University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football coach Russ Huesman has said that for the second straight season the Mocs are going to have to rely some on true freshmen to maintain the success the program has enjoyed.
A couple of those freshmen are in the backfield.
In one of the thinner positions, Kyle Nalls and Alex Trotter have been getting their share of repetitions and attempting to learn the Mocs' system. Only four practices in, both have shown flashes as to why they had multiple options coming out of high school, with both choosing UTC over FBS programs — Appalachian State for Nalls, Army for Trotter.
"Both have done good, and you can see they're getting better everyday," Huesman said. "It was a little of a slow start for them. They were a little tentative, but we've seen some things where it makes you realize this is why we recruited them. They have to get faster learning the offense. We recruited the right guys."
It didn't take long for both to realize that the transition from high school to college wasn't going to be an easy one. For Trotter, it took one hit in practice.
"On the first day I figured out it was a lot faster," he said. "The guys were a lot stronger and hit a lot harder. That first hit was a big impact; coming from McCallie, I feel it prepared me a little bit since it's such a hard division, but college is unlike high school.
"It takes a while to come along, but I'm doing that day by day."
The 5-foot-9, 175-pounder rushed for 2,266 yards and 33 touchdowns playing for the Blue Tornado last year. Division II-AA football is tough top to bottom in Tennessee, but it's nothing like playing for a top-10 FCS program.
Nalls has faced a similar transition, and it's one he never expected would happen. The 6-1, 200-pounder who ran for 2,284 yards and 30 touchdowns for Fayette County in Alabama took his college opportunities very humbly.
"I just never thought I would be here," he said. "I didn't know if I was good enough, but I'm glad I've been able to learn from Derrick (Craine) and Richardre (Bagley).
"Hopefully, I'll be able to get a little bit of playing time this season."
The humility as well as the talent of both freshman backs really drew the UTC coaching staff to them. It's far too early to know where they'll end up in the pecking order this year, with Craine and Bagley atop the depth chart and not doing anything to relinquish those spots. But that's not to say there won't be opportunities for one or both to crack the rotation in some way.
"My only goal this year is just to be a team player and a leader," Trotter said. "I just want to get better every day."
UTC offensive lineman Corey Levin recently was named to the College Sporting News 2015 Preseason Fabulous Fifty FCS All-American Team, as well as the College Football America FCS starting lineup.
Levin was the 2014 Jacobs Blocking Award winner as the Southern Conference's best offensive lineman.
He's already been named a preseason first-team All-American by STATS.com and The Sporting News, and the SoCon coaches gave him preseason first-team all-conference honors.
Contact Gene Henley at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.