Even though the coaches and players began preparing for the 2013 football season way back on Nov. 18, 2012, this afternoon marked the first official day of training camp for the Chattanooga Mocs. A full roster of 90 student-athletes conducted a very business-like, 24-period workout at the Murphy-Haugerud Football Practice Complex at Scrappy Moore Field.
With 10 starters returning on both offense and defense, a veteran team opened practice at Scrappy Moore Field for the first time in a long time. The energy was strong, but focused, while the intensity level resembled a session much later in the season.
“It was good,” stated head coach Russ Huesman. “A lot of energy. I think they are in decent shape. I am not sure they are in great shape, but they are in pretty good shape. I thought there was some energy and some recall. We have to run to the ball better defensively, but for a first day, it was a pretty good day.”
The majority of practice focused on individual work, but there was plenty of opportunity for competition. One of the early eye-opening plays saw senior receiver Marlon Anthony (Acworth, Ga.) use every inch of his 6-5 frame to go up and over a determined Will Johnson (Alpharetta, Ga.) for a touchdown grab.
Johnson, a 5-11 freshman defensive back, was not deterred by coming up short. He redeemed himself later in the practice with one of four interceptions by the defense.
“It was just fun to get out here with all of the guys and have the coaches teaching us up and yelling at us a little bit,” stated senior linebacker Gunner Miller (Chattanooga, Tenn.). “We have an older team and a veteran team and I feel like this was a veteran practice. We have a bunch of old guys that are trying to lead by example. Hopefully they come along.”
Freshman quarterback Tyler Roberson (Martinez, Ga.) drew some oohs-and-aahs with a nice pass over the top to fellow freshman Xavier Borishade (Kennesaw, Ga.) for a score. He was quickly brought back to earth a few plays later when he threw a pick-6 to sophomore linebacker A.J. Hampton (Nashville, Tenn.). New offensive coordinator Jeff Durden kept the mood light by quipping, “Congratulations, you just threw your first collegiate interception.”
Hampton finished with a pair of picks on the day, while freshman Dee Virgin (Donalsonville, Ga.) added the fourth. While the fresh faces made some nice plays, it is the returners, led by a core of nine preseason All-Southern Conference selections that will lead the way.
“We definitely appreciate all of the attention we are getting, but at the same time, all of the preseason stuff means nothing,” added Miller. “We are just out here working hard each and every day, trying to get better before taking on UT Martin.”
The Mocs open the season on Thursday, Aug. 29 against the Skyhawks. Kickoff is set for 7:00 p.m. (E.D.T.) at Finley Stadium. Season tickets are on sale now on GoMocs.com, or by calling the UTC Ticket Office at (423) 266-MOCS (6627).
Below are quotes from Coach Huesman and selected players from the media interviews prior to today’s practice. Be sure to check out the photo gallery and the two MocsVision videos at the top of the page.
UTC will be back in action at 6:30 a.m. on Thursday at Scrappy Moore Field. All practices at Scrappy are open to the public and fans are encourage to make the short trip down the Tennessee Riverwalk to check out the 2013 Mocs.
Chattanooga Head Football Coach Russ Huesman
Thoughts on the opening of fall camp
“We are all ready to get camp going. There’s no question about that. We are always waiting for this time of the season to roll around, it seems. Especially when you can’t be around the players and don’t have access to them whatsoever. That makes it even tougher to hang in there as long as you do, but I was looking forward to yesterday to roll around and I am happy we’ve finally reached today.”
On where he believes the team is beginning camp
“As you build a team and you look at the makeup of a team, this is where you want to be. We have some really good fifth-year seniors and we have great fourth-year juniors that we’ve redshirted. Then you have the rest of the group. Then there are the sophomores and the freshmen. Hopefully we redshirt the freshman class and building it to that same point again. I think that’s where we’re at right now.”
Thoughts on preseason polls and if there’s added pressure
“I don’t think 6-5 puts a bull’s eye on your back. I don’t think anyone is afraid of us right now. Everything we get we’re going to have to prove and we’re going to have to play hard every game. We have a hard schedule and I think our league is as tough as it’s ever been, but I don’t think anyone has us circled in red in their locker room right now.”
On what the team needs going into fall camp
“Somebody at running back is going to have to step up, but when we started in the spring we made a conscientious effort to get more people the football. The quarterbacks weren’t running it, it wasn’t Terrell-this and Terrell-that and we will continue to go through fall camp to develop more play makers. You have to find ways to get Terrell the ball. We’re idiots if we don’t. You like the ball in his and Jacob’s hands, but we will find someone else to carry the football.”
Senior Lineman Davis Tull
Thoughts on beginning camp
“We are ready to get things started. Everyone has been here working out the entire summer. We can’t wait for practice to start. Today is going to be great.”
On having a large number of returning starters on the team
“I think there is a lot of excitement, especially with as many returners we have on both sides of the football. There’s a lot of experience on this team and a lot of us have grown together off the field, as well. We are playing on a team with our best friends at this point. It is really exciting. I think knowing everyone so well helps out with chemistry. Since we’ve been playing together for so long, we can just look at each other and know what we want to do on each play. We don’t have to communicate as much because we know each other so well.”
Thoughts on preseason pressure added by media and polls
“I don’t know if it’s as much pressure as it is exciting. It shows that we are headed in the right direction and we just have to make it happen. We really want to prove everyone right but exceed what they are saying.”
Sophomore Quarterback Jacob Huesman
Thoughts going into fall camp
“With as many returning starters as we have on both sides of the ball, we are playing with a little bit of swagger and pride in ourselves. We are confident. That’s the biggest thing. We know what we are capable of and we have really high expectations. We are confident about it and we believe we can win a Southern Conference championship.”
On team chemistry entering camp
“Our team chemistry is really going to help throughout camp. Having some of these older guys steeping in and taking the younger guys under their wings is going to give our chemistry a big boost. A lot of these freshmen are going to need to come in and be a backup or come in and contribute. As upperclassmen, we are going to need to shelter those guys, lead them in the right way and build chemistry.”
Thoughts on looking forward to fall camp
“Summer flew by for me. It felt like we started summer and boom – it was camp again. And that’s a good thing. I was ready for camp to start back up. It is nice to have a little bit of a break eventually you begin thinking that you have to get back to playing football. You begin wanting a helmet on again.”
Thoughts on the freshmen coming into team camp for the first time
“The majority of the freshmen just got here for camp, so the first part of camp is going to be getting them a lot of reps and bringing them in. We need to see what they can bring to the table because we really don’t get a good gauge of that during the summer because they mostly just come for camp. We have a few freshman wide receivers and tight ends we are excited about and I am looking forward to seeing play.”