The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football team kicked off Spring Practice at Scrappy Moore Field this afternoon. The Mocs started their offseason workouts with a 26-period session on the banks of the Tennessee River.
“Spring practice is always a fun time because you hope your young guys are anxious to get back out here and prove themselves,” stated head coach Russ Huesman before things got underway at the Murphy-Haugerud Football Complex.
The Mocs return 15 starters and 40 lettermen from last year’s Southern Conference Championship team, but a number of key individuals will sit out the spring recovering from various injuries. That leaves a lot of opportunities for others to step up and show the coaching staff what they are capable of.
“There’s probably about seven or eight older guys who won’t even participate in spring - or not do it to the fullest, whether it’s contact or moving around out here," added Huesman. “So you are emphasizing some of the young guys, and you hope they’re excited about being out here. I think we do have a good group of juniors and seniors and that’s kind of where you want to be.”
One individual who is likely not fighting for a starting role is rising junior quarterback Jacob Huesman. He is coming off an outstanding season where he was named the SoCon Offensive Player of the Year by the league’s coaches.
“Me personally, I’ve been looking forward to it,” said the younger Huesman. “We had a good offseason lifting program. I think everybody put in the right amount of work and it’s nice to be back out here. It’s kind of a break from the endless weights.”
Huesman said his focus is improving the passing game and working on his accuracy. Which is an impressive statement, considering he was fourth in the nation with a 68.3 completion percentage last season.
“We want to get better with the passing game,” added the two-year starting quarterback. “A lot of it fell on me, missing throws, holding the ball too long, but with the experience we have coming back at wide receiver, it’s pretty exciting. We have Faysal Shafaat, Tommy Hudson will be back, C.J. Board, all those guys, and we get Keon Williams back at running back. It’s exciting and it goes back to experience. We’ve got guys with big game experience. I think we have a lot of potential this year.”
On the defensive side of the ball, Chattanooga has to replace five starters and is thin at linebacker. That is one key position battle to watch during the spring drills.
“You’d think that anytime you lose Wes Dothard, Gunner Miller, and people like that it hurts,” stated Coach Huesman. “But with Muhasibi Wakeel, if we didn’t have Wes Dothard he would probably be putting up some really nice numbers. We feel good about him coming back for his fifth year.
“A.J. Hampton we feel really good about. Nakevion Leslie did a lot of nice things after we moved him to Sam last year, and then a young guy in T.J. Jenkins. We feel like we’ve got four really solid players. That’s not enough, obviously, and we’re probably going to have to play a freshman this year, but I like where we are with that group.”
The Mocs are back on the field on Wednesday at 4:15 p.m. Be sure to check the full schedule in the attached Spring Notes. The annual Blue and Gold Spring Game is set for Friday, April 11, at 7:00 p.m. at Finley Stadium.