UTC has three potential contributors who are currently not participating in spring practice. Devin Caldwell (Chattanooga, Tenn.), Taylor Dodds (Columbus, Ga.) and Synjen Herren (Dalton, Ga.) are all sitting out with various injuries.
Dodds (6-6, 265) will be out the entire spring recovering from the knee injury that cut his freshman season short. He started four of the first seven games at left tackle before going out against Elon. Caldwell (6-5, 250) also has a knee injury while Herren (6-4, 290) injured his foot.
"Taylor Dodds is basically a fifth starter for us based on how much he played last season" stated head coach Russ Huesman. "He will get back healthy and we expect him to be one of the starters somewhere on the line in the fall."
Both Caldwell and Herren practiced early in the spring before getting injured. Neither will participate the rest of the spring, but both should be ready for action when camp starts in August.
"Devin Caldwell was looking good before getting hurt," added Huesman. "He was putting on weight and coming along, we just need to make sure that progression continues when he gets healthy.
Among the returners, the Mocs look to one senior leader who is expected to guide this young but experienced group. Adam Miller (Cohutta, Ga.) is a three-year starter and was a preseason All-Southern Conference selection going into the 2011 campaign. One of the top student-athletes at UTC, Miller (6-4, 275) carries a 3.75 g.p.a. as a Construction Management major and was on the FCS ADA Academic All-Star team as a junior. He is second on the team with 29 starts, all at right tackle where he is currently No. 1 on the depth chart.
"When you look at this group, Adam Miller is definitely the go-to guy," said Huesman. "We think he is an all-conference caliber player who continues to improve every year."
Other starters returning include Brandon Morgan (Hoover, Ala.), Kevin Revis (Dayton, Tenn.) and Patrick Sutton (Sevierville, Tenn.). Morgan (6-2, 280) played in 10 games and made eight starts at left tackle as a true freshman. Sutton (6-1, 255) is a walk-on who won the starting job at center and started all 11 games as a redshirt freshman. Revis (6-2, 275) transferred from Tennessee as started 10 games as a sophomore in 2011. He missed the Elon game with an injury but bounced back quickly to play in the final three contests.
"Brandon Morgan had a solid year as a true freshman and we were really pleased with the job Patrick Sutton did at center," said Huesman. "Kevin Revis continues to get better and all three will be counted upon again in the fall."
Other returners include Hunter Dockery (Newport, Tenn.), Irvin Hernandez (Greeneville, Tenn.), Shaun Hill (Bethlehem, Ga.), Steven Nease (Greeneville, Tenn.), Dustin Tate (Rocky Face, Ga.) and Casey Hybarger (Cleveland, Tenn.). Dockery (6-4, 290) saw the most action of this group, playing in nine games in 2011. He as a big contributor on special teams and filled in various spots when needed on offense.
Hill (6-2, 255) played in three games at center while Nease (6-0, 260) came off the bench against Western Carolina. Tate (6-5, 280) has played in 20 games with four starts in his career, but was not on the team in the fall. Hybarger (6-5, 280) sat out last season as a redshirt while Hernandez (5-11, 275) is in his third year in the program.
"It is good to get Dustin Tate back on the field," added Huesman. "He has played a lot of football here and he gives us another experienced player on the line. Shaun Hill continues to improve and he can play multiple spots. Hybarger, Nease and Hernandez are all big bodies who can fill in as needed."
One new face among the linemen is assistant coach Alex Atkins. He was hired in February after spending the previous two years at Itawamba (Miss.) Community College where he was the offensive line coach and recruiting coordinator. He was an All-American offensive lineman at UT Martin before graduating in 2007 with a degree in History.
"Alex coached with Sat (Offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield) at UT Martin and he feels very, very comfortable with him," stated Huesman. "He is a young and energetic guy who will be good with our offensive line."
One unexpected loss from the line happened this week when two-year starter Austin Wilson (Dacula, Ga.) informed the coaching staff he would not return for his fifth season. Wilson (6-3, 265), a Business Management major, is completing an internship at a local company and has parlayed that experience into a full-time position. He will graduate in May and represent the Mocs in the workforce next season.
To help make up for the low numbers on the offensive line in practice, defensive tackle Michael Slowey (Brentwood, Tenn.) switched sides in practice today. Slowey (6-5, 335) is the biggest body on the team and he will give the O-line a shot to add depth for the rest of the spring.
The Mocs will be in action in their second scrimmage on Saturday, March 24. The session begins at 7:00 p.m. (E.D.T.) at Finley Stadium and it is open to the public.