Several University of Tennessee at Chattanooga freshmen have emerged as contenders for playing time and starting positions during the preseason. Some showed why Sunday at Scrappy Moore Field during the Mocs' scrimmage, while older-but-unproven players also earned some attention.
No first-year player likely will have a bigger impact than backup quarterback Jacob Huesman, who made a bunch of plays Sunday. Huesman, who will play behind and sometimes alongside starter Terrell Robinson, was 21-of-32 passing for 254 yards, with a 21-yard touchdown pass and an interception.
"With last summer, last year's camp, spring, this summer, this camp, it feels like I've been around a lot longer than a year and a half," said the redshirt freshman, who threw for 236 yards in UTC's first scrimmage.
His father, UTC coach Russ Huesman, said the Mocs will have a lot of young guys playing key roles when the season starts at South Florida on Sept. 1. Who will be doing what will be decided soon, with true freshman receivers, defensive backs and kicker Henrique Ribeiro having the best shot at playing.
"We're going to have to make a decision, probably after [watching] this film, about the direction we're going to go," the fourth-year coach said. "We've got to start getting them ready. ... One or two [true freshmen] will play in the secondary, and one or two will play at wideout."
Redshirt freshman Synjen Herren has been the first-team left guard since the start of the preseason and has impressed the coaches from the start of practice.
"He's been way above expectations," Huesman said of Herren, who redshirted last season and sat out nearly all of spring practice with an ankle injury.
Herren, a 6-foot-4, 310-pounder from Dalton, Ga., might already be UTC's most physical lineman.
"I just came out trying to play," Herren said. "I might not be the most athletic or the guy with the most awareness or whatever, but I try to be as physical as I can."
On the opening possession of the scrimmage, Robinson hit Bryant Belew for a 20-yard touchdown. It was a start of a big day for Belew. The redshirt sophomore did not have a catch last season and mainly played on special teams, but the 6-3, 198-pound wideout repeatedly got behind the defense for big gains. His second catch went for 44 yards and the third for 43. Belew finished with eight catches for 144 yards.
Belew said Coach Huesman challenged players to take their games to a higher level and that resonated with him.
"I kind of took that as him talking to me, and I came out here and wanted to step up and show that I could make plays," he said.
Sophomore Tommy Hudson also was busy, finishing with six catches for 59 yards and a 21-yard TD -- after making eight grabs in the first scrimmage. Robinson was efficient passing, going 13-of-18 for 131 yards, with the touchdown strike to Belew and an interception. Robinson also had 13 carries for 62 yards and a touchdown.
Ribeiro had a good day kicking with a 52-yard field goal and a 44-yarder. Nick Pollard made a 40-yarder and missed from 33.
Huesman said he'll make a decision on Ribeiro's role before the opener.
Wide receiver Marlon Anthony (ankle), tight ends Jarrod Coleman (ankle) and Troy Dye (knee), running back Chris Awuah (knee), offensive lineman Devin Caldwell (knee) and safety Dean Haynes (foot) did not participate in the scrimmage. ... The Mocs are off today and will begin their normal routine Tuesday, with practice at 3:55 p.m. at Scrappy Moore Field.