The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football program had something unique in the relationship between head coach Russ Huesman and Adam Fuller, the defensive coordinator who has accepted a job to help coach defense at Marshall.
Huesman and Fuller spent three seasons together at Richmond and four at UTC. Besides being good friends, they worked very well with each other because their thoughts on how to play defense were created together.
"Me and Adam kind of formulated what we wanted to do and how we wanted to do it," Huesman said. "We researched it and developed a philosophy, and our philosophies are identical."
Huesman said Fuller probably flew under the radar in the coaching world because they so often worked together. That limited Fuller's exposure to other coaches.
"I think the reason Adam decided to do this and needed to do this is, it's been me and him for a long time," Huesman said. "Good coaches can go under the radar if that circle [of colleagues] isn't very big, and thank goodness he's gone under the radar as long as he has."
In 2008, UTC ranked No. 111 in the Football Championship Subdivision in total defense (442.5 yards per game) and No. 112 in scoring defense (37.9 points per game). That's what Fuller inherited after Huesman was hired in December 2008.
The following season, UTC's defense was in the top half of the Southern Conference in most categories. There was a dip in 2010 as young players had to replace the veterans of 2009.
In 2011, the Mocs led the league in total defense (305.3 yards per game), scoring defense (19.7 papg) and numerous other categories. UTC also had two first-team All-SoCon linebackers in Ryan Consiglio and Wes Dothard, who was an All-American.
UTC returns every starter but two from last season's defense that was second in the league to Wofford in scoring (20.4 papg) and total defense (308.4 yapg).
"He's a great friend and did an unbelievable job for this program," Huesman said of Fuller. "I appreciate all his work, but [turnover] happens -- and now we've got to go out and find one just as good."
Because of Huesman's background as a defensive coordinator, the perception might be that he really ran UTC's defense the past four seasons, or at least had a strong presence. Actually, Huesman said, "I can guarantee you that everything that's happened defensively here the last few years has been him."
The next defensive coordinator also will be in charge. Huesman said UTC will continue to run a 4-3 defense (with some 4-2-5), but otherwise there could be some tweaks here and there.
"The question is, is it going to be exactly this defense? I know it's not going to be the same, because it's not [Fuller]," he said. "But I'd say the philosophy is kind of going to be the same."
Along with finding a new coordinator, Huesman has another defensive assistant opening to fill. Spring practice begins on March 22.