Wiedmer: Can Mocs finish above predicted fourth in SoCon?

Wiedmer: Can Mocs finish above predicted fourth in SoCon?

July 27th, 2011 by Mark Wiedmer in Sports - Columns

Fourth? B.J. Coleman to Joel Bradford - the Butch and Sundance of FCS football - and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Mocs are still picked fourth by the Southern Conference coaches and media?

Linebacker Ryan Consiglio is back to smack down enemy ball carriers and UTC is fourth?

Mocs coach Russ Huesman is entering season No. 3 of his personal crusade to "Restore the Glory," and the Blue and Gold are picked fourth in a nine-team league?

"We were pretty average last year," Huesman said Tuesday afternoon. "At least we're not on the bottom of the heap. We were picked last my first year."

If you need one more reason to appreciate Huesman's worth to his alma mater, there it is. The man's never going to get too high or too low about a preseason football poll. He's not even that upset that Appalachian State senior quarterback DeAndre Presley nosed out Coleman for preseason first team.

"For what we do, I wouldn't trade B.J. for anything," Huesman said. "But I'm sure App State feels the same way about Presley. And they should. I just know that B.J. helped us build this thing faster than we would have. We don't go 6-5 the last two seasons without B.J. Coleman at quarterback."

But the last two years aren't this year. This is the season Moc Maniacs have waited on ever since Coleman came home from Knoxville to help restore that glory to the school for which his father once played football, alongside Huesman.

And UTC should be pretty good. Maybe even better than that. But it may need to be just to finish above .500 for a third straight season, something the Mocs haven't accomplished since posting 10 straight winning records from 1976 to 1985.

In fact, there are sound reasons to believe 6-5 might be overachieving. Or don't you think road games at Nebraska, Appalachian State and Georgia Southern allow the Mocs scant wiggle room the rest of the way?

Throw in the fact that only five starters return on offense and this could conceivably be Huesman's toughest year yet.

Especially when the coach says of the three teams voted to finish ahead of him - Georgia Southern, App and Wofford - "They're not going away. I'm still trying to figure out how one coach voted us No. 1."

That said, Huesman's been through this rebuilding routine before. For five years he ran the defense at Richmond, which won the national championship atop UTC's Davenport Field a few days before Huesman accepted the UTC gig in late December of 2008.

"We didn't get really good until our fourth year," he said of the Spiders' run to glory.

You can make too much of a comment on a teleconference. But asked Tuesday to evaluate the conference the media favored his team to win, Georgia Southern coach Jeff Monken said, "It's a really strong league, as good as it's been in a long time. Appalachian State has tremendous talent. It's amazing the job Wofford does every season. There's nobody in this league that you can point to and say, 'Hey, we can win that one.'"

And Monken's view of UTC?

"They're a good football team."

Not great. Not tremendous. Not amazing. Good, which is usually the term used for college football teams that finish fourth in a talented league.

Of course, good is clearly better than the Mocs have been in decades. Good just might be good enough to earn the school's first playoff berth since 1984 if UTC can indeed finish third or fourth.

And the Mocs did place one more player on the preseason first- and second-team All-SoCon squads than Wofford - seven to six - with GSU leading with 14 followed by App with 11.

But even if Huesman has no problem with the preseason poll, that doesn't mean he necessarily believes that's how it will all play out.

"I'll cliché you," he said. "Nothing is won in preseason polls."

Especially not as long as you've got Coleman to Bradford to prove them wrong.