While there are still some questions facing the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football Mocs as they wade through spring practice, none of those currently reside in the secondary. Especially the safety positions.
That's where the hitters and thieves reside.
Strong safety Cedric Nettles and free safety Lucas Webb both return a year wiser, and boty have been among the team's standouts so far this spring. Both started all 14 games last season, with Webb leading the team in interceptions with six while Nettles was the team's third-leading tackler with 77.
Defensive coordinator Adam Braithwaite said the duo must be leaders for the defense as a whole.
"They did a great job for us last year," he said after Wednesday's practice. "I've been pleased with how they've worked, how they've approached practice and how they've approached preparation. We're counting on them to step up and be leaders, and I think both of them have the ability to do so.
"We're going to need it."
Nettles and Webb work well together. They entered the starting lineup together, work out together and have a good bond with each other. They both see the importance of stepping up to become more vocal leaders.
"We've just been trying to bring the team along," said Nettles, a junior. "When we see a teammate down, we try to pick them up. When we see them struggling, we try to pick them up. When somebody's not having the best day, we've been encouraging and trying to be positive."
For both players, the spring has been about trying to fine-tune things to be as prepared for the upcoming season as possible. For Nettles, that's largely been footwork; for Webb, it's been continuing to find ways to make plays.
"If there's something I can do to help the defense, I want to make the best of it," he said. "We're out here to compete and get better, because when it comes down to it, football is about situations and you have to be prepared for whatever can come. One of the things I love about football is that you can't guess what's going to happen, so you just have to prepare yourself for whatever can happen, making sure you're in the right place and knowing your responsibility."
Wednesday's practice was the 10th of the spring season. Finley Stadium's new turf won't be ready in time for Friday, so the scrimmage scheduled for that day has been moved to Chattanooga Christian, which has a turf field. The scrimmage is set to begin at 3:45, depending on the weather.
Contact Gene Henley at email@example.com. Follow him at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.