The smiles and fist bumps were frequent during spring practice. So were words of encouragement and little pieces of advice here and there.
If you didn't know Terrell Robinson and Jacob Huesman were competing for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga starting quarterback job, you wouldn't be able to tell by their interactions. It seems unlikely, but the competition has been light on tension and loaded with support and camaraderie.
"I think it has made us closer," Huesman said. "I know it's made us better."
Robinson, a redshirt sophomore from South Pittsburg that shared Southern Conference Freshman of the Year honors last season, entered spring practice as the starter. He rushed for 417 yards, threw for 336 and completed 62.8 percent of his passes in a little more than four games last fall.
Huesman redshirted last season, but the son of Mocs coach Russ Huesman was busy and effective running the scout team offense.
Both players performed well during spring practice and from the start Russ Huesman and offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield took some tension out of the situation my declaring that both athletic, multi-talented quarterbacks would play in 2012.
"Both of those kids are good kids that are going to help our football team," Russ Huesman said.
The 6-foot-3 Robinson, now up near 200 pounds, was the star dual-threat QB at South Pittsburg High School, where he was the Mr. Football Division I-A Back of the year in 2009. The 6-1, 215-pound Huesman was the star dual-threat QB at Baylor, where he was the Mr. Football Division II-AA Back of the Year in 2010.
During the spring, both players got plenty of repetitions with the first-team offense. Some days were better than others for both and their comfort levels in the Mocs' new pro-spread offense rose as the spring progressed.
"When we're out there we kind of feed off each other," Jacob Huesman said. "When one of us is down, I'm going 'Hey T-Rob, you've got this, let's go.' And he's doing the same for me. We're feeding off each other and building on that."
Robinson said there is mutual respect between them and the understanding that competition will bring out the best in each.
"You never want to have tension with a teammate," Robinson said. "I know Jacob's a hard worker and he pushes me. I admire him for being the hard worker that he is and for helping me to better myself."
Jacob Huesman, who was a member of UTC's 4x100-meter relay team at the SoCon outdoor track and field championships, said it doesn't benefit the team for there to be tension or conflict between himself and Robinson.
"We both know it's a competition, but it's kind of one of those fun ones. We're both playing and ultimately, to go out there and say, 'I'm competing against you and I don't like you,' that's a selfish thing to do," he said. "And neither one of us is like that. Obviously our common goal is a championship and for the team to get better. We know that maybe the best thing for the team is if we're both out there."
Satterfield said that while one is in the shotgun, the other could be lined up at receiver. The two quarterbacks have impressed him, he said, with their work ethic and with how they've worked together.
"They're a lot more similar than people probably realize," he said. "They're both intellectual kids, they're extremely hard workers, they're competitive, yet they answer each other's questions and it's not competitive - they're not going to undercut each other.
"It's been fun to watch because I've never been involved in anything like this, where you actually have two guys of that caliber trying to win a spot."
It's a good problem to have.