Chattanooga Mocs plan more from running backs

photo Freshman running back Kenny Huitt, center, takes the hand off at Scrappy Moore Field in this file photo.
photo The Mocs' Jacob Huesman, No. 14, runs the ball against Elon.

The same person led the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football team in rushing and passing last season - quarterback Jacob Huesman.

The Mocs coaching staff, including new offensive coordinator Jeff Durden, and the running backs want to lift a load from Huesman's legs and have others gain most of the 2013 season's rushing yards.

"We have to have more productivity at running back," Durden said. "In order to be more productive, they need more turns. We have to find out what those guys can do, and they'll get plenty of chances this spring."

Kenny Huitt rushed for 288 yards as a freshman last season. Fellow returning backs Keon Williams and Marquis Green combined to rush for 281. Huesman ran for 904 yards.

"I feel like it's more on us, and part of that is because of Coach Durden, and I think he wants to get us the ball more," Huitt said. "He's going to give us a chance, and we have to make plays."

Not all of the responsibility -- and reward -- for rushing yards goes to the backs. The offensive line is heavily invested.

"First off, we have to block better for them up front," head coach Russ Huesman said. "We have to find ways to hand the ball off and block people. I don't think we did that great last year. We have a lot of experience up front coming back, so I think we'll be better at that."

The Mocs went through a series of running plays and short passes early in their second of 15 spring practices Saturday at Scrappy Moore Field. Many of the linemen arrived early for a few extra repetitions on a gloomy afternoon.

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"I think we can execute the running game better with those guys," Coach Huesman said. "There's a lot that goes into it: It's not hand the ball off and let's roll. We just have to do it better. We have to stay on blocks better. But running backs have to make the right reads and the right cuts."

Four UTC running backs had at least 24 carries last season. Three had between 50 and 60.

Sharing the carries will continue through the spring, into preseason camp and likely into the season.

"There's a lot of competition," Coach Huesman said. "Marquis Green has shown he can play. Keon, in the past, has shown he can play, and Kenny has shown he can play. It's wide open between those three guys. I feel good about their capabilities to be real good in this offense."