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Throughout spring practice, J.J. Jackson and Bo Dyer shouldered the load at running back. True freshmen that redshirted last fall, Jackson and Dyer were the only healthy rushers available so they had to get all the carries.

That's no longer the case.

The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga went through it's second preseason practice Sunday morning at Scrappy Moore Field and the Mocs' backfield was busy and crowded.

Jackson and Dyer continue to get a lot of carries, but also in the mix are seniors Bryan Fitzgerald and Erroll Wynn and freshman Chris Awuah, along with several fullbacks and walkons.

"I definitely feel fresher because I'm not having to carry the ball as much," Jackson said after the lengthy practice that began at 7:45 a.m. and continued through several heavy downpours.

Wynn and Fitzgerald rushed for a combined 1,574 in 2007, but the running game ground nearly to a halt last season. Fitzgerald missed the entire season and spring practice with a knee injury and Wynn managed just 636 yards rushing while battling his own injuries.

Wynn broke his leg in the season finale against Samford and sat out spring practice to focus on academics. With a redshirt year still available and Fitzgerald back from injury, Wynn is expected to sit out this season.

Fitzgerald said Saturday that he has some work to do on his fitness but he expects to be in game shape and running at game speed well before the Sept. 3 opener against Glenville State.

Regardless of who the starting running back is, in order to improve on UTC's meager rushing output last season -- 919 yards and just 2.3 yards per carry -- the Mocs must have some consistency, running backs coach Jason McManus said.

"We need to have a healthy tailback, whoever it may be," he said. "We just have to have a healthy guy that can be consistent and give us run consistency -- that's the most important thing."

One player that has already drawn the coaches' attention is Awuah, a speedy 5-foot-9, 190-pounder that is still learning the position. He's received nearly as many reps as the returning players and has used his speed and maneuverability to break loose for several long runs.

"I feel pretty good about the first two days," Awuah said. "I didn't really know what to expect coming in, so I've just tried to pay attention and do what I know how to do."

Awuah is playing running back for the first time. He played quarterback at South Cobb High School in Marietta, Ga. -- rushing for more than 1,000 yards and throwing for more than 500 as a senior --and thus far is making a smooth transition, offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield said.

"He's got a long way to go as far as the fundamentals of (playing) running back and I think those will come," Satterfield said. "He showed some things (Saturday) on tape that we (coaches) just kind of looked at each other and said, 'Holy cow, this kid, if he does what he's supposed to do, could be a really good player.'

"We're very excited about what he brings to the table because he catches the ball so well out of the backfield, too, and he's got great speed and great feet."

This and that

Along with Awuah, Mocs coach Russ Huesman said several other freshman have impressed him, including wide receiver Marlon Anthony, defensive back Kadeem Wise and linebacker Gunner Miller, the former East Ridge standout. "I said this when we recruited him, he's just a football player," Huesman said of Miller. ... Linebacker Tony Swafford (illness) did not attend practice and safety Jordan Tippit and linebacker Shane Heatherly worked out on the side with strength coach Scott Brincks while nursing bad hamstrings. ... Practice continues at 7 a.m. today, when the players will wear shoulder pads for the first time.

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