Russ Huesman was in his fifth season as Richmond’s defensive coordinator, in 2008, when the Spiders won the Football Championship Subdivision national title.
Today’s 3 p.m. practice at Scrappy Moore Field marks the start of Huesman’s fifth season as the head coach at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. The Mocs reported Tuesday morning, and all players were present and accounted for.
This Mocs squad, which went 6-5 last season (5-3 Southern Conference), has some parallels to the ’08 Richmond team. Both starting lineups were loaded with veterans, including many redshirt seniors and juniors. Both teams also had very talented defenses.
“I think we’ve finally gotten this thing to a point where we’re playing with guys that you’re supposed to be playing with,” Huesman said this summer.
With Appalachian State and Georgia Southern ineligible for the SoCon title, UTC is among the favorites for the crown. How the Mocs handle being one of the hunted is something only time will tell, but here are five other questions to think about heading into preseason practice:
1. Will the defense be as good as it looks?
If the starters stay healthy and the younger backups develop, there’s no reason UTC shouldn’t have the best defense in the SoCon and one of the best in the FCS.
2. Who besides Jacob Huesman and Terrell Robinson will lead the offense?
Faysal Shafaat is the best tight end in the SoCon and has improved each year (37 catches last season), while players such as Marquis Green, Tommy Hudson, Keon Williams and Kenny Huitt will have the chance to be key weapons.
3. Which newcomers will have the biggest impact?
Defensive tackle Danny Ring started three games at Navy last season and should be in the mix on a talented line, while at wideout James Stovall, Alphonso Stewart and Xavier Borishade are among the guys who could shine.
4. Among the veterans, who will have abreakout season?
Toyvian Brand started 16 games at defensive tackle in his first two seasons, and he’s now slimmed down and moved to defensive end, where his power pass rush will cause big problems.
5. What positions will have the best preseason competition?
The Mocs need to figure out their depth charts, including the starters, at running back and wideout — two positions that need stability if the offense is going to flourish.
Contact John Frierson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6268. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/MocsBeat.