Strange development: He's no longer a new Mocs offensive lineman

Staff Photo by Robin Rudd / Offensive lineman Cole Strange (69) comes off the field. The UTC football team practiced at Finley Stadium on August 10, 2017.

With his son Cole home for the month of May, Greg Strange developed a second meal plan for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga sophomore offensive lineman.

For breakfast, Cole could expect eight to 10 eggs and six or seven pieces of sausage. Lunch consisted of a few sandwiches and some leftovers from the previous night's dinner. To no surprise, dinner was the biggest meal of the day, with highlights being spaghetti or steak.

"Everybody had regular portions, but for me it was usually two or three times as much," Cole said recently.

After playing at 255 pounds last season, Strange is now up to 290. The weight gain is obvious, but his growth as an offensive lineman has perhaps been even more evident.

He was slid into the Mocs' line last season, with relatively little knowledge at the position since he had been a defensive lineman and tight end at Farragut High School and had spent the 2016 season injured. He played the final five games and, while really not knowing what he was doing, aided in the offensive line's improved performance the latter half of the year.

With a spring to get better, a summer to get better and preseason camp to continue to improve, Strange has become a mainstay on the offensive line.

"Last year Cole was a little raw and unsure of some things, but one thing we knew was how hard he was playing," offensive line coach Nick Hennessey said. "We knew once he got straight with everything, he was going to be a great player. He's starting to come around a little bit now where he knows his assignments and knows why he's supposed to do what he's supposed to do. It's been fun to watch."

Head coach Tom Arth said strength and conditioning coach Chad Pearson highlighted how much Strange had changed his body over the offseason, while also raving about his work ethic.

"He plays with great aggressiveness, great nastiness, and I think that carries over to the way he works in the offseason," Arth said. "It shows in the way he trains, the way he runs, the way he lifts. To see Cole before the offseason started to where he's at today says a lot about his commitment and the way he takes care of his body and nutrition."

With Strange's presence on the offensive line, the Mocs went from averaging 56.9 rushing yards per game over the first seven games to 115.3 over the final four, resulting in a 2-2 record in four games they had chances to win. The Mocs weren't good at the end of the year on the offensive front, but they certainly had improved.

Still, the line has to be better for the Mocs to be better as a team this year. That fact isn't lost on Strange or the rest of the unit, which returns him and junior Malcolm White as starters as well as Taylor Helton, who started all 11 games and is competing for a spot this year.

"As hard as it is to swallow, as much of a shot to the ego that it is, we were one of the weak points last year," Strange said. "We've definitely spent the offseason telling ourselves and our coaches that's not going to happen again."

Meet the Mocs

The UTC athletic department will be holding its annual Meet the Mocs day Sunday at the Chattanooga Market.

All of the Mocs' sports teams - aside from soccer, which will be playing at Georgia Southern - as well as mascot Scrappy and the spirit squads will be signing autographs at different times from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the First Tennessee Pavilion.

Softball, volleyball, cross country/track and field, wrestling and men's basketball will go from 11 to 12:30; football will have from 12:30 to 1:30; the tennis and golf teams, women's basketball and the spirit and dance squads will be available from 1:30 to 3:30.

Contact Gene Henley at Follow him on Twitter @genehenley3.