published Sunday, August 17th, 2014

Chattanooga Mocs coaches praise first-teamers

UTC offensive lineman Synjen Herren suffered an injury to his leg in a scrimmage and is recovering.
UTC offensive lineman Synjen Herren suffered an injury to his leg in a scrimmage and is recovering.
Photo by Doug Strickland /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Before either had spoken a word, the nodding heads were a sure sign that both Adam Braithwaite and Jeff Durden, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football team's defensive and offensive coordinators, were satisfied with what they saw on video from the starting units during Friday's scrimmage.

Or at least, they were as satisfied as football coaches can ever be.

"After watching the film last night I was really pleased, especially with the first group," Braithwaite said. "There are a lot of guys playing really hard. There was some physical stuff going on in that game and we had a lot of good hits, a lot of guys chasing the football and giving effort.

"There are some specific areas, mostly young guys or guys we're trying in new positions, that aren't quite clean enough out on the field, but I was pleased with the effort from the ones. The twos still don't understand the consistency it takes and the effort we expect sometimes. That's a work in progress as far as the twos."

Saturday was the final day of preseason camp, and having pored over the video from the Friday scrimmage, Mocs coaches used the two-plus hours to correct mistakes they saw. Durden echoed his defensive counterpart's assessment, praising the offensive starters before cautioning that the backups still have a ways to go before UTC travels to Central Michigan to open the season in less than two weeks.

Durden's solution to get the attention of everyone on offense was to hold an "accountability" meeting before taking the practice field Saturday.

"Every play you're either helping us win or getting us beat, so I pulled out 34 clips where we had assignment errors or physically got whipped and showed them," Durden said. "I'm good with meeting your match. Sometimes you just get beat. But you have to be where you're going to be, and when we weren't it was mostly with the second team.

"We had a freshman wideout, Wil Young, who had to stand up and say, 'Coach I screwed up on this route,' and that's hard to do in front of your teammates. I think we got a lot out of it, just making sure they know they're letting down their teammates when they make mental mistakes. But we wanted to end that session on a positive note, so I also showed them highlights of some great efforts, plays that will help us win games."

UTC will host its "Meet the Mocs" for most sports today at First Tennessee Pavilion, with the football team available to fans from 1 to 3 p.m. The team will take Monday off and return to Scrappy Moore Field on Tuesday to begin practicing for Central Michigan.

Injury update

With the exception of true freshman cornerback C.J. Fritz, the Mocs were on the verge of wrapping up preseason camp with no significant injuries. Fritz, a former McCallie star, tore the ACL in his left leg and will have surgery this week, which means he will redshirt this season.

However, late in Friday afternoon's scrimmage, junior left guard Synjen Herren, a preseason first-team All-Southern Conference selection, injured his right ankle. He was in a walking boot Saturday. Mocs trainers are still evaluating the injury to determine if there is a small break or just a sprain, and Herren will be held out of practice until the exact nature of the injury is determined.

"He's got an injury to his lower leg," head coach Russ Huesman said. "I don't know how long he'll be out for. We always have contingency plans, even before this happened, and we always talk about those things. We had an idea weeks ago, just in case anything like this happened anywhere in the lineup. It's better than what it looked, to be honest with you."

With Herren watching from the sideline Saturday, the new offensive line had junior Brandon Morgan moved from right tackle to Herren's spot at left guard and Hunter Townson moving up from second-team right tackle.

With Herren in the lineup, teamed with sophomore guard Corey Levin, the left side is considered the strength of the offensive line.

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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