SPARTANBURG, S.C. - The Southern Conference coaches are expecting big things from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga this season.
At the SoCon football media day Wednesday at the Spartanburg Marriott, the league's coaches and media preseason polls and the coaches' preseason All-SoCon teams were announced. And the Mocs were well represented.
The Mocs, who went 6-5 and finished tied for fourth in the SoCon in 2012, placed a league-best nine players on the all-league first or second teams, with five of the 11 first-team defenders.
"I think it's cool because these people [coaches] really know the conference," said UTC junior defensive end Davis Tull, who was voted preseason co-defensive player of the year, along with Samford safety Jaquiski Tartt.
Representing UTC at the media day were coach Russ Huesman, Tull and senior linebacker Wes Dothard. Joining Tull and Dothard on the first-team defense were defensive tackle Derrick Lott, safety D.J. Key and cornerback Kadeem Wise -- all seniors except for Tull.
"That's pretty good, especially the five on defense," said Dothard, like Tull a preseason All-American and Buck Buchanan Award nominee. "That's a lot of people."
The coaches picked the Mocs to finish third in the league this season, behind only departing Georgia Southern and Appalachian State, and UTC received one first-place vote. Third is the highest UTC has been picked since 1991.
Because the Eagles and Mountaineers are transitioning up to the Sun Belt Conference and will play with more than the Football Championship Subdivision maximum of 63 scholarships, they are ineligible for the SoCon crown and the playoffs. That makes the Mocs the coaches' favorite to win the league.
"It's my last year and I really want to get a ring," Dothard said. "The ultimate goal here is to win a SoCon championship."
"And a national championship," added Tull, last season's defensive player of the year.
The media was a little less optimistic, picking UTC fourth, though the Mocs received a pair of first-place votes. The media picked GSU first, Wofford second, App State third and then the Mocs. ASU, GSU and Wofford shared the title in 2012.
"It's nice that we get some recognition, especially in the coaches' poll, but how that shakes out is anybody's guess," Huesman said.
The Mocs' first-team five weren't their only preseason all-conference picks. Junior tight end Faysal Shafaat, who led all SoCon tight ends last season with 37 catches, made the first-team offense. On the second-team offense were quarterback Jacob Huesman, wide receiver Terrell Robinson and right guard Kevin Revis.
Huesman said seeing his son, who started 10 games as a freshman last season, on the second team was unexpected.
"I love him, but I was actually very, very surprised," said Coach Huesman, who expected Georgia Southern quarterback Jerick McKinnon to be all-conference along with Appalachian State quarterback Jamal Londry-Jackson, the preseason pick for offensive player of the year.
The Mocs report for preseason practice Tuesday and begin practice the next day.
Contact John Frierson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6268. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/MocsBeat.