The Mocs said goodbye to three-year starter B.J. Coleman (Chattanooga, Tenn.) in December when he earned his degree in Communications from UTC. Coleman recently went through the NFL Combine and is projected by many to be selected as high as the fourth round in the upcoming NFL Draft.
"Anytime you lose a quarterback and you are coming in with a new guy, there are always growing pains," stated head coach Russ Huesman. "It was the same way with B.J. when he first got here. There were a lot of growing pains and figuring it out."
The Mocs got a chance to figure out what they were going to do in the post-B.J. era when Coleman injured his throwing shoulder against Georgia Southern and missed the next four games. Freshman Terrell Robinson (South Pittsburg, Tenn.) stepped in and went 2-1 as a starter while earning Southern Conference Freshman of the Year honors.
With Robinson (6-3, 195) under center, the Mocs shifted from a pro-style offense to more of a spread approach that utilized quarterback runs. He ran for three TDs in relief of Coleman against the top-ranked Eagles, the first Moc to do that since 2006. Against Western Carolina he threw for 123 yards and three scores and at Elon he was the first Moc with 100 yards rushing and passing since 1978. He finished the season 417 rushing yards and five TDs and 336 passing yards with six scoring strikes.
It may have seemed like UTC made the change on the fly, but it was in the plans during the offseason. "Even before the season started, we knew this was the direction we were going to go when B.J. finished. That was the mindset we had, but Terrell's performance sped it up and gave us a glimpse of what could happen."
Robinson's numbers have coaches and fans salivating for more of what he can do, but there are two other quarterbacks who are still clearly in the mix. He enters the spring at No. 1 on the depth chart, but freshman Jacob Huesman (Chattanooga, Tenn.) and sophomore Graham Nichols (Franklin, Tenn.) are competing hard.
"The little bit that Terrell played last year, he showed signs that he can be really good," said Huesman. "We are hoping Jacob has a great spring and battles and competes and Graham is certainly in the mix. It should be a pretty interesting battle and that is why the excitement level is there. People feel like we have some quality players at that position."
Robinson and Huesman (6-1, 200) have a lot of similarities in what they bring to the position. Both are local players trying to replace a local legend. They both won Tennessee Mr. Football honors as seniors in high school in the Chattanooga area and both possess dual threat capabilities.
"I think Jacob is faster and more of a downhill, straight-forward guy," added Huesman. "If he gets into the secondary, he has the capabilities of taking it 80 yards. With Terrell, I think in a 10-15-yard box, he can make more things happen with his feet. They both have to improve their accuracy and their arm strength to become better throwers."
Huesman sat out last season as a redshirt, but was on the travel roster for most of the road games. He put up 2,828 yards of total offense as a senior at Chattanooga's Baylor School in 2010, leading the Red Raiders to the state title game.
Despite all of the attention Robinson and Huesman are getting, don't count out the resilient Nichols (6-3, 195). He has played in 10 games in his career and got a win as a starter against Samford last season. With both Coleman and Robinson injured against the Bulldogs, Nichols went 11-17 for 66 yards in a 24-9 road win. He was also the offensive MVP of the last two spring games.
"Graham is battling too and I don't think anybody has conceded the job to anybody," said Huesman. "All three of them will battle. I have a funny feeling, when it is all said and done, we are going to need all three of them next year."