Derrick Lott arrived at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga loaded with potential, but short on experience.
The former four-star defensive tackle prospect out of North Cobb (Ga.) High School was coming to UTC from Georgia, where he'd only played in five games in two seasons, after redshirting in 2009.
Lott's 2012 season was essentially his first playing college football, he said.
"It was definitely a slow start for me," he said. "At the same time, I felt like I had my mind right. The first play of the game [against South Florida to start the season] it hit me -- you're playing college football, get your mind right and get ready to strap it up and go hard every play."
Despite the slow start, Lott went on to be named second team All-Southern Conference. He finished the season fourth on the team with 57 tackles, including 2.0 sacks and 4.0 tackles for loss.
Fifteen of those 57 stops came in a dominating performance in the eighth game of the season, against Georgia Southern. And what was likely Lott's play of the season came against the Eagles, when the 6-foot-4, 300-plus defensive tackle ran down GSU quarterback Jerick McKinnon from behind and made the stop 17 yards down field.
"I just prayed about it and put my mind to it and started working harder and practicing good," Lott said of his improvement in the second half of the season, "and then it came natural in the games."
Lott wasn't sure what to expect going into 2012 after going from being predominantly a spectator on the sidelines for two seasons to being a starter for the Mocs. Now, heading into his senior season, Lott has high expectations for himself.
"I'm a senior, it's my last go-round and it's reality and it hits a lot of seniors. If you want to play in the league [NFL], you've got to work hard and do what you've got to do," he said. "It's definitely going to be a changer because I feel like last season I worked and I actually played. Now, being able to get a second season under my belt, playing from the beginning to the end, I'm comfortable."
Lott has cut some weight in the offseason and is down to around 300 pounds. As the Mocs go through voluntary workouts this month before starting preseason practice on July 31, he said there's much he wants to get done.
"Going into camp, I want to work on fundamental stuff: having great footwork, great hand placement and just being a great individual player," he said. "That will make the other defensive linemen better, the linebackers better and the DBs better."
Mocs tight end Faysal Shafaat was arrested early Sunday morning and charged with public intoxication and indecent exposure. The redshirt junior from Orlando, Fla., was found asleep and undressed in his car, which was parked near campus. UTC police noticed his car, which had some front-end damage, around 3:16 a.m., according to the arrest report. Police found the keys and his wallet outside the car.
Mocs coach Russ Huesman said Sunday afternoon that he and athletic director David Blackburn were aware of the situation and will determine what disciplinary action needs to be taken.
A two-year starter, Shafaat was named second-team All-Southern Conference last season after catching 37 passes for 295 yards and five touchdowns.
Contact John Frierson at email@example.com or 423-757-6268. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/MocsBeat.