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UTC head football coach Russ Huesman shouts to players during the Mocs' first spring football scrimmage Saturday, March 28, 2015, at Scrappy Moore Field in Chattanooga, Tenn.
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UTC head football coach Russ Huesman stands on the sidelines during the Mocs' SoCon football game against Western Carolina at Finley Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 31, 2015, in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Russ Huesman and his University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football coaching staff have built considerable depth over the past few seasons.

So much so that entering spring practice, it looks as though there will be little that has changed.

The Mocs, who start their 15 spring sessions Monday at Scrappy Moore Field, will return 19 starters from the 2015 team that won nine games and the program's third consecutive Southern Conference championship.

Quarterback Jacob Huesman, offensive lineman Synjen Herren and defensive tackle Josh Freeman are gone, but with the number of contributors — not just starters — returning, Coach Huesman is ecstatic about where the program is and where it's headed.

"I think we've got an excellent team coming back," the coach said in January. "I like our team; I like what we have coming back. We've built depth, and there is going to be competitions for some jobs, but I wouldn't expect us to be anything but good."

Junior Alejandro Bennifield is the heir apparent to the younger Huesman, who basically rewrote the record books, as the play-caller. The Mocs will enter practice with only two scholarship quarterbacks — Bennifield and junior Tyler Roberson — plus walk-ons Xavier Johnson and Cole Brown.

The team signed a quarterback, Zack Weatherly from Christ Presbyterian Academy in Nashville, but the 6-foot-2, 185-pounder won't be on campus until summer.

Only two members of the Mocs' top-10 recruiting class, receiver Thomas Richard (a transfer from Missouri) and linebacker Ben Schrider (transfer from Richmond), will participate in spring drills. A third new member of the team will be 6-6, 225-pound tight end Duke Ethridge, who just completed his eligibility with the Mocs' basketball team.

Ethridge, who had a football offer from Marshall and was being recruited by Alabama, Clemson, Florida, Florida State and Georgia before choosing to play basketball in college.

It's been five years since Ethridge last played football. If he can be close to his high school form, he could help a position group that combined to catch one pass in 2015.

Does he expect to be rusty when practice starts?

"Ain't nothing dusty about me," he said in a February interview with the Times Free Press. "I've still got it."

Contact Gene Henley at ghenley@timesfreepress.com. Follow him at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.

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