Coaches, media show respect for UTC football

Coaches, media show respect for UTC football

July 23rd, 2015 by Gene Henley in Sports - College

UTC quarterback Jacob Huesman, left, who is preparing for his senior season with the Mocs, is the preseason pick for Southern Conference offensive player of the year. He won the postseason version of the award the past two years.

Photo by Robin Rudd /Times Free Press.

Not that long ago, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga's football program was ecstatic about being picked to finish fourth in the Southern Conference.

That was in 2012.

Times have changed.

Southern Conference Preseason Rankings

(Total points listed, with first-place votes in parentheses)

Media Poll

UTC (7) 49

Samford (1) 40

Western Carolina 38

Wofford 30

Furman 22

Mercer 20

The Citadel 18

VMI 7

Coaches Poll

UTC (29) 239

Western Carolina (1) 190

Samford 176

Wofford 148

Furman 120

Mercer 93

The Citadel 82

VMI 32

For the second consecutive season, the Mocs were the preseason pick to win the conference at media day for SoCon football Wednesday in Spartanburg, S.C. UTC received 29 of 30 first-place votes in the media poll and seven of eight in the coaches' poll.

Samford was second in the coaches' poll, while Western Carolina was second in the media poll.

UTC head coach Russ Huesman said the Mocs — who went 7-0 against league competition last season to win an outright SoCon title for the first time — don't shy away from such rankings and predictions. Players are even provided with a guide that lists all preseason rankings, along with the preseason All-SoCon team.

"I figure the guys are smart enough to where they see and know, so for me to act like it's not out there makes no sense," Huesman said. "The ranking is nice; it means we had a good year and we have some guys coming back, and that's a good thing.

"You still have to play. You want to end up first, but I think people realize we have good players coming back."

A number of those players were recognized Wednesday. Quarterback Jacob Huesman, the coach's son, was the preseason pick to win SoCon offensive player of the year, having won the postseason award the past two seasons. He was one of 12 Mocs selected to preseason all-conference teams, including eight who received first-team honors. On the offensive side, Huesman was joined by lineman Corey Levin, who won the 2014 Jacobs Blocking Award as the best lineman in the SoCon.

Defensive linemen Keionta Davis and Josh Freeman were first-team selections, as were Dee Virgin and Lucas Webb in the secondary and Nakevion Leslie at linebacker. Henrique Ribeiro was the first-team kicker.

"All of the preseason awards and rankings are nice," Jacob Huesman said. "It's nice to be recognized by the teams and coaches around us, but really it's about what happens at the end of the season.

"Hopefully they're still talking about us at that time."

Offensive linemen Jacob Revis and Synjen Herren were second-team picks, along with receiver C.J. Board, while Cedric Nettles was a second-team defensive back.

Former Calhoun standout Chandler Curtis, a rising sophomore at Mercer, was the return specialist for the first team, while former Baylor standout John Mackey was a second-team defensive lineman as he prepares for his senior season at Furman.

Despite UTC's defensive line being a tentative area of concern in terms of depth, the Mocs had more players selected to the preseason first team this season — Davis and Freeman — than they did last season, when it turned out to be their biggest strength. A year ago, current New Orleans Saints rookie Davis Tull was the only preseason pick.

The Mocs have to replace four defensive linemen: Tull, Derrick Lott — who is in the Tennessee Titans' preseason camp — Zach Rayl and Danny Ring.

"It's all about the next man up," Freeman said. "I want to lead this group and be the best leader I can and help the other guys learn. We have a lot of guys eager to play and ready for the opportunity."

'Helmets and Heels' clinic set for Friday

The UTC coaching staff will host a women's football clinic at 6 p.m. Friday at Finley Stadium, with doors opening at 5. Admission is $40, with pre-registration available at gomocs.com; UTC students, faculty and staff receive a $15 discount. All proceeds will benefit the Huesman's Huddle program, which provides free admission to home games for underprivileged fans. All who attend the clinic will receive a visor, and the first 50 to register will receive free admission to the Chattanooga Times Free Press' SHE Expo on Saturday. The clinic includes instruction from the coaching staff, both on the field and in the Finley Stadium Club, and door prizes and other awards will be given throughout the evening. In addition, clinic participants and others are invited to submit their best recipes at gomocs.com for the Chattanooga Football Tailgating Recipe Book.

Contact Gene Henley at ghenley@timesfreepress.com. Follow him at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.

Preseason All-Southern Conference Football Team

Offensive Player of the Year: Jacob Huesman, Sr., QB, UTC

Defensive Players of the Year: Michael Pierce, Sr., DL, Samford

First Team
Offense

QB Jacob Huesman, Sr., UTC

RB Alex Lakes, So., Mercer

RB Denzel Williams, Jr., Samford

OL Sam Frye, Sr., The Citadel

OL Joe Turner, Sr., Furman

OL Gunnar Bromelow, Sr., Samford

OL Corey Levin, Jr., UTC

OL Anton Wahrby, Jr., Wofford

TE Duncan Fletcher, Jr., Furman

WR Karel Hamilton, Jr., Samford

WR Spearman Robinson, Jr., Western Carolina

Defense

DL Mitchell Jeter, Sr., The Citadel

DL Michael Pierce, Sr., Samford

DL Josh Freeman, Sr., UTC

DL Keionta Davis, Jr., UTC

LB Cory Magwood, Sr., Furman

LB Justin Cooper, Sr., Samford

LB Nakevion Leslie, Jr., UTC

DB James Bradberry, Sr., Samford

DB Dee Virgin, Jr., UTC

DB Lucas Webb, So., UTC

DB Trey Morgan, Jr., Western Carolina

Specialists

PK Henrique Ribeiro, Jr., UTC

P Brian Sanders, Sr., Wofford

RS Chandler Curtis, So., Mercer

Second Team
Offense

QB Troy Mitchell, Sr., Western Carolina

RB Darius Ramsey, Sr., Western Carolina

RB Lorenzo Long, Jr., Wofford

OL Alec Hulmes, Sr., Samford

OL Jacob Revis, So., UTC

OL Synjen Herren, Sr., UTC

OL Josh Wineberg, Sr., Western Carolina

OL T.J. Chamberlain, Sr., Wofford

TE Tony Philpot, Sr., Samford

WR Jordan Snellings, Sr., Furman

WR C.J. Board, Jr., UTC

Defense

DL John Mackey, Sr., Furman

DL Austin Barrett, So., Mercer

DL Helva Matungulu, Sr., Western Carolina

DL Caleb Hawkins, Sr., Western Carolina

(tie) DL E.J. Speller, Sr., Wofford

LB Tyler Ward, Jr., Mercer

LB Terrance Morris, So., Wofford

LB Drake Michaelson, Sr., Wofford

DB Alex Avant, Sr., Mercer

DB Jamerson Blount, Jr., Samford

DB Cedric Nettles, Jr., UTC

DB Sertonuse Harris, Sr., Western Carolina

Specialists

PK Dillon Christopher, Jr., VMI

P Matt Shiel, So., Mercer

RS Will Gay, Sr., Wofford