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Mocs glance

• UTC (10-3) at New Hampshire (11-1)

• Cowell Stadium, Durham, N.H.

• Friday, 8 p.m.

• ESPN2 & 96.1 FM

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The UTC football team enters the field, led by fullback Taharin Tyson (2).

Aside from his obvious on-field talent, one of the most important qualities Taharin Tyson brought to the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football program was a confidence that comes with expecting to win.

To turn the program around, Mocs coach Russ Huesman and his staff knew they needed more than just talented athletes, so they began emphasizing the signing of players from successful high school programs.

"I think it helps, having guys on the team that know what it takes and have done it for a long time at every level," Huesman said. "Coaches talk about recruiting successful high school programs, and when those guys come in there's typically not as much transition because they know all the extra work it takes to win games.

"We go out and try to find good, quality kids who'll fit into our system. It's an added bonus if they're used to winning, and Taharin has brought such a winning mentality to this program it's been unbelievable."

A three-time all-state running back at perennial state power Alcoa High School, Tyson helped that program win four straight state championships and compile a 58-2 overall record during his career.

But in his first collegiate season he suffered three times the number of losses he had previously, as the Mocs finished 5-6.

"That was culture shock for me," Tyson said. "It upset me every time we lost, and I'm still not used to handling a loss. When they recruited me they said they wanted people that were used to winning, because that's the kind of player it would take to help change the culture. They wanted people that wouldn't accept losing.

"We saw the tide was turning for the program, even before our class came in, but we had a lot of guys who had won on a big-time level and we wanted to continue that here."

Along with Tyson, other players who brought a winning swagger with them in some of UTC's early signing classes under Huesman were receiver Tommy Hudson, who led Colquitt County to a state championship game in Georgia; Baylor School's Jacob Huesman and Henrique Ribeiro; and a handful of others, including former Red Bank running back Keon Williams, who helped their prep teams reach semifinals or quarterfinals on a regular basis.

"You love when guys come here from programs where football is important and they understand what it means and are hungry to continue winning," said UTC receivers coach and recruiting coordinator Will Healy. "The playoffs aren't a shock for a lot of these guys we have now. They've been in championship games and playoff atmospheres."

A year after earning freshman all-conference honors the 5-foot-11, 240-pound Tyson saw his offensive role diminish once the Mocs switched to the spread and rarely used a fullback. But he set an example by the way he accepted his new role as a short-yardage hammer and a special-teams leader, and he has two touchdown catches this season.

And since his sophomore season, Tyson has been in charge of leading the Mocs in their pregame "too hype" chant that he brought with him from Alcoa and that is used to get players and coached excited before kickoff.

"He's the most unselfish player on this football team," Coach Huesman said. "If anybody came in and had a gripe it would be him, because of how his spot changed. But he's never once complained. He just goes out and does his job on special teams or wherever we need him.

"We'll have to find somebody else to keep that chant up before games. I think it's kind of cool. But we'll have a harder time replacing what he brings to us. Everybody needs a kid like Taharin on their team."

Contact Stephen Hargis at shargis@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6293.

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