Dried and true
Linebacker Wes Dothard has been as consistent as any Moc the past two seasons, and the two-time All-American enters his senior season with 214 career tackles and 19.5 tackles for lost yardage. A quiet leader, Dothard goes about his business making play after play, year after year.
Green as in go
Phil Steele's College Football Preview rated Mocs junior defensive end Davis Tull as the No. 6 player overall in the FCS. Tull set a school record with 12.5 sacks in 2012 - 5.5 more than anyone else in the SoCon - and was the league's defensive player of the year. Tull has improved as a pass rusher each season and remains solid against the run, and he'll benefit from having a wealth of talent around him on the Mocs' defense. Offensively, Terrell Robinson could be the X factor as he gets more comfortable and confident as a wideout yet still gets his chances at quarterback. Highly skilled at both positions, Robinson should be a big headache for defensive coordinators with his catching, running and throwing.
1. The Mocs have a defense that certainly should be in the top 10 in the FCS, if not the top five. There are five preseason first-team All-SoCon picks and a defensive line that has the potential to dominate the line of scrimmage, especially against teams that like to throw the ball. As long as the defense is healthy, it will keep the Mocs in every SoCon game.
2. The 2012 season was one of transition for the UTC offense, which made the switch to the spread and went through some growing pains. The 2013 offense, under new offensive coordinator Jeff Durden, will be more consistent and more explosive as veterans have developed and new players have joined the mix.
3. Another thing going for the Mocs this season is that longtime SoCon powers Appalachian State and Georgia Southern aren't eligible for the league title or the FCS playoffs. That's two formidable obstacles that aren't in UTC's way as it pursues the program's first league title since 1984.
It would be easy to pick a SoCon game here, like the visits to Georgia Southern or Appalachian State, two programs that have dominated UTC and are in their last season in the conference. Or Wofford, which essentially defeated the Mocs on the final play two years in a row. But the opener against UT-Martin is a critical game for both schools, each of which has conference title and playoff aspirations. A Mocs win, especially in front of 15,000 cautiously optimistic fans, will be a springboard that could lead to a special season.
The Mocs have more talent throughout the roster than they've had the past four seasons, including numerous potential All-Americans. They also have a very tough schedule that includes four games against teams (App State, Georgia Southern, Georgia State and Alabama) that will have more than the FCS limit of 63 scholarships. And all four of those games are on the road.
If all goes according to plan and the Mocs can stay healthy, this could be the best season in school history. UTC is among the favorites to win the SoCon title, something it hasn't done since 1984, and appears poised to return to the playoffs for the first time since that '84 season. Road games at App State and Georgia Southern are part of a difficult schedule, but if UTC plays to its potential there's no reason it can't win at least nine games, at least share the SoCon title and finally get into the postseason.