New University of Tennessee at Chattanooga offensive coordinator Jeff Durden is getting to know the left side of his offensive line during preseason practice. It’s something he couldn’t do during the spring.
Left tackle Brandon Morgan and left guard Synjen Herren missed all of spring practice due to shoulder surgeries, but they’re back at 100 percent now and helping the line perform well so far, through three practices.
“They were doing something right,” Durden said of the line following Friday’s early morning practice at Scrappy Moore Field, the team’s first in shoulder pads, “because we were getting vertical.”
Morgan started seven games as a true freshman in 2011 and the first four games last season before missing the rest of the season with the shoulder injury. Herren started every game as a redshirt freshman in 2012.
With them out in the spring, the left side of the line was very inexperienced and it sometimes showed — especially going against what should be one of the top defensive lines in the Football Championship Subdivision.
“I think [offensive line coach Alex Atkins] knew what was coming because he wasn’t really worried in the spring,” Durden said. “I was over there sweating a little bit. He was always like, ‘Relax, it’s going to be OK.’”
The first unit for most of camp has been Morgan at left tackle, Herren at left guard, junior Patrick Sutton (22 straight starts) at center, senior Kevin Revis at right guard (20 starts) and senior Hunter Dockery (seven starts) at right tackle.
“We’ve got a lot of experience, we’ve all played … and we hardly have to make calls out here,” Herren said. “We just kind of know each other and know what we’re doing. … We’re trying to be the toughest, most physical line we can possibly be.”
Dockery replaced Morgan at left tackle last season and has taken over for four-year starter Adam Miller on the right side. Corey Levin also has been in on some plays with the first team at right tackle.
Stewart start delayed
Freshman wide receiver Alphonso Stewart is expected to be in the hunt for playing time this season, but he has yet to practice and won’t for at least a week after having minor knee surgery Thursday.
“Probably two weeks, max,” Mocs coach Russ Huesman said of Stewart’s debut. “We’ll get him out there and get him rolling pretty quickly.”
The 6-foot-3, 190-pound wideout from Robertsdale, Ala., had a meniscus issue corrected. Huesman said the injury was sustained during Stewart’s senior season and he played with it during basketball season as well.
Huesman was asked if he was pleased with the shape the players were in after three days. “I don’t see anybody out there throwing up. Maybe that’s a good sign,” he said. … UTC will be back at Scrappy at 7:45 this morning. … The UTC Mocs Club will have its annual UTC Night at AT&T Field on Aug. 8, when the Chattanooga Lookouts host the Huntsville Stars at 7:15. Go to GoMocs.com for more information.
<em>Contact John Frierson at email@example.com or 423-757-6268. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/MocsBeat.</em>