with Coach [Chris] Malone, and Synjen Herren has become like my best friend out here, helping me along a lot.
"I feel a lot more confident in my pass-protecting abilities and just overall technique. After you get so many repetitions in, it becomes second nature. Your body gets used to taking certain steps and certain moves, so everything feels more natural now."
The Mocs return both offensive tackles and Herren appears to have left guard locked down, leaving a battle for center and right guard. The latter looks to be a natural fit for Mayes.
Last season Mayes was in a three-man rotation at defensive tackle, which meant he typically was in for only about 25 snaps. After talking with head coach Russ Huesman before spring workouts, Mayes jumped at the chance to become more of an on-field factor.
"We're trying to build a house, and you don't do that in just one day," said Malone, the offensive line coach. "I feel like Smokey and the Bandit, we've got a long way to go and a short time to get there.
"At his position, you want a guy who's wide in the hips and is an earth mover. If he can run a little bit and get on the perimeter, it's an even bigger plus. Chris can run and is strong and intelligent, so he's really everything you want in an inside offensive lineman. He's got a ways to go but his work ethic is great, so I believe he'll get there and be solid for us there."
Practice cut short
The thunderstorms rolling through downtown late Friday evening forced the Mocs to cut practice short, after only about a half hour on Scrappy Moore Field. Once lightning was spotted in the distance, the players were instructed to return to the locker room. As the storms lingered, coaches opted not to go back out.
After a "mini melee" broke out during the morning practice, there was a much lighter feeling around the evening session. Several players were involved in the morning fight, which led Coach Huesman to instruct the entire team to run extra gassers.
"We had a little melee so I ran them during practice and after practice," Huesman said. "I don't mind if two guys get in a scuffle. But it turned into a mini melee and there were other people involved, and then they're all out of the game."
The Mocs will hold their first preseason scrimmage today at Finley Stadium at 2:30.
Best ranking better
The NCAA recognizes two rankings for FCS teams -- the coaches' poll and The Sports Network poll. After being ranked No. 16 in the nation in the coaches' poll that came out earlier this week and was the highest preseason ranking in program history, the Mocs bettered that Friday when they came in at No. 14 in the Sports Network poll.
The highest UTC has reached in any poll came Sept. 19, 2011, when it climbed to No. 13 in the Sports Network rankings.
Contact Stephen Hargis at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6293.
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 ...