Georgia Southern coach Jeff Monken has much praise for UTC Mocs

Georgia Southern coach Jeff Monken has much praise for UTC Mocs

September 25th, 2013 by John Frierson in Sports - College

UTC quarterback Jacob Huesman runs for a touchdown during overtime against Georgia Southern. The Mocs, who finished 6-5, lost in the third extra period after wiping out a 14-point deficit in regulation.

Photo by Jake Daniels/Times Free Press.

Southern Conference

Georgia Southern football coach Jeff Monken had nothing but good things to say about the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga -- the Eagles' opponent Saturday at Paulson Stadium -- during Tuesday's Southern Conference coaches' teleconference.

He spoke highly of Mocs coach Russ Huesman, quarterback Jacob Huesman, running back Keon Williams and more.

"[The Mocs have] got a great football team and they're as good a team as anybody in our league," Monken said. "They're talented; they're big; they're running the ball very effectively; they play great defense, as they always have; and we've worked this week to try to get ready."

Monken went on and on about Jacob Huesman, who shredded the Eagles' defense in Georgia Southern's 38-31 triple-overtime win in Chattanooga last season. He finished with 170 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 26 carries, while also going 11-for-20 passing for 102 yards and a score. He also had a 16-yard reception.

"I think he's a terrific player; he's as good as there is in our league," said Monken, whose record in three-plus seasons at GSU is 31-12. "He's a winner. He takes his team up and down the field; he's smart; he's tough; he's a coach's kid. I know he cares, and I know on Saturday afternoon there's nothing more important in the world to that kid than trying to win.

"You'd love to have a guy like that on your team."

Georgia Southern (2-1, 0-1), which is in its final SoCon season before moving up to the Sun Belt Conference, is ineligible for the league title or the Championship Subdivision playoffs. But the Eagles, like fellow Sun Belt-bound school Appalachian State, can be spoilers.

To do that, they'll have to limit the fundamental mistakes that plagued them in their 30-20 SoCon-opening loss to Wofford. And Monken had plenty of complaints the first two weeks, despite massively lopsided wins over Savannah State and St. Francis (Pa.).

The Eagles spent a lot of time during the off week on fundamentals, he said.

"Two weeks ago when we played Wofford, we had the ball on the ground nine times," he said. "We didn't lose all nine of them, but putting the ball on the ground for lost-yardage plays, fumbled center-quarterback exchanges for lost-yardage plays -- that's really frustrating to have the ball on the ground that often."

Sullivan limited return

Samford coach Pat Sullivan made his first appearance of the season on Tuesday's teleconference, after watching the Bulldogs fall 34-31 at home last Saturday to Southeastern Louisiana from the press box. Sullivan has been recovering from back surgery, and associate head coach and defensive coordinator Bill D'Ottavio has handled a lot of the head coach's duties.

"I'm doing much, much better and feel good," Sullivan said before thanking everyone at Samford for the work they did while he was out.

Sullivan said he's been involved with the team in many ways and made decisions from the press box last week, but as far as a return to the sideline, he's not quite there yet.

"Hopefully in the next couple of weeks I'm going to be able to do that," he said.

Mocs linemen practice

UTC starting left guard Synjen Herren and backup center Shaun Hill wore boots on their injured ankles all last week and did not practice. They were in action Tuesday at Scrappy Moore Field, though in limited roles.

Herren was the first to go down in UTC's win against Austin Peay, resulting in Hill taking over at center and starting center Patrick Sutton sliding over to left guard. Coach Huesman said UTC's trainers were being cautious with both players.

"Sometimes big guys on those ankles, it doesn't feel real good," he said.

Both are expected to be available Saturday.

Contact John Frierson at jfrierson@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6268. Follow him at twitter.com/MocsBeat.