In his first season as the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga tight ends coach, former Mocs All-Southern Conference left tackle Chris Harr has a lot to work with.
Harr, who was a blocking tight end as a true freshman in 2007, inherits a preseason first-team All-SoCon player in Faysal Shafaat. In his first two seasons, the 6-foot-5, 250-pound Shafaat caught 56 passes, including 37 in 2012, when he earned second-team All-SoCon and third-team All-America honors.
"I had high hopes coming into this year, and they're really showing out," said Harr, who was a student assistant with the Mocs last season. "Faysal and [backup Troy Dye] are doing a great job, a great job, and we're so much more comfortable now than last year and even in the spring, really."
Quarterback Jacob Huesman said having a player of Shafaat's size and ability makes his job a lot easier.
"The thing with Faysal, he's a good, big body to throw the ball to," he said. "I've kind of learned that I can kind of put it anywhere near him and he's going to make the catch for me. He's going to make the play."
In the Mocs' scrimmage last Saturday, Shafaat had four catches for 50 yards and a touchdown. Huesman hit him for an 11-yard score as Shafaat essentially boxed out safety Zach McCarter for the ball.
"He's big, he's fast, physical, and he's going to give any DB a hard time," McCarter said. "Not only is he good, he's got the body, and it's hard to get leverage on a guy like that."
In offensive coordinator Jeff Durden's system, Shafaat, who led all SoCon tight ends in receptions last season, could see the ball coming his way even more.
"I feel like Durden's really opening up the pass game," Shafaat said. "Last year we had a lot of pass plays called and scripted, but we never got to them. With the running game going well [in camp], it's really opening up the passing game."
Dye, a redshirt sophomore, played in three games last season. Dye has battled numerous injuries in his time at UTC but is healthy and making plays this preseason.
"Troy's really come along and has been able to do everything we've asked of him," Harr said.
UTC is looking for a third tight end to emerge, Harr said, and it will come down to redshirt freshman Kevin Neithammer or true freshman Malcolm Colvin. Jarrod Coleman left the team for personal reasons at the start of camp and has not returned. Mocs coach Russ Huesman said Monday that he hasn't heard from Coleman.
The preseason Sports Network FCS media poll was released Tuesday and the Mocs were ranked No. 24 -- one of four SoCon schools in the top 25. ... The Mocs practiced twice Tuesday, their last two-a-day of the preseason, and freshman wideout Alphonso Stewart (knee) practiced for the first time.
Contact John Frierson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6268. Follow him at twitter.com/MocsBeat.