Mocs coaches recruited without comforts of home

UTC football coach Tom Arth speaks Wednesday about his first signing class with the Mocs.

This morning, and for the first time in a while, Tom Arth expected to wake up in his bed.

His real bed. In Cleveland, Ohio.

The new University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football coach, hired in mid-December after Russ Huesman left to become head coach at Richmond, wrapped up his first recruiting class Wednesday by signing 19 players. The Mocs were able to fill specific needs identified shortly after the new staff was assembled and arrived in Chattanooga.

One of the things Arth and his staff looked for in the signing class was winners. Eight players, including Bradley Central quarterback Cole Copeland, were all-state selections. Four of them came from teams that won state championships: Beauregard (Ala.) linebacker Zach Feaster, Whitehaven defensive back Jabril Malone, Valdosta (Ga.) defensive lineman Devonnsha Maxwell and Knoxville Catholic wide receiver Jeffery Wood II.

And that was accomplished without the comforts of home - but not just because recruiting means traveling to visit prospects.

Arth came to UTC from John Carroll University, and his new staff includes several assistants from his time leading the Blue Streaks. So for the past few weeks, most of the staff has been living in a hotel in Chattanooga.

As of Wednesday, only one Mocs assistant had moved into a new home - receivers coach Ryan Aplin, who was the last hired.

"That's a tribute to my wife (Victoria)," said Aplin, who is used to moving after stints with Auburn, Ole Miss and North Alabama in recent years. "We've done it quite a bit the last few years. I guess I get bragging rights. I told them the other night that I'm sleeping in my own bed. It's been good. It's really nice to get my family down here.

"It's been a crazy three weeks, but I got out of the hotel pretty quick."

Arth said he hasn't minded the hotel living arrangement.

"You come home every day, your bed is made, the bathroom's clean, you have new fresh towels. I love the hotel lifestyle" said Arth, who quickly became a fan of Urban Stack as he and his coaches discovered new restaurants via staff meetings.

Four coaches - Arth, defensive coordinator Brandon Staley, linebackers coach Matthew Feeney and director of player personnel Scott Aligo - flew back to Cleveland on Wednesday after the Mocs' signing day celebration at the Stadium Club. Two others - offensive coordinator Justin Rascati (Cookeville) and defensive backs coach Jonathan Cooley (Lexington, Ky.) - were driving to their destinations Wednesday.

It marked the end of a crazy few weeks. Arth was hired Dec. 20, and as the staff was being assembled, coaches were put to work recruiting immediately.

They wanted to first nail down players committed to the previous staff, and had eight players stick with the Mocs. Only three backed out, all of them offensive linemen: Jack Doherty and Clayton McConnell, who went with Richmond, and Colton Dowell, who chose UT-Martin.

More than 20 recruits visited UTC over a three-week span, with the new staff gaining commitments from 11. By signing day they lost one committed player, linebacker Tim Frizzell. He had committed to UTC over Richmond and Huesman, but then flipped to Football Bowl Subdivision program Appalachian State, which offered the 6-foot-2, 225-pounder a scholarship Tuesday afternoon. Frizzell chose the Mountaineers without visiting their campus.

Another player, defensive tackle Christian Smith, was still undecided as of Wednesday evening.

"Our goals at UTC are simple. It's to win national championships," Arth said. "That's what I believe in, that's what I know this school is capable of, that's what I know our players and our team are capable of. I believe you do that by recruiting men of character, intellect and talent. That's something we pride ourselves in.

"This class is an incredible representation of all three of those things."

Contact Gene Henley at Follow him on Twitter @genehenleytfp.