Zach Rayl spent two seasons playing behind Josh Williams and Davis Tull at defensive end for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
The 6-foot-3, 240-pound former quarterback at McMinn Central High School now has an opportunity to start -- if he stays ahead of Toyvian Brand on the depth chart -- and try to fill the very large shoes of Williams, whose 23.5 career sacks are the UTC record.
"Zach Rayl's consistent; you know what you're going to get out of Zach," defensive line coach Marcus West coach said Thursday. "He's been physical and he's doing better with becoming a pass rusher. He's got some shoes to fill behind Josh in pass pushing, but he's getting better."
Brand started 16 games the past two seasons at defensive tackle before moving to end this spring. Rayl, who has 32 career tackles, three sacks and nine tackles for lost yardage, said having Brand pushing him has made him better.
"It's kept me on my toes and is pushing me every day," Rayl said Thursday. "It's good competition."
Having had to wait his turn to be a starter, Rayl said now is his time.
"That's my thought process," he said. "Toyvian's played a lot of ball, as well, but I feel like it's my time. I think we're all going to get our reps -- it's just a matter of when and maybe who we play against."
The Mocs' defensive end rotation will include Tull, the 2012 Southern Conference defensive player of the year, Rayl, Brand -- all juniors -- and redshirt freshman Keionta Davis, who hasn't play a game since the end of his junior season at Red Bank High School. West said Brand "is a better end than he was a tackle," while Davis is looking very good for a redshirt freshman who hasn't played a lot of football the past few years.
"I hope [Rayl's] being pushed by Toy for the starting position, and I hope they're not getting complacent knowing that they're all going to play," West said. "But I'm going to need all of them, and he knows that and Toy knows that."
Cornerback Will Johnson did not practice, and the extent of his shoulder injury is not yet known. Left guard Synjen Herren (ankle) also didn't practice. ... Coach Russ Huesman said the start of today's scrimmage will the a regular first quarter followed by situational series.
Contact John Frierson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6268. Follow him at twitter.com/MocsBeat.