The football staff at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga has big plans for the future. And they want to get there quickly.
Before dust settles on the shiny new Southern Conference championship trophy, Mocs coaches want to add more, even larger hardware.
From head coach Russ Huesman, throughout the staff and even among several members of Wednesday's signing class, no one wearing blue and gold is speaking in hushed tones about the next step for the program.
"We want everyone in our program to believe we can compete for national championships," Huesman said. "There's no need to be shy or avoid talking about it. There's a lot of work to do to get there, but that should be our ultimate goal."
To compete at that level, and do so sooner rather than later, Mocs coaches knew they needed to add another element of speed to the talent already on their roster. So on Wednesday the staff brought in what is likely the fastest group of athletes the program has signed, with 13 of the Mocs' 19 signees having high-level success in track at the high-school level.
That includes McCallie's C.J. Fritz, who projects to play cornerback and who won the Tennessee Division II state title in the 100-meters last spring with a blister time of 10.59 seconds. In only his first full season of running track, Fritz was also timed in the 40-yard dash at 4.36 seconds, just a blink faster than Memphis Mitchell receiver Dejuan McQuarters, who also qualified for the state meet in both the 100 and 200 meters last year and has been timed at 4.39 in the 40. McQuarters averaged 18.8 yards per catch last season and was described by one UTC assistant as, "maybe the most electrifying player here since Buster Skrine."
Once McQuarters had signed, Huesman tweeted, "[Receivers] Coach [Will] Healy just got better as a coach." Huesman later added, "if Dejuan can pull away from guys in Memphis, he's pretty fast."
"Me and Dejuan have already talked about having a race once we get to UTC to see who's the fastest freshman," Fritz said with a laugh. "Looking at all the guys who signed, and the speed our class is bringing, I think that can be a game changer.
"We'll have a lot of playmakers on both sides of the ball and even on kick and punt returns. When you have a team with speed and depth at every position it makes everybody play with a lot more confidence, so I hope we can add something to what's already there."
Of the Mocs' 19 signees, 12 played an offensive skill position in high school. While not all of those will remain on offense, that stat at least shows the versatility and play-making ability of the class.
Running back Richardre Bagley, who was timed at 4.38 seconds in the 40 at one camp, had offers from three FBS programs and averaged more than 8 yards per carry last season. Receiver Bingo Morton, a region champion in the 200-meter dash, averaged more than 14 yards per catch last season and Wil Young, who mirrors Morton's 6-foot-2, 190-pound frame and will also join the receiver corps, competed in Alabama's region 400-meters, long jump and high jump.
On defense, linebacker Dale Warren also possesses sprinter's speed, and at 6-foot, 205-pounds packs a wallop when he hits opponents. Warren, a freakish athlete with a 39-inch vertical jump, was timed at 4.48 seconds in the 40 at one summer camp and will be joined in the back end of the Mocs' defense by safety Tae Davis, who was named the top sprinter at Oxford (Ala.) last year.
"We brought in great team speed," Huesman said. "It's documented track speed. But we didn't just get guys who can run, we got really good football players who can run."
Contact Stephen Hargis at email@example.com or 423-757-6293.