The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football team is coming off a 5-6 season and has to replace several multi-year starters on offense and defense. Here are five questions facing the Mocs heading into spring practice, which starts today:
1. How will the new, spread-style offense develop?
Losing quarterback B.J. Coleman for four games last season wasn't a good thing, but it did give UTC a head start on its planned installation of a new, spread-style offense. Offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield has called it a "pro-spread."
Terrell Robinson is atop the quarterback depth chart entering the spring. Jacob Huesman and Graham Nichols are the backups chasing after his job. Robinson and Huesman ran the ball very effectively in high school, earning Mr. Football Back of the Year awards, and they should thrive in the new system.
"Obviously the offense is an important aspect of it, and we'll see how that develops," Huesman said. "It may look a little rusty at first, but I think the direction they're going is good."
2. Can the Mocs' SoCon-leading defense get even better?
UTC led the Southern Conference in scoring and total defense last season. Gone from that squad are All-SoCon linebacker Ryan Consiglio and All-SoCon defensive back Chris Lewis-Harris, as well as three-year starter at safety Jordan Tippit.
One player UTC will have available this spring is defensive tackle Chris Mayes, the big Navy transfer that sat out last season. He wreaked havoc on the scout team in the fall and now has the chance to work in UTC's scheme.
"I'm very anxious," said Mayes, who is listed at 6-foot-3, 295 pounds, though that weight number might be a little low. "I had a great winter. I'm the strongest I've ever been in my whole life."
3. Will some new go-to wideouts emerge?
Marlon Anthony is UTC's top returning receiver with 44 career receptions. No other wideouts have more than five. Players like Tommy Hudson, Ron Moore Jr. and Bryant Belew will have to pick up their games to give the Mocs more than one consistent option.
Don't be surprised if running back Marquis Green gets more involved in the passing game. He's a small, explosive player that caught 17 passes as a true freshman last season.
4. Will anyone separate themselves from the herd at running back?
Green led UTC in rushing last season with 530 yards on 120 carries. Also back are J.J. Jackson (234 yards), Chris Awuah (227) and Keon Williams, who rushed for 500 yards as a freshman in 2010 before being suspended for the 2011 season.
The Mocs also have Kenny Huitt, who redshirted last season, and a new running backs coach in former Georgia tailback Thomas Brown. UTC was seventh in the SoCon in rushing last season with 144.4 yards a game. That's a number the Mocs want to go way, way up next season.
"We're going to have great competition at running back," Huesman said. "They're going to have to be on their toes every snap."
5. Can special teams remain special?
The Mocs return kicker Nick Pollard, who made 10 of 14 field goals last season and was named to the SoCon All-Freshman team. Gone are long snapper Brock Oliver, who had the job for four years, and holder Sloan Allison. The Mocs also have to replace punters Joel Bradford and Mike Hammons.
Bradford took over the punting duties midway through the season and was successful doing to rugby-style punt. Huesman said UTC will continue to do the rugby-style, using an athletic skill-position player as the punter. One option is Jacob Huesman, but several players will get a look.