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UTC offensive lineman McClendon Curtis (52) blocks defensive lineman Derek Mahaffey during practice at Finley Stadium on Monday, March 19, 2018 in Chattanooga, Tenn.

When McClendon Curtis committed to the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football program in January of 2017, he was considered a big-time get.

By the time he got to preseason camp, he was bigger than he needed to be.

Nearly eight months later, Curtis is back to being the player he was at Central High school and ready to contribute.

The 6-foot-8, 320-pound offensive lineman has moved quickly into the starting lineup at right guard for the Mocs. He could have contributed immediately as part of a young offensive line last season, but he came in weighing around 360 pounds and didn't feel he was the player he wanted to be.

"He was a lot heavier than he was in his senior year of high school, and you could see that," UTC coach Tom Arth said. "He felt that; he didn't feel as athletic out there, didn't move as well, and he worked really hard after the season to be now where we want him to be. Now we're starting to see everything we saw on tape, when we watched him play basketball with his ability to move.

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"He's a good athlete for that size."

Curtis said Monday that he weighs 312 pounds. He looks more cut, more fit, in part due to the workouts strength and conditioning coach Chad Pearson put the redshirts through before Saturday home games during the season, and in part due to his drive to make himself competitive.

When asked what was the hardest workout Pearson put him through, Curtis smiled.

"The basketball gym was a scary sight," Curtis said. "You had no clue what you were going to do. You just knew you were going to die. There was one in the gym where we ran suicides together with a rope, and whoever let the rope go had to restart the drill."

He still walks four miles on off days and has changed his diet to where now his body "feels amazing." Now with the team's committed focus to running the football, Curtis and the Mocs' other offensive linemen have taken a "dominate" approach to the game.

"He's certainly taken a big step forward from where he was last year," Arth said. "He's an extremely hard worker and it's very important to him to be a great player, and you see that in flashes. We know what he's got inside of him, and we're really got to push him, and we are. Coach (Nick) Hennessey (offensive line coach) has done a fantastic job with him, and it's come to a point where we're going to put him in the starting lineup and let him go be that type of player, because if we can get him to a point where he's starting for us, he makes our team better."

The Mocs will have their last practice of the spring this afternoon at 3:30.

Contact Gene Henley at ghenley@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @genehenleytfp.

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