Greeson: Huesman, Mocs in crucial building season

Greeson: Huesman, Mocs in crucial building season

January 11th, 2014 by Jay Greeson in Sports - Columns

UTC Mocs logo

Here we are, longing for college football mere days since the season ended and agonizing months before it begins anew.

The rational thinker in each of us knows that it will be here sooner than we expect and it will be just as engaging as we remember. It's like picking up a classic novel to read just one more time and remembering some forgotten glorious details.

The fan in each of us can't wait, though. We want it now -- the passion, the excitement and the fun.

For those involved like UTC coach Russ Huesman, the winter months are the building blocks for the roster. Hello, recruiting, and Huesman and company know the importance the next wave of Mocs can mean to the high-octane run of success of the current Mocs.

In fact, the record-setting upward arc that Huesman and his staff are on can be traced back to the very start -- five years ago this month -- and some early recruiting victories in January that led to so many Saturday victories in the falls to come.

"We were selling a chance to play and come in and be a part of something, " Huesman said of that first recruiting run that yielded future all-conference and All-America players D.J. Key, Kadeem Wise and Wes Dothard. "Back then we were pitching opportunity. Now we're pitching excellence."

The offer is convincing and accurate. UTC is coming off a program-changing 8-4 mark in 2013 that included a share of the Southern Conference title, the program's first since before any of the current players were born. The Mocs have collected a slew of individual awards during the ascent, as well, with Mocs being named SoCon players of the year four times since 2009. (Defensive players of the year were Josh Beard in 2009 and Davis Tull the last two seasons; quarterback Jacob Huesman was the offensive player of the year last season.)

All told, seven UTC players have made nine All-America teams and 40 Mocs have been named All-SoCon in the last five years -- the same number of all-conference picks the program had in the previous 13 seasons -- and Coach Huesman believes success on fall Saturdays starts in January.

"This is such a huge time for us," he said, preparing for another big weekend hosting a slew of highly regarded prospects. NCAA rules forbid any coach from discussing potential recruits specifically, but when asked about the visitors to UTC this weekend, Huesman simply said, "There are some guys that could really, really help us."

As the Mocs have started winning more and more frequently and UTC's profile has increased, so too have the profiles of the prospective Mocs. Without getting into specifics about the weekend's visitors, Huesman was quite eager about the potential any of the current targets could have.

For programs that are generating interest and moving forward, January can be as much fun as Christmas shopping, and for Huesman and company those spots are valuable -- to the players of the future and the team of the present.

"Wit 63 [scholarships] we can't afford to miss on a single kid," Coach Huesman said, echoing the common belief among Football Championship Subdivision coaches. "We have to be almost perfect."

They are off to a strong start with six commitments, including four area players in Northwest Whitfield's Isaiah Mack, East Hamilton's Bailey Lenoir and McCallie's Cam Walker and C.J. Fritz.

The desperation of the moment is as fresh as it was five years ago for Coach Huesman, even if his pitch has drastically changed. It's the approach that has UTC on the verge of making the postseason for the first time since 1984. It's the approach that has the school poised to be the SoCon's power for the foreseeable future. It's the approach that started the ascent and one that Huesman hopes will lead UTC through every glass ceiling that has capped this program since the days of Joe Morrison himself.

"Recruiting is the lifeblood of every program, same for us as it at Alabama and every other program," Huesman said. "We like where we are and are excited about where we are headed. We just need to keep getting players that can help us."

That's the task of the moment. Forget the calendar: It's always gameday in college football.

Contact Jay Greeson at jgreeson@timesfreepress.com