UTC not likely to be picked No. 1 again today

UTC head football coach Tom Arth, right, talks with quarterback Alejandro Bennifield during UTC's spring football game day at Finley Stadium on Saturday, April 8, 2017, in Chattanooga, Tenn. This year's spring game was an open practice followed by a 40 minute scrimmage.

Mocs, SoCon preview stories

SPARTANBURG, S.C. - In many ways, today's Southern Conference football media day event may be different for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

The previous four seasons, UTC teams were selected to win the SoCon, and the Mocs wound up winning at least shares of the championship three of those years. Even last season's third-place finish still was good enough to earn the Mocs a spot in the Football Championship Subdivision national playoffs before a second-round exit.

Yet a first-place projection would seem far-fetched for this season, with the loss of five 2016 All-Americans, including SoCon defensive player of the year Keionta Davis and sixth-round NFL draft selection Corey Levin. The league was strong enough for four teams to advance to the 2016 playoffs, with three advancing to the round of 16 and one - Wofford - in the final eight.

The Terriers, whom most projected to be a surprise team last season during media day, probably will be among the favorites today, as will Samford, which returns an explosive offense. UTC and The Citadel will be in some order with the Birmingham-based Bulldogs, while senior-laden Mercer and East Tennessee State - which were 6-5 and 5-6 last season, respectively - are other teams to look out for.

With wins over Kennesaw State and Samford, ETSU's Buccaneers had as many Top 25 victories as UTC and The Citadel, and just one fewer that Wofford.

There also is a different look at the top at UTC, with Russ Huesman leaving after eight seasons to take the head coaching job at Richmond. He was replaced by Tom Arth, the NCAA Division III coach of the year at John Carroll who brings a 40-8 record to Chattanooga.

He will be joined today at the Spartanburg Marriott by senior quarterback Alejandro Bennifield and senior safety Lucas Webb.

All nine programs will be represented at the one-day event, which starts at noon with a luncheon followed by an address from commissioner John Iamarino. Preseason all-conference players as well as team projections will be released during the day as well.

Contact Gene Henley at ghenley@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @genehenleytfp.