Once University of Tennessee at Chattanooga offensive line coach Alex Atkins informed the staff he would be leaving to take the same job at Georgia Southern, the domino effect resulted in moving spring practice back about two weeks.
The Mocs were scheduled to begin spring practice Sunday, but after Atkins announced his decision to leave the program for the new job, head coach Russ Huesman decided to reschedule the start of spring drills to March 17.
"It's never a good time to lose an assistant, and especially someone as good as Alex, but it's part of the business of college football," Huesman said Tuesday. "Alex is a great football coach and he's leaving on good terms. He just felt he needed to do this to further his career.
"We want to move fast but also find the right guy for our program. We spent all day today going over different candidates, and we'll start bringing people in this Thursday and go into next week with interviews. It just won't leave us with any wiggle room as far as how the weather affects spring practice days."
The plan is to have a new offensive line coach hired before the university's spring break, March 10-14, to allow him to learn the team's terminology and be prepared when practice begins. The Mocs' spring game is set for April 11.
"My first priority is to find a great offensive line coach," Huesman said. "Alex did a great job not only coaching but also in recruiting, so as we conduct interviews we'll find the right guy who can do the job coaching on the field and also help us in recruiting."
Atkins is the second UTC assistant to leave for a job with another program since the end of last season. Former running backs coach Wes Satterfield, who left to become quarterbacks coach at Southeast Louisiana in late January, was replaced by Sean Dawkins, who had coached at Murray State for four years.
A former All-America offensive lineman at UT-Martin, Atkins had just finished his second season at UTC and was a key to helping the Mocs put together the nation's No. 1-rated FCS signing class. Before coming to UTC, he spent two years at Itawamba (Miss.) Community College, where he also coached offensive line and was recruiting coordinator.
He began his coaching career at UTM, spending two years working with tight ends.
"We all have goals to move up to the highest level of our profession, and this was a chance to take that next step and coach at the FBS level," Atkins said. "It's a great program, but it wasn't an easy decision because UTC is building something special and I was proud to be a part of that.
"I believe UTC will win a national championship in the very near future, but when this opportunity came along, I sat down and wrote out the pros and cons of it and decided it was the right time for me to make the move."
Contact Stephen Hargis at email@example.com 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 ...