The much-anticipated start of defensive end Vantrell McMillan's University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football career will likely have to wait until 2014.
McMillan suffered a serious knee injury during the second-to-last workout of spring practice and will have surgery this month, Mocs coach Russ Huesman said.
"I don't know exactly what they're going to have to do [during surgery]," Huesman said last week, "but I don't anticipate him being ready."
The 6-foot-2, 220-pound McMillan showed flashes of greatness while on the scout team as a true freshman last fall and during spring practice. McMillan was expected to be a key piece in a four- or five-man rotation at defensive end.
Without McMillan the Mocs should still have one of the top defensive end groups, and defensive lines, in the Southern Conference. The group is led by 2012 All-American and SoCon defensive player of the year Davis Tull, who was second in the Football Championship Subdivision as a sophomore last season with 12.5 sacks.
UTC also has redshirt junior Zach Rayl, who has been the No. 3 man in a three-man end rotation the past two seasons, converted defensive tackle Toyvian Brand, redshirt freshman Keionta Davis of Red Bank and D.J. Prather of Gordon Central (Ga.) High School. Brand, a starting tackle as a true freshman and sophomore, slid to to end during spring practice and was very effective.
After a couple of years playing inside, spring practice was a valuable time to get used to playing on the perimeter again, Brand said.
"It helped a lot because I set that goal of playing defensive end and I wanted to show them that I could play the position," he said. "With that opportunity, it really helped me out. I learned a lot from just being with Davis and Zach."
Brand has dropped from 285 pounds to 250 during the offseason. The shed weight will make him quicker, but he said he'll still be a physical player.
"You've got to be strong down on the inside," he said, "and I feel like going against tight ends and stuff now, that shouldn't be too hard for me."
For the third straight year UTC will be penalty-free when the NCAA releases the Academic Progress Rate scores for the 2011-12 academic year.
The numbers will be released on June 11, senior associate athletic director and senior woman administrator Laura Herron said. Every program but men's basketball is above the 925 NCAA standard, she said and men's basketball was close enough that all it had to do was put together an academic recovery plan,
Next year the NCAA mark to hit goes up to 930 and Herron said she was confident that all of UTC's 17 teams will be above 950, except men's basketball, which should be above 930.
Some early preseason polls have been released and UTC is ranked No. 20 in both the Sporting News poll and Lindy's Top 25. ... Tull made the Sporting News' All-America team, likely the first of many preseason accolades for the junior who has 17.5 career sacks, six short of the school record of 23.5 held by Josh Williams.
Contact John Frierson at email@example.com or 423-757-6268. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/MocsBeat.