Derek Mahaffey and the rest of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga defense "set the tone" for preseason camp with their attention to detail and focus in meetings Sunday.
They took that focus on the field and were equally as focused Monday.
The defense controlled the first practice of the 2017 UTC preseason, not allowing the offense much in the way of big plays during the two-hour afternoon session at Scrappy Moore Field. The defensive line made multiple sacks, and the defensive backs repeatedly knocked down passes.
"We talked (last night) about what we needed to do when we got out on the field," said Mahaffey, who was disruptive all day from the defensive tackle position. "We put our heads together and became a team out there. When we set the tone, everybody was involved; we're all a team, it's not just one man doing it."
The biggest celebration of the day came when junior Arizona State transfer Kareem Orr from Notre Dame High School stepped in front of a Nick Tiano pass and returned it for a score.
"When we see each other, we feed off that," Mahaffey said. "When a DB makes a pick, it makes me want to get back there more for a sack. When I see the linebacker fill the hole, it makes me feel like I'm doing my job.
"All of our success is based off of doing our job. Whatever Coach asks us to do, we have to do to the best of our ability."
Linebacker Tae Davis said the goal is for the defense to maintain its status as one of the best in the nation, and he felt the uniit took a step in that direction Monday.
"We didn't let the heat get to us," Davis said. "We just have to do our job again tomorrow - just give effort and the rest will take care of itself. We can't have a good day today and a bad one tomorrow. We can't afford to have that, so we'll hold each other accountable, go out and do what we did today, tomorrow."
It was the first preseason camp practice under head coach Tom Arth, and for the most part it went smoothly. He wasn't surprised that the defense won the day but said the offense needed to focus on eliminating what he called "self-inflicted wounds" that could hurt the team down the line. There were some bad snaps, lining up in the wrong positions and numerous dropped passes by receivers. It's all stuff that can be cleaned up, which is the good part.
"The good thing is we know we're going against a great group," Arth said of the offense's task. "Being able to block our defensive line is a challenge that's just going to make us better and make our quarterbacks better. We've just got to stay focused on doing the little things right.
"That's our focus, to execute every play, every situation."
The Mocs will maintain the same schedule today, with returning players practicing at 2:15 at Scrappy and newcomers going at 8:30 at Finley Stadium.
Mocs, SoCon preview stories
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- Josh Cardiello leading as Mocs' O-line progresses
- Competition fierce for UTC defensive backs
- Alejandro Bennifield shows leadership amid Mocs tensions
- SoCon Preview: Favored Wofford Terriers hope to maintain 'picked seventh' approach
- Alumnus Chris Cook making an impact now as UTC assistant coach
- SoCon Preview: Western Carolina
- Mocs better at receiver with additions
- VMI plans to lean more toward running this year
- Defense puts the heat on offense in UTC's opening practice [photos]
- Quarterback 'Duck' expects more balance in Samford offense
- Five questions for the Mocs as preseason practice starts
- Mocs lack experience on special teams
- Mercer confident about new season
- Key for UTC linebackers is their adjustment to 3-4 scheme
- Cleveland's Austin Herink clear leader for 'more mature' ETSU team
- Strong defensive line still a UTC trademark
- The Citadel keeping expectations high despite key losses
- UTC to offer VIP tents for fans at Finley Stadium
- UTC offensive line must gain experience
- Mocs picked fourth with league-high 10 preseason All-SoCon players
- Commissioner John Iamarino sees 'quality,' healthy parity in SoCon football
- Mocs have mixture of experience, transfers, youth at receiver
- UTC football picked fourth in SoCon preseason poll
- Richardre Bagley, Darrell Bridges experienced running backs for Mocs
- UTC not likely to be picked No. 1 again today
- UTC quarterback Alejandro Bennifield solid, but questions loom behind starter
The Mocs picked up their second 2018 commitment in as many days and their third commitment for the upcoming signing class Monday when Hewitt-Trussville receiver Logan Pitts made a pledge to the program.
The 6-foot-1, 210-pounder had 36 catches for 568 yards and five scores in 2016, helping the Huskies to an 11-1 record and the second round of the Alabama Class 7A state playoffs.
Pitts, who had early offers from Tennessee Tech and The Citadel, joins Dalton offensive lineman Dylan Cole and Boyd-Buchanan defensive back Kohl Henke, who committed Sunday.
Contact Gene Henley at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @genehenleytfp.