Even before he was named the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga's starting quarterback Wednesday evening, B.J. Coleman couldn't stop smiling.
Following one of his and the offense's best practices of the preseason Wednesday morning at Scrappy Moore Field, he said that a "breakthrough" had occurred.
Jare Gault spent most of the Mocs' 12th preseason practice on the sideline with a sore right forearm, which allowed Coleman to get nearly all the reps with the first-team offense. It was while the Mocs worked on their two-minute offense, completing pass after pass, that things finally started to click, Coleman said.
"It was awesome to see the momentum continue to carry," he said. "I think that was our breakthrough. We broke through the barrier and all the sudden we were off to the races. We got into a rhythm and we were rolling, and that was fun to feel.
"That right there," he said, referring to Wednesday's practice, "we can win with that."
Offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield was equally upbeat.
"B.J. did a great job today, the offensive line did a good job today and the backs did a good job of catching the ball out of the backfield today," Satterfield said.
Gault said he woke up early Wednesday morning - practice began at 7 a.m. - with severe tightness in his right forearm, which kept him from gripping the ball properly. He said his first two passes went sideways, "spinning like a helicopter."
Gault did get in some reps late in practice, completing a pretty 25-yard pass to Brian Sutherland.
While Satterfield and Coleman left Scrappy Moore Field feeling good, Mocs coach Russ Huesman was less jubilant. He said the offense "looked pretty decent" and he liked what he saw in the passing game, however he was less pleased with the play of the defense.
"I hope some of the defensive guys aren't getting complacent," he said. "They've had some good days out here and all the sudden we're getting some balls caught on us a little bit. Some of them we got to wake up and they got to know that every day is a challenge, every snap is a challenge."
Linebacker Joseph Thornton did pick off a Coleman pass near the goal line and cornerback Buster Skrine intercepted Gault on a spectacular, one-handed catch in the back of the end zone.
A night off
Rather than do its usual evening walkthrough on Tuesday, the Mocs instead went to Sir Goony's Fun Zone for some time away from football. The competition remained, however. The low scorer in each miniature golf foursome didn't have to run at the end Wednesday's practice.
The winners - Coleman said he was leading after nine holes but lost to freshman quarterback Graham Nichols - stood in a row on the field as all their teammates ran "gassers" around them.
Fullback Shaun Kermah (concussion) and safety Joel Bradford (neck strain) practiced for the first time this week. ... Defensive end Josh Beard sat out the final third of practice with a bag of ice on his left knee. He said he "tweaked" it and expected to be fine for today's 2:45 p.m. practice. ... The Mocs will help freshmen move into their dorms in the morning before practice. Classes begin Monday.