UTC positional analysis: Mocs expected to continue leaning on running game in 2023

Staff file photo by Robin Rudd / UTC's Ailym Ford (0) enters his fifth season with the Mocs having accounted for 49% of their rushing yards during his career. Ford and his fellow running backs are expected to be leaned on heavily this season, too, with the Mocs again bringing in a new quarterback.

The Times Free Press is taking a positional look at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football roster with the Mocs' season set to kick off in less than two months on Sept. 2 at North Alabama.

Here's a look at the running backs.

Who's gone: No one

Who's back: Senior Ailym Ford (1,383 total yards, 14 touchdowns in 2022; 3,443 career rushing yards); senior Gino Appleberry (426 rushing yards, three touchdowns in 2022); junior Lance Jackson (135 yards, two touchdowns against Mercer in 2021); junior Chris Houston; sophomore Reggie Davis; freshman Solomon Locke.

Who's in: Malachi Jeffries (1,387 yards, 23 total touchdowns last year as high school senior at Georgia's Cartersville).

Analysis: Ford is the catalyst of the group, having accounted for 49% of the program's rushing yards since he arrived at UTC for the 2019 season. He has been leaned on heavily, having gone over 90 yards of total offense in every game he played in last year — because of suspect quarterback play, at times too much — but there is no substitute for a player of his caliber, as the Mocs were reminded when he was forced to miss the Furman game last season. Due to another year of entering training camp with the Mocs unsettled at quarterback, it's likely that won't change in his final college season. Appleberry has done well as a No. 2 back, though, and both Davis and Jackson have shown flashes of potential in limited action.

Although everything will start with Ford, having players such as Appleberry, Davis and Jackson will be huge for whatever this offense and team are going to be. Not only have none of the available quarterbacks started a game, they haven't even been a part of the game plan, with junior Chase Artopoeus (a UCLA transfer) and redshirt freshman Luke Schomburg both solely working on scout teams in years past. That's not to say Artopoeus or Schomburg won't be good, but it may take a while, which will put the onus on the rushing attack to be solid against teams such as North Alabama, Kennesaw State and The Citadel, the first three opponents on UTC's 2023 schedule. With Ford and the rest, all of that is possible.

Contact Gene Henley at ghenley@timesfreepress.com.