Wise was the first four-time All-Southern Conference performer in school history. Key was a two-time first team All-SoCon player, while Moore played in nearly every game over the last four years.
Despite this loss of talent, the coaches are excited about the newcomers battling to fill those holes. This edition of GoMocs.com’s Training Camp Rundown takes a look at who is the next generation in the secondary.
“We are pretty young back there, but I think we are talented,” stated head coach Russ Huesman. “We’ve got a couple of guys that have played quite a bit of football, starting with Dee Virgin at the corner. He started for us all of last year, and I think he has all-conference written all over him. He is a good, good player. He can make plays and is very bright.”
Virgin (5-10, 195) played in all 12 games and made nine starts. The sophomore from Donalsonville, Ga., had two interceptions and was tops among SoCon freshman with nine passes defended. He finished the year with 38 tackles and is expected to start at the boundary corner.
“The other guy - who was a little dinged up, but he played a lot the previous year, is Sema’je Kendall," continued Huesman. “He is starting at dime for us and doing a really good job. We can depend on him to not only play dime, but to play multiple positions, because he has played a lot of them since he has been here.”
Kendall (6-0, 185) is a junior from Huntsville, Ala., and has started 10 times in his career. He played in all 12 games last season, totaling 14 tackles. He had seven breakups as a freshman and has recovered two fumbles in his career.
“Both of those guys have started games for us and played well,” said defensive coordinator Adam Braithwaite. “Sema’je is Mr. Versatility. He has started games at free safety, started games at field corner and has played our nickel and dime positions. He is a guy we are counting on to do a lot of things and bring a lot of versatility to the group.
“Dee Virgin is a guy who got forced into the lineup a little early last year due to injury and really responded well. He made some plays and is a very talented kid who I think he is going to keep getting better.”
There is a battle at the field corner between junior college transfer Jeremiah Hay (5-10, 180) and freshman Jerkerious Scott (6-0, 195). Hay is the first junior college player to join the Mocs in the Russ Huesman era, coming to UTC from Pasadena City College in California. Scott redshirted last season after a standout career at Terrell County High School in Dawson, Ga.
Other corners battling for playing time include sophomores Ryan Bossung (5-9, 160), and Tolerance Shepherd (5-10, 180) and freshmen Trevor Wright (6-1, 175) and C.J. Fritz (5-11, 170). Bossung and Shepherd saw significant action on special teams last season, while Fritz was an all-state player at Chattanooga’s McCallie School. Wright is a three-star prospect who has been very impressive in camp and could work his way into the lineup as a true freshman.
The starting safeties are currently sophomore Cedric Nettles (6-0, 190) and freshman Lucas Webb (6-1, 190). Nettles saw a lot of action off the bench last season, playing in 11 games. Webb redshirted last year after starring at Tuscaloosa County High School in Northport, Ala.
“A couple of guys I have been extremely impressed with are Cedric Nettles at strong safety and Lucas Webb at free safety,” said Huesman. “They still have a long way to go, but their work ethic and knowledge of the defense has been fantastic. I have been really pleased with them.”
Sophomore Oscar Prado (5-9, 190) played on special teams as a true freshman last season and is trying to get into the rotation at safety. True freshman Tae Davis (6-3, 200) is another true freshman who has been impressive in camp, along with Tavon Lawson (6-1, 190), who is the backup at dime. Freshman Kenneth Garrett (6-2, 195) will add some depth after transferring from Butler.
Chattanooga is now less than two weeks away from the opening kickoff at Central Michigan on Thursday, Aug. 28. Game time is set for 7:00 p.m. (E.D.T.) on ESPN3. The home opener is Saturday, Sept. 6 when the 14th-ranked Mocs host No. 6 Jacksonville State at 6:00 p.m.
2014 PRESEASON DEFENSIVE BACKS DEPTH CHART
|Dime||16||Sema'je Kendall||6-0||185||Jr.-2L||Huntsville, Ala.||Experienced returner who has 10 career starts.|
|10||Tavon Lawson||6-1||190||Fr.-HS||Talladega, Ala.||All-state prep player.|
|FC||28||Jeremiah Hay||5-10||180||Jr.-TR||Miami, Fla.||Transfer from Pasaden (Calif.) City College.|
|4||Jerkerious Scott||6-0||195||Fr.-RS||Dawson, Ga.||All-region prep player ... redshirted last season.|
|6||C.J. Fritz||5-11||170||Fr.-HS||Chattanooga, Tenn.||All-state prep player.|
|S||35||Cedric Nettles||6-0||190||So.-1L||Morrow, Ga.||Played in 11 games off the bench.|
|13||Oscar Prado||5-9||190||So.-1L||Spring Hill, Tenn.||Played in every game as a true frosh.|
|FS||43||Lucas Webb||6-0||190||Fr.-RS||Northport, Ala.||HS team capt. ... sat out last year as a redshirt.|
|19||Tae Davis||6-3||200||Fr.-HS||Oxford, Ala.||Standout prep player.|
|48||Kenneth Garrett||6-2||195||Fr.-TR||Franklin, Tenn.||Transfer from Butler.|
|BC||3||Dee Virgin||5-10||195||So.-1L||Donalsonville, Ga.||All-state prep player ... sat out as a redshirt.|
|1||Trevor Wright||6-1||175||Fr.-HS||Greeneville, Tenn.||Three-star prep prospect.|
|33||Ryan Bossung||5-9||160||So.-1L||Nashville, Tenn.||Played in 3 games off the bench.|
|18||Tolerance Shepherd||5-10||180||So.-1L||Fitzgerald, Ga.||Moves over from RB.|