Twelve of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football team's 14 scholarship freshmen redshirted last season. Several of those 12 are in the mix for starting jobs in 2011, and a few more should get significant playing time.
Beginning Friday with the first of UTC's 15 spring practices, those freshmen will have an opportunity to work their way up the depth chart alongside the Mocs' veterans.
"It's the spring and everybody's out there and nobody has a job, even the people who played last year," said freshman offensive lineman Devin Caldwell, a former Boyd-Buchanan standout. "That's what I like about it. Going into it everybody's got to fight for their position, so it's very competitive."
This spring the Mocs will begin reshaping their offensive line, which lost three three-year starters. Two freshmen, Taylor Dodds and Caldwell, will start out working with the first team -- Dodds at left tackle and Caldwell at either right guard or right tackle.
"Taylor Dodds and Devin Caldwell are big-time in our plans," Mocs coach Russ Huesman said.
Caldwell said it was sometimes frustrating sitting last season, but ultimately being able to redshirt was a good thing.
"I feel like it was good because it got me a little bit of experience. I learned the terminology and stuff that's way different from high school," he said. "Now I'm ready to go."
Tight end Faysal Shafaat also is ready to have a go at replacing Garrett Hughes, who was third on the team last season with 25 catches for 346 yards and was named first-team All-Southern Conference.
The 6-foot-5, 235-pound Shafaat routinely has been impressive catching the ball, but he said he still has a lot of room for improvement in other areas.
"Blocking's what I've got to work on," he said. "I'm looking good out here running routes, but the trenches are hard work."
Shafaat will compete with University of Kentucky transfer Sean Stackhouse, though the two often could be on the field at the same time in two-tight-end sets.
Most of the players who will work on the Mocs' defensive line this spring will be redshirt freshmen. With returning starters Nick Craig, Chris Donald and Josh Williams out while recovering from surgery, a lot of young players are going to get a lot of repetitions.
"That's the exciting thing, getting to see the young kids progress over 15 practices," defensive line coach Jimmy Lindsey said. "We're going to throw them in the fire and see what they can absorb."
Huesman said Tuesday that defensive lineman La'Nard Carr, who played in 10 games in 2010, starting two, has decided not to play his senior season. Carr had been unable to participate in mat drills this winter because of a knee injury.
Carr's absence, along with backup defensive tackle Jesse LoScudo being out after shoulder surgery, means that opportunities abound this spring for the freshman defensive linemen.
Devin Scates and Keyon Reed will work at defensive tackle, and Davis Tull, who walked on last fall, will line up at one of the defensive end positions.
Tull, a 6-3, 225-pounder from Knoxville, was highly coveted by offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield, who wanted to use him at tight end. Tull was in uniform at a couple of away games last season but didn't play.
"We feel like he's going to have a great career here," Huesman said.
Lindsey said he expects that he and ends coach Marcus West will have to do more teaching this spring than they would if more starters were healthy.
"It's good and bad with these kids because you're excited to see what they can potentially do going against the ones [starters], going against the twos [backups] on a regular basis," Lindsey said. "And then you're a little nervous because all of your older guys are out this spring."
The bottom line, Lindsey said, and this applies to all the freshmen who sat out the 2010 season, is "that the redshirt's over."
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