The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football program received the official word from the NCAA on Tuesday: senior defensive tackle Derrick Lott will be allowed to return for a sixth year.
"It's good for everybody," Mocs coach Russ Huesman said, meaning UTC gets back a potential All-American lineman and Lott gets to the chance to add to his resume before pursuing a pro career.
A fifth-year senior this season, and preseason first-team All-Southern Conference pick, the 6-foot-4, 303-pound Lott suffered a season-ending elbow injury in the Mocs' 23-21 loss at Georgia Southern on Sept. 28. He's eligible for a sixth year because he had a medical redshirt due to ankle surgery while a freshman at the University of Georgia.
"I was excited when Coach called me and told me, and I'm glad it worked out," Lott said Tuesday. "When we were waiting for the approval I didn't want to tell anybody or do anything until it was official, but now I'm open with it and excited."
Lott was second-team All-SoCon in 2012 and was ranked the No. 6 defensive tackle in the Football Championship Subdivision heading into the 2013 season. He will rejoin a Mocs defensive line that could be the best in the country, led by end and two-time SoCon defensive player of the year Davis Tull and second-team All-SoCon tackle Josh Freeman.
Tolerance Shepherd ran the ball three times for nine yards in 2013, his redshirt freshman season. The 5-10, 180-pound former all-state rusher at Fitzgerald (Ga.) High School was never able to crack into the running back rotation, which already featured Keon Williams, Marquis Green, Kenny Huitt and Derrick Craine.
Huesman said the Mocs are moving Shepherd to cornerback this offseason in the hopes of getting a talented athlete on the field and adding some needed depth in the secondary.
"We're going to see what he can do," Huesman said.
Huesman said nothing has been decided for Will linebacker Nakevion Leslie, but there's a good chance he winds up taking over for D.J. Key at strong safety.
Not all of the dates for UTC's spring practice have been set, but Huesman said the spring game will be played at Finley Stadium on April 12. The Mocs will likely get in a couple of practices before spring break (March 10-16) and do the rest of their 15 spring sessions after the players return.
Defensive end Vantrell McMillan, who tore his ACL during the final practice of last spring and missed all of 2013, will be back in time for this spring's workouts. Huesman said he's still waiting to find out the status of Lott, end Zach Rayl, cornerback Will Johnson and linebacker A.J. Hampton.
In late October the NCAA Division I Board of Directors approved a new rule allowing for eight hours per week of required weight training and conditioning for football players, and up to two of the hours can be used for film study with coaches. Previously, all summer activities were voluntary -- at least officially.
Long an advocate for having some football-related contact and oversight of his players in the summer, Huesman said he was very happy about the new rule.
Contact John Frierson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6268. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/MocsBeat.