With preseason football practice starting for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in the next couple of weeks, the Times Free Press is taking a daily positional look at the Mocs, with today's preview on tight end and wide receiver:
The Mocs return playmakers and All-Southern Conference first-team selections at receiver, with senior Bryce Nunnelly from Cleveland and Walker Valley High School, and tight end, where converted quarterback Chris James had a productive season in his first year at the position. Nunnelly's production dipped a bit as a junior in a new system from his prolific sophomore campaign, but he still had 57 catches for 794 yards and five touchdowns in 2019 to earn his second straight All-SoCon first-team nod. James set a UTC record for tight ends with seven touchdowns on just 23 catches. In the Mocs' three-receiver scheme, Juwan Tyus started all 12 games last year, when Reginald Henderson, Kanore McKinnon and Tyrin Summers each logged at least one start.
A team can never have enough playmakers, and the Mocs went hard after receivers during the most recent recruiting cycle. They brought in four, highlighted by Western Michigan transfer Tyron Arnett, who had 17 catches in three seasons with the Football Bowl Subdivision program. The other three, including former Red Bank High School star Lucas Brown, will also try to make an immediate impact at UTC, although the versatile Brown could end up on defense. At tight end, early enrollee Travon Jones may be the heir apparent to James as the 6-foot-5, 205-pounder has shown on video he is a quality target in the passing game.
Experience more than anything. James and Nunnelly have talent that is All-America caliber, while Henderon, McKinnon, Summers, Tyus and tight end Jordan Giberti all started games last year. There's some depth there as well, with a combined 11 lettermen returning at the two positions.
Nunnelly is certainly locked in as a starter while the Mocs work toward their Sept. 3 season opener at Western Kentucky, but it seemed as though no receiver stepped into the No. 2 role for UTC in 2019. It looks good on paper to have a number of options opposite Nunnelly, but is there one who can firmly assume the role?