Josh Freeman is trying to pick up where he left off in November 2011. Actually, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga defensive tackle wants to be much better than that.
The 6-foot, 285-pound Freeman redshirted last season. After starting 10 games as a true freshman in 2011, making the Southern Conference all-freshman team, sitting out 2012 wasn’t exactly what the Atlanta native wanted to do.
“Of course at first it hurt and it bothered me, but after a while you learn to use it as a tool, use it to grow and get better — and that’s what I did,” Freeman said following Monday’s early-morning practice at Scrappy Moore Field.
Freeman had shoulder surgery after his freshman season, which forced him to sit out spring practice, and he arrived at camp a year ago out of shape. “Fat,” according to Mocs coach Russ Huesman.
The decision to redshirt Freeman was made in part because of his conditioning — “He wasn’t ready and probably wasn’t going to be ready,” Huesman said — and because the Mocs were well stocked at defensive tackle and could afford to be without him.
Rather than go through the motions during a season without any games, Freeman went the other way and got everything out of it that he could, defensive line coach Marcus West said.
“I tell you what, he took the best attitude ever towards his redshirt,” West said. “He took it as ‘I’m going to get better’; he took it as ‘I’m going to be a leader on the scout team’; he took it as ‘I’m going to learn this thing better.’”
That approach isn’t necessarily in Freeman’s DNA, West said.
“Freeman is kind of a naturally lazy person, and he knows that,” West said. “It’s a challenge for him every day to mentally say, ‘I’m going to break out of this.’”
Looking back now, Freeman is grateful for the chance to redshirt last season.
“I thank God for it. I honestly do,” he said. “It helped me grow as a person and a player. It helped me learn a lot more; it helped the game slow down a lot more. I matured a good bit, I’d say.”
Freeman has spent most of the past two practices playing inside next to Derrick Lott with the first team. Freeman and Chris Mayes are competing for the starting job, and UTC also has Navy transfer Daniel Ring in the mix. All four will play plenty, West said.
“To get back in there feels great because it’s been a while,” Freeman said. “It’s been about a year, and to get back in there with those guys and get that chemistry going, it’s great. I look forward to it every day.”
Freshman wideout Xavier Borishade (hip) joined the crowd of players not practicing. Safety Zach McCarter (knee) was expected to practice but woke up Monday morning with some soreness. … The Mocs will conduct their first two-a-day practice Wednesday. The first scrimmage is at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Finley Stadium but is closed to the public.
<em>Contact John Frierson at email@example.com or 423-757-6268. Follow him at twitter.com/MocsBeat.</em>