At 6:28 a.m. Thursday, 23 minutes before The Weather Channel app’s predicted 6:51 sunrise, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football coach Russ Huesman blew his whistle to begin the Mocs’ second preseason practice.
It was way more night than morning at Scrappy Moore Field as the Mocs stretched. Headlamps might have been useful for the first few periods, but the team’s new white helmets stood out in the pre-dawn darkness as players bounced around and showed a lot of spunk and spirit for such an early hour.
UTC’s first practice Wednesday ended about 13 hours before Thursday’s began, and most of the players didn’t finish with meetings Wednesday until around 10 p.m.
“I feel like it was good for the first day of everybody waking up early and coming out here at 6:30,” senior defensive tackle Derrick Lott said after the 28-period practice ended a little after 9. “There was no slacking; there were no people falling behind.”
The Mocs will be at Scrappy at either 6:30 or 7:45 each morning for much of the first two weeks of practice, including 6:30 this morning. That’s partly due to some players’ summer school schedules, but it’s mostly because of the weather — specifically the threat of afternoon thunderstorms.
“I hate to deal with the weather, and if you look at this place [Scrappy] and we’re down here and it’s a thunderstorm, the first thing we’ve got to do is run down to the arena,” Huesman said. “When you’re on a schedule and you get pushed back, it’s hard. Mornings, we normally can get [practices] in and it’s not even an issue.”
Huesman, who lives on Signal Mountain, slept on an air mattress in his office Wednesday night. It was easier to crash in the Roundhouse than drive up the mountain late Wednesday and back again very early Thursday.
Having a bunch of early starts is probably easier at the beginning of the preseason and later on, Huesman said, when players are more fatigued.
“If we were in day 10 or 11, then it probably would have been really hard to get them going this early,” he said. “We’ll see how Monday goes, because that will be a 6:30 deal and they’ll have had five practices under their belt. That may be a little tougher.”
Mocs wideout and quarterback Terrell Robinson said getting up early is something grown-ups have to do at times, so everyone just has to deal with it. Having a bunch of roommates can make it easier.
“I was with the boys this morning,” Robinson said, referring to teammates Chaz Moore, Keon Williams and Faysal Shafaat. “That made it easy.”
The Mocs’ passing game was a little off early in practice, perhaps due to bleary-eyed quarterbacks and receivers, but it got better as the morning progressed.
One of the best plays of the practice came in the 13th period, when quarterback Jacob Huesman rolled to his right and hit wideout Tommy Hudson down the right sideline for a touchdown, after Hudson beat cornerback Kadeem Wise on the play.
Defensive end Davis Tull (groin) sat out part of practice, while safety D.J. Key (foot) went through several periods after missing Wednesday. Safety Dean Haynes (foot/ankle) did not practice. … Robinson is wearing No. 6 this fall after wearing No. 17 in previous seasons. He wore No. 6 while starring at South Pittsburg High School, but Chris Lewis-Harris and Keith Mayes had the number at UTC before it became available this season.
<em>Contact John Frierson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6268. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/MocsBeat.</em>