GoMocs.com wraps up its Training Camp Rundown on the defensive side of the ball with today’s overview of the safeties. This group includes a pair of returning starters and yet another preseason All-American. Just like the rest of UTC’s defense, the safeties are talented, experienced and deep.
Senior D.J. Key (Centerville, Tenn.) is one of five preseason All-Americans in the Mocs starting lineup. He returns to his strong safety position where he has started the last two seasons. The Southern Conference coaches tabbed him a preseason first team all-league pick, while Phil Steele rated him as the No. 6 safety in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS).
Key has been one of the top tacklers on the team over the last two seasons. He was second on the quad with 82 stops in 2012. He started the year off with a big 43-yard interception return at South Florida. He added another pick and grabbed first team All-SoCon honors in the postseason. He has been out for most of camp with a foot injury, but expects to be back for the season opener.
Sophomore Sema’je Kendall (Huntsville, Ala.) started seven games at cornerback last season. He has moved over almost exclusively to free safety and could be the starter at that position. He led the Mocs with seven break-ups as a freshman, while totaling 21 tackles.
“Sema’je Kendall is a very versatile DB who has played free safety and corner” added Huesman. “He is a playmaker for us.”
Also competing for a starting role at free safety is junior Zach McCarter (Hixson, Tenn.). He started the last six games of 2012, finishing with 31 tackles and a blocked field goal.
“Zack McCarter is a kid who has played a lot of football for us and is going to continue to play a major role for us” said Huesman. “He is a versatile guy who has done a lot of things.”
Senior Dean Haynes (Tunnel Hill, Ga.) is another talented safety who transferred to UTC from N.C. State prior to last season. He battled through injuries most of the year, but made two starts and played in the last six games. He has been out for most of camp with a foot injury, but could work his way back into the lineup for the first game.
“We are a little banged up at safety with DJ Key and Dean Haynes being out most of camp,” stated Huesman. “We are hoping we get those guys back by the first game. They are coming along nicely, but that is giving a lot of young guys a lot of opportunities.”
Freshman Cedric Nettles (Morrow, Ga.) is one of those young guys who has been impressive. The former all-region standout at Jonesboro High School in Morrow, Ga., could work his way on the field after redshirting the 2012 season.
Senior C.J. Murrell (Hendersonville, Tenn.) has contributed mostly on special teams throughout his career, but has gained 24 games worth of valuable experience. He played in all 11 games last season and could be called upon for an increased role in 2013.
“At strong safety you have CJ Murrell who is a senior,” said safeties coach and defensive coordinator Adam Braithwaite. “He has played in some big ball games and contributed heavily, and Cedric Nettles has had a great camp. He has continued to improve and progress throughout practice. He has shown to become a dependable guy.”
Redshirt freshman Beau Simmons (Hixson, Tenn.) and true freshmen Jerkerious Scott (Dawson, Ga.), Oscar Prado (Spring Hill, Tenn.) and Lucas Webb (Northport, Ala.) are also competing with the safeties.
“Camp went really well,” said Huesman. “We had some spots we needed to clean up and I thought that went pretty well. We had some young guys step up with so many injuries and it was big for them to do that. I thought we made a lot of progress, and coming into this week we know there is a lot we need to fix.”
The Mocs open the 2013 season against UT Martin in eight days. Kickoff against the Skyhawks is set for Thursday, Aug. 29, at 7:30 p.m. (E.D.T.) at Finley Stadium. Tickets are on sale now on GoMocs.com or by calling the UTC Ticket Office at (423) 266-MOCS (6627).
Chattanooga is again offering an online special by using the promotional code #GoMocs. Select the game of your choice and enter the code in the special offers code box below the seating map. Fans can purchase $13 print-at-home general admission tickets by using this code.
Safeties Depth Chart
|S||20||D.J. Key||6-0||200||Sr.-3L||Centerville, Tenn.||Preseason All-American ... two-year starter|
|32||C.J. Murrell||6-0||210||Sr.-3L||Huntsville, Ala.||Played in all 11 games in 2012|
|36||Beau Simmons||6-3||215||Fr.-RS||Hixson, Tenn.||Sat out last season as a redshirt|
|12||Jerkerious Scott||6-0||195||Fr.-HS||Dawson, Ga.||All-region prep player|
|49||Oscar Prado||5-9||185||Fr.-HS||Spring Hill, Tenn.||Will add depth to the position|
|FS||16||Sema'je Kendall||6-0||175||So.-1L||Huntsville, Ala.||Starter at CB last season|
|47||Zach McCarter||6-3||205||Jr.-2L||Chattanooga, Tenn.||Made six starts in 2012|
|4||Dean Haynes||5-11||200||Sr.-1L||Tunnel Hill, Ga.||Slowed by a foot injury|
|35||Cedric Nettles||6-0||185||Fr.-RS||Morrow, Ga.||Sat out last season as a redshirt|
|43||Lucas Webb||6-1||190||Fr.-HS||Northport, Ala.||Has had a strong camp in his first year|