As the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga offensive line prepares for its second season in a spread offense - their first under new offensive coordinator Jeff Durden - getting in shape this spring and playing at the pace Durden wants are among the top priorities.
"I'd say we're doing pretty good, but we've got a lot to work on," center Patrick Sutton said following Monday's practice. "We're doing a lot more up-tempo, trying to get in shape."
Sutton, a rising redshirt junior who has started every game the past two seasons, added casually: "I just got done throwing up after gassers."
Mocs coach Russ Huesman added an extra competitive element to spring practice this year. Coaches are tracking certain matchups and winning and losing can be the difference between the offense or defense running no end-of-practice sprints (or gassers) and running a few extra.
That competition against a stout defensive front four will help the offensive line, which lost a four-year starter in Adam Miller and is practicing this spring without starting left tackle Brandon Morgan and starting left guard Synjen Herren. Both players had offseason shoulder surgeries; Morgan is in pads and doing non-contact drills, while Herren is just a spectator.
Learning Durden's new system, which isn't dramatically different from the offense UTC ran in 2012, is made a little easier, Morgan said, because he's able to get on the field for at least part of practice.
"It helps, absolutely," he said, "but it's never the same as going up against the defense."
Durden has had a hard time putting a full picture of what the line will look like when everyone is healthy. So far this spring he has shuffled a lot of players around, he said following Wednesday's practice -- UTC's sixth of the spring.
"They're coming along pretty good up front," he said.
The Mocs will scrimmage at 4 p.m. Friday at Finley Stadium. The scrimmage is closed to the public except for Mocs Club members.
Contact John Frierson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6268. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/mocsbeatCTFP.