While senior B.J. Coleman worked with the other University of Tennessee at Chattanooga quarterbacks at Scrappy Moore Field on Thursday afternoon, veterans were helping newcomers all around him.
Senior Thomas Green was instructing fellow fullback Taharin Tyson, a true freshman, and former Mocs tight end Garrett Hughes was helping junior transfer Sean Stackhouse.
About two dozen Mocs were at Scrappy for Thursdays "throwing appointment," as Coleman calls it, and overall more than 40 players are in town this summer working out with strength coach Scott Brincks.
The phrase "culture change" has been used often since coach Russ Huesman took over the program in December 2008. Perhaps no part of the program has changed more in that time than the players' approach to the summer.
"We never had this many people out here in June before," said senior wideout Joel Bradford, who also played for former coach Rodney Allison. "Once the spring game hits and academics [for spring semester] are out of the way, it seems like we started thinking about the season. In the past, I would say we started thinking about the season maybe starting in July."
There hasn't been much good news coming out of the program this week. Huesman has announced that five players are, for various reasons, either going to miss the 2011 season or are no longer on the team.
Huesman did have reason to smile Wednesday, however.
"The good news is I talked to the captains today and the captains love what our guys are doing this summer," he said. "From what they say, they feel like this summer is better than last summer. They're pretty fired up."
Good summers often lead to good seasons. Mocs offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield said that after UTC's 42-41 season-opening loss to Appalachian State in 2010, Mountaineers coach Jerry Moore noted UTC's improvement.
"He said 'How many kids did y'all have up here this summer?' and I said basically everybody starting in July," Satterfield recalled. "He said 'You can tell. You can tell a huge difference, that those kids have been up here working.' That was pretty cool."
Because summer workouts are voluntary, team leaders have to essentially serve as coaches. It's a natural role for the gung-ho Coleman, who took charge, though subtly at first, right after transferring from the University of Tennessee.
"When I came down here, I knew that I couldn't just go straight to it," he said. "When I came in, I said if I can start with one person and get him on board, then if he can bring another one along and another one. The first throwing session I held, there were two people there: Clint Woods and Joel Bradford.
Bradford credited Coleman with helping transform how many of the players looked at the game.
"Once he set foot on this campus and officially got here, he kind of transformed the players' mentality about how to play the game and prepare for the game," said Bradford, a third-team All-American last season. "What the game should mean to most people, he kind of flipped that upside down, in a good way, a very positive way."
Starting next week, the number of Mocs in town should be around 60. Among them could be defensive tackle Chris Mayes, a Murfreesboro native who played at Navy last season.
The 6-foot-3, 298-pound Mayes said he has told the Mocs he's transferring to UTC. Not all of the paperwork has been completed so he hasn't yet signed with the Mocs.
Mayes earned all-state honors his senior season at Riverdale High School and was a runner-up for the Class 6A Lineman of the Year award. He saw limited action for the Midshipmen last season as a true freshman.