University of Tennessee at Chattanooga linebacker Shane Heatherly began the spring as a player trying to regain a starting spot after losing his prior to the 2011 season.
The 6-foot-4, 220-pounder had a very productive spring -- the final practice is Wednesday -- and emerged as one of the team's leaders. So much so that he was one of the four players voted captains for the 2012 season, joining returning starters running back J.J. Jackson, right tackle Adam Miller and safety D.J. Key.
"I was very surprised," Heatherly said following Saturday's Blue and Gold game. "It means a lot to me. ... It's a really big honor and I feel really good about where I stand with the team. I've just got to keep going and keep getting better."
Heatherly started 10 games at Mike linebacker in 2010, making 45 tackles, and was atop the depth chart when preseason practice began last August. A high ankle sprain put Heatherly on the shelf for a while and Wes Dothard took over the No. 1 spot.
Dothard went on to make 98 tackles, return a fumble and an interception for touchdowns and was named both All-Southern Conference and All-American. Heatherly, meanwhile, played in 10 games and made 11 tackles.
With the departure of Ryan Consiglio, a first-team All-SoCon player like Dothard, Heatherly has taken over at the Sam linebacker spot.
"I think his standard is high, and it's almost like he went and redshirted again," defensive coordinator Adam Fuller said. "He learned, he got stronger, he emphasized what we needed him to emphasize. He worked hard and he probably feels a little bit of a burden to make sure he plays really well.
"I know every time he goes out there we'll get everything he has."
Mocs coach Russ Huesman told the team that a lot of players got multiple votes for captain, which he said was a really good sign. Heatherly said he thought he'd received a couple of votes.
"A few people told me they voted for me, but I wasn't expecting anything," he said. "It was a nice surprise."
Nick Pollard went 3-for-4 on field goals in the spring game -- connecting from 29, 37 and 40 yards and missing a 42-yarder -- and a pair of 54-yard punts. However, Huesman said the overall kicking game needed some work.
New long snapper Blake Coddington, who is replacing a four-year starter in Brock Oliver, sailed a snap over Pollard's head on the first punt attempt. Huesman said there's work to be done this summer in all phases -- snaps, holds, kicks and punts.
"Too many mistakes," Huesman said. "You can't make any mistake in the kicking game, so that's got me a little nervous. ... We've got work to do."