UTC: Awuah returns to starting lineup

UTC: Awuah returns to starting lineup

September 15th, 2011 by John Frierson in Sports - College

In this file photo, UTC's Chris Awuah participates in practice at Scrappy Moore Field.

In this file photo, UTC's Chris Awuah participates...

Photo by Angela Lewis /Times Free Press.

After Nebraska safety Daimion Stafford belted University of Tennessee at Chattanooga running back Chris Awuah off his feet on a 1-yard gain in the season opener -- the video on YouTube has more than 22,000 hits -- Awuah sat up, got up and returned to the huddle.

"I came back and said, 'Wow, he got me,' and everybody started laughing," Awuah said.

That's Awuah's personality. He's easygoing and often has a joke to share.

"I try to stay like that all the time," he said. "Even on the field I try to stay laid back and give a laugh to my friends in the huddle."

After a frustrating 2010, Awuah has been both versatile and productive in the No. 17 Mocs' first two games this season. He leads the team in carries, is catching the ball out of the backfield and is the primary kick returner.

"Whatever they need me to do, that's fine," he said. "I just want to play and get touches and run hard, play hard and play fast."

As a true freshman in 2009, Awuah was the Mocs' lead back after Bryan Fitzgerald was lost for the season in the fifth game. He ran the ball 153 times for 459 yards and caught 17 passes for 127 yards.

Last season, stuck behind Erroll Wynn, Keon Williams and J.J. Jackson in the backfield, Awuah didn't touch the ball that much. He had 26 carries all season, plus six receptions, four kickoff returns, three pass attempts (one for a touchdown) and a punt return.

In all that's 40 touches for the season, a fraction of the opportunities he had the season before.

"I told our guys coming into spring," Mocs coach Russ Huesman said, "I said, 'Let's get Awuah back. Let's don't just use him for trick plays. Let's lather him up, let's make a tailback out of him.' I think he can be a pretty decent tailback, and we haven't really done that with him since he's been here."

Two games into his junior season, Awuah already has surpassed last season's touches. He was the starter at tailback going into the preseason but got passed by Jackson, only to get the No. 1 spot back when Jackson was injured in the opener.

Against Jacksonville State last week, Awuah led the UTC (1-1) ground game with 17 carries for 77 yards and two touchdowns, and he caught three balls for 57 yards.

Heading into Saturday's game at Eastern Kentucky (1-1), Awuah has 27 carries for 90 yards and seven receptions for 100. He's also the lead kickoff returner with seven for 151 yards.

Awuah is third in the Southern Conference and tied for No. 11 in the FCS with 341 all-purpose yards.

"He's getting a chance to make plays," offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield said, "and when the ball's in his hands he's staying inbounds and scoring touchdowns and getting extra yards and, knock on wood, taking care of the football."

The Mocs are 8-1 in the Huesman Era when they out-rush their opponents, as they did against Jacksonville State when UTC had 212 yards on the ground to just 55 for the Gamecocks.