Despite some offseason adversity, nobody on the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football team is running for the hills.
Coach Russ Huesman told the Times Free Press last week that wideout Brian Sutherland had left UTC for personal reasons, defensive end Chris Donald was giving up football because of wrist injuries and running back Keon Williams was suspended for at least next season.
In addition, Huesman said backup offensive lineman Dustin Tate was ineligible and defensive tackle Nick Craig's career could be over because of a knee injury.
"This kind of stuff happens everywhere," Huesman said.
True, and it didn't all happen at once - the news just came out in the same week which might have made the situation seem more dire than it really is.
Donald was second-team All-Southern Conference last season and Sutherland led the SoCon in all-purpose yards, while Craig has 20 career starts and Williams has loads of untapped potential that he showed flashes of as a freshman last season.
"Are we freaking out that we don't have them? No, not really," offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield said of Sutherland and Williams. "Are we to a point where we can just say, next guy step in there and be as good? No, but I think we're in a position where it's more their loss not being with us than our loss not having them."
Satterfield and quarterback B.J. Coleman were excited about having one of the nation's top receiving tandems back in Joel Bradford and Sutherland.
Bradford had 81 catches last season, set a UTC single-season record with 1,284 receiving yards and was a third-team All-American. Sutherland caught 50 passes for 729 yards, ran the ball 20 times for 180 yards and averaged 165.7 all-purpose yards a game.
"At wideout, people are going to have to take up the slack," Huesman said. "We're going to have to find other people."
Huesman said he expects 6-foot-5 redshirt sophomore Marlon Anthony (14 catches for 195 yards last season) "to have a huge year for us."
Also returning are backups Sloan Allison, Jarrett Burns and Jeff Veres. Allison has six career receptions, Burns caught four balls last season after transferring from South Carolina and Veres was UTC's kicker last season.
The Mocs redshirted freshman Bryant Belew last season and have three freshmen joining the team in Marlandas Crane, Ron Moore and Tommy Hudson.
Moore, listed in UTC's summer prospectus at 6-0, 165 pounds, is a bigger target than the 5-7 Sutherland. Satterfield said the Mocs "don't have anybody on our team" like Ron Moore.
"He's a versatile, speedy, has great body control, great hands, [can play the] slot and is a little bit bigger than Brian Sutherland," he said.
At running back, Chris Awuah is atop the depth chart entering the preseason following a solid spring. J.J. Jackson is in the No. 2 spot and the Mocs have a pair of talented freshmen arriving in Marquis Green and Kendrix Huitt. In addition, freshman fullback Taharin Tyson could get some carries in single-back situations.
Green is about the same size as Sutherland and could be used in similar fashion, Satterfield said.
"Now, 90 percent of [Green's] mentality is tailback, but we can split him out and do some things, maybe cover up some depth issues we have at receiver," he said. "I'm very excited about what he can do, other than just sit back there and run the football."
Donald led the Mocs in sacks and tackles for loss last season, but Huesman is very high on UTC's other defensive ends. Josh Williams is back healthy after playing last season with a shoulder injury and redshirt freshman Davis Tull has had coaches excited since he walked on last fall.
"You can't replace a guy like [Donald], but, and I'm going to throw the big but in there, Davis Tull: really good; Zach Rayl: going to be really good; De'Markus Lee: had a really good spring," Huesman said.
At defensive tackle, losing Craig will hurt. But the Mocs could find an immediate replacement if Chris Mayes is able to transfer from Navy. The 6-3, 298-pound Mayes has said he is coming to UTC, but nothing is official.
The Mocs also have a pair of redshirt freshmen in Devin Scates and Keyon Reed, as well as incoming freshman Josh Freeman.
"We've told every freshman to be ready to play," Huesman said. "If they're good enough to play, they're going to play. This is not a luxury year for us just because of our [lack of] numbers."
Preseason practice begins on Aug. 4.