If you read Tuesday’s outlook on the Chattanooga Mocs defensive tackles, you already know that the most loaded position on the team is the defensive line. If you have read anything about the Mocs in the last few weeks, you already know that one of their most decorated student-athletes is senior defensive end Davis Tull (6-3, 240).
Tull’s accolades have been well-documented – two-time All-American, two-time Southern Conference Defensive Player of the Year and Buck Buchanan Award candidate. Not to mention he is the Mocs’ first Academic All-American and UTC’s career leader with 26.5 sacks.
“The preseason awards are fun,” said Tull, who has a surprising take on the rankings and recognition the team is receiving. “I think it makes it exciting. Some people think we completely ignore them, but I like to look at them. I think it adds to the excitement of the program and it raises expectations.
"I think it makes it more fun to come out here and try to prove people right instead of wrong all the time.”
“Davis is the definition of ‘even keel,” stated defensive line coach Marcus West. “Everything he has ever gotten, he has earned. He gets it the hard way, and he is going to get this the hard way. He is going to be the best defensive player this year. It is going to be hard, but he is ready for it.”
Heading into 2014, he is the NCAA active leader in career sacks and forced fumbles (8) and is second among active players in tackles-for-loss (42.5). He is the highlight of the defensive ends, but as you will see in this edition of GoMocs.com’s Training Camp Rundown, he is one of many talented pass rushers on Chattanooga’s roster.
“We probably have four or five ends that can play,” said head coach Russ Huesman. “Three for sure who have played a lot of football. You have to start with Davis Tull. He has been such a great player for us. He makes plays and I think everyone knows about him.”
Chisel Tull’s name in on the left end of the two-deep, while three others expect to be heavy in the rotation. Senior Zack Rayl (6-3, 240) entered camp at No. 1 on the right side, but is getting tons of competition from sophomores Keionta Davis (6-4, 250) and Vantrell McMillan (6-2, 235).
“Defensive ends are as talented as they have ever been,” added West. “Most importantly, we are as healthy as we have ever been. Getting Zack Rayl and Vantrell McMillan back is unbelievable. I think the guys at this position are the best players on the field, and that is our goal every year.”
All three of these guys have missed one of the last three years due to injury, but all three are healthy and ready for 2014. Davis sat out his senior year of high school in 2011 with a knee injury. He redshirted 2012 and came on late last season, finishing with four sacks and SoCon All-Freshman recognition. He is up to 250 pounds, but as this feature on WDEF-TV shows, he has not lost a step.
Rayl suffered a knee injury in the second scrimmage of camp in 2013. He has played in 20 games in his career and had five TFLs in 2012. The former high school quarterback is athletic as any end and is working towards a strong senior season.
“Coming back is a dream come true,” said Rayl. “It’s been a long time coming and the feeling is surreal. To be able to get out and make plays is a blast.”
McMillan is looking for his first game action in two years. He redshirted in 2012 and suffered a knee injury on the last day of spring practice in 2013. He may be the fastest on the line, but like Davis last year, McMillan could need a few games to get going after being out for two seasons.
Don’t forget about redshirt freshman D.J. Prather (6-4, 245). He was an all-state defensive lineman from Gordon Central High School in Calhoun, Ga., who could work his way into the lineup. Other ends include redshirt freshman Trevor Jachimowicz (6-3, 225) and true freshman Tony Zaffore (6-2, 255).
“I think we’ve had a good camp so far,” added Tull. “We expect to be good. We were trying to be good a few years ago, but now we come out here and expect it. We are a little more motivated and we work a little harder for it.”
Be sure to check out the photo gallery and MocsVision video on the defensive ends attached to this story. Also, don’t miss out on the upcoming UTC Night at the Lookouts on Thursday, Aug. 14. Pick up your season tickets, enjoy some baseball and hang out with the Mocs at the Lookouts game.
2014 DEFENSIVE END PRESEASON DEPTH CHART
|LE||90||Davis Tull||6-3||240||Sr.-3L||Knoxville, Tenn.||Two-Time SoCon Def. POY.|
|96||Vantrell McMillan||6-2||220||So.-1L||Albany, Ga.||
Projected starter who missed last season with an injury.
|7||D.J. Prather||6-4||245||Fr.-RS||Calhoun, Ga.||All-state as a prep player ... sat out last season as a redshirt.|
|RE||31||Zack Rayl||6-3||240||Sr.-3L||Englewood, Tenn.||Projected starter who missed last season with an injury.|
|93||Keionta Davis||6-4||250||So.-1L||Chattanooga, Tenn.||SoCon All-Freshman Team.|
|98||Trevor Jachimowicz||6-3||225||Fr.-RS||Orchard Park, N.Y.||Sat out last season as a redshirt.|
|97||Tony Zaffore||6-2||255||Fr.-HS||Gallatin, Tenn.||Three-star prep prospect.|