Spring Outlook - Defensive Backs
2012 Team Captain D.J. Key.
Courtesy: GoMocs.com
Heading into spring practice, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football coach Russ Huesman knew that two of the biggest holes to fill on defense would be in the secondary.  The Mocs lost Jordan Tippit and Chris Lewis-Harris to graduation, and replacing a pair of four-year starters and All-Southern Conference defensive backs is a tall order. 

As spring practice winds down, the lineup in the secondary seems to be working itself out.  Of the eight listed on the two-deep, two are All-SoCon performers and six have game experience.  While some spots are still up for grabs, expect D.J. Key (Centerville, Tenn.) and Kadeem Wise (Lawrenceville, Ga.) to be in the first group. 

Key (6-0, 195) is one of four team captains in the fall, a big honor for a junior.  He was a second team All-SoCon choice in 2011, finishing third on the team with 77 tackles.  He led the team with three interceptions, including a school-record 85-yard pick-six against Western Carolina. 

"Safeties start with D.J. Key," said Huesman.  "He is an all-conference player and one of the better players on the team.  He had an excellent year for us and I expect him to have another big season.  He is No. 1 at strong and we expect big things from him."

Wise (5-10, 180) is the first Moc in school history to earn All-SoCon honors his first two seasons, being named to the second team as a freshman and sophomore.  His eight career interceptions are tied for ninth all-time at Chattanooga and he has started all 22 games of his career. 

"We feel pretty good about the corners," added Huesman.  "When you have a guy like Kadeem Wise, who is an all-conference guy for back-to-back years, you feel pretty good starting off.  He is very talented and has played really well for us.  I think he is just going to get better and better.  We are really thrilled with him."

Chaz Moore (Memphis, Tenn.) takes over for Lewis-Harris at the other corner position.  Moore (5-10, 165) has made six starts in his 22-game career.  He had two picks for the Mocs last season while making 20 tackles.    

"Chaz Moore started multiple games last year and played as a true freshman and started games in 2010," continued Huesman.  "He is really experienced and is almost like a two-year starter coming back.  He is an excellent player and brings great energy.  He made a lot of big plays for us last year and we feel really good about him." 

Zach McCarter (Hixson, Tenn.) has earned the job of replacing Tippit at free safety.  McCarter (6-3, 200) is a big body who has shown tremendous improvement since walking on in 2010.  Last season he played in 10 games and had an interception against Western Carolina.   

"Zach McCarter has been a pleasant surprise," said Huesman.  Not only in the spring, but even into last year he has made improvements.  He is a former walk-on who is fighting for a starting job.  We feel really good about him."

Keith Mayes (Chattanooga, Tenn.) and Cam Montgomery (Orlando, Fla.) are the backups at the safety positions.  Mayes (5-10, 200) moves back from linebacker where he played in 11 games last season.  He was a regular on special teams, making 10 tackles overall.  Montgomery (6-1, 195) redshirted 2011 and was a two-star prospect coming out of high school. 

"We moved Keith Mayes from linebacker to safety and he has adjusted really well," said Huesman.  "We think he is athletic enough to play safety for us and he is learning and doing well in the spring.  Cam has ability and if he keeps progressing, keeps working and keeps taking coaching, I think he can be a good player in this league."

Don Cope (Maryville, Tenn.) was a big special teams player for the Mocs last season and should see more snaps in the secondary in 2012.  Cope (5-11, 185) played in all 11 games and recovered a fumble on a kickoff against Furman.   Sema'je Kendall (Huntsville, Ala.) redshirted last year and played safety on the scout team.  Kendall (6-0, 175) has moved over to corner and should see time as a backup.    

"We moved Sema'je Kendall over to corner and he is doing really well," said Huesman.  "He has the feet to do it, the quicks, the speed and it is a bigger body out there.  That is what we feel good about with him at corner.  Don Cope is the other corner and is doing a great job this spring.  Don is just solid and he will play through any injury that he has.  He is one of the tougher kids on the football team and I am pleased with his progress."

Coaching responsibilities for this group will be split between B.J. Hogan and Adam Braithwaite.  Hogan is entering his fourth season with the Mocs while Braithwaite comes to UTC after spending last year as the defensive coordinator at Christopher Newport in Newport News, Va.  Hogan will work with the cornerbacks while Braithwaite will coach the safeties. 

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