Preseason camp has officially ended and classes start on Monday, but GoMocs.com continues its Training Camp Rundown with today’s look at the running backs. The Mocs have seven ball carriers, each with a unique set of skills, vying for time on the field.
Of the seven, three have been honored by the Southern Conference in their careers, one was the MVP of the Spring Game and another had the only 100-yard game by a running back last season. There is also a two-star prep prospect and a freshman walk-on trying to impress the coaching staff.
Juniors Keon Williams (Chattanooga, Tenn.) and Marquis Green (Palmetto, Fla.) have emerged as the top two at this position. Williams was a member of the SoCon All-Freshman team in 2010 when he rushed for 500 yards and four touchdowns. Green was also on the SoCon All-Freshman squad after leading the team with 530 rushing yards in 2011.
Williams and Green have put up similar numbers in their careers, but they have two very different styles. At 6-0 and 225 pounds, Williams is a bruiser with a lot of power. At 5-7 and 175 pounds, Green relies more on his speed. Williams came into camp in the best shape of his career and it has paid off. Green continues to show his versatility and can be used at multiple positions on the field.
“I am very pleased with the running backs during camp,” stated head coach Russ Huesman. “They are running the football really well. Between Marquis Green and Keon Williams, I think we have two different types of backs that can do some good things in this offense.”
Neither had very productive seasons in 2012, while both want to see their numbers improve. Williams was fourth on the team with 155 rushing yards and three TDs. He began the year as the starter, but saw his production steadily drop as the season progressed. Green was sixth on the team with 126 rushing yards and three TDs. He played a number of snaps at receiver late in the year, finishing with 15 catches for 142 yards and a score. Green also led the team with a 5.2 yards-per-carry average.
“I think Keon is having a really good camp,” said running backs coach Wesley Satterfield. “He looked very promising in the spring and he is running the ball very hard. We are just going to continue working on ball security with him, but he is lowering his pads and doing a great job.”
Junior Taharin Tyson (Alcoa, Tenn.) was on the SoCon All-Freshman team with Green in 2011. At 5-11 and 240 pounds, he is a fullback by trade, but is competing with all of the ball carriers in new offensive coordinator Jeff Durden’s system. He has played in 21 games with nine starts over the last two years and his experience and reliability is a valuable asset to the group.
Sophomore Kendrix Huitt (Atlanta, Ga.) was slowed by a shoulder injury during most of camp. He came on strong in the last half of the 2012 season and was second on the team in rushing with 288 yards on 57 carries. At 5-9 and 200 pounds, he has a good mix of speed and power that adds another dimension to the running game.
Huitt’s 5.1 average-per-attempt was second on the team and he scored three touchdowns in 2012. He had the only 100-yard rushing game by a running back when he put up 137 yards at Western Carolina. He got 74 of those yards on one touchdown run. That was the longest for a Moc since Eldra Buckley scored on a 76-yarder against Tennessee Tech in 2006.
“Last year...I felt like it was running back-by-committee,” added coach Satterfield. “Keon started out as a starter, Huitt came in there and did some good things and Marquis did some good things. Marquis even moved to wide receiver near the end last season and I think he provides us with a lot of versatility at that position.”
Redshirt freshman Tolerance Shepherd (Fitzgerald, Ga.) showed what he is capable of in the 2013 Blue & Gold Spring game in April. He was the offensive MVP, racking up 110 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries. The 5-10, 180-pound back also had a 75-yard TD reception in the game.
True freshman Derrick Craine (McDonough, Ga.) could also work his way into the mix. He is a strong runner at 5-10 and 205 pounds. The former two-star prep prospect was second on the team in rushing in the first scrimmage on Aug. 10, finishing with 35 yards on eight carries. Fellow true freshman Scottie Fleming (Franklin, Tenn.) led the team in rushing with 37 yards on five carries in Friday’s scrimmage.
“We are just looking to be productive this year,” stated Williams. “We have some hard runners this season. Kenny, Marquis and I can run it hard and bring different styles. We hope to be productive and we hope to see a lot of progression from the younger guys. Craine runs hard and doesn’t hit the ground on first contact and shows he is going to be a strong runner.”
The Mocs are now turning their attention to the season opener against UT Martin on Thursday, Aug. 29. Kickoff against the Skyhawks is set for 7:30 p.m. (E.D.T.) at Finley Stadium. Ticket are on sale now on GoMocs.com or by calling the UTC Ticket Office at (423) 266-MOCS (6627).
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