published Monday, April 4th, 2011

Mocs build depth in spring work

UTC tight end Sean Stackhouse surveys the field during the Blue & Gold spring game Saturday.
Staff photo by Robin Rudd/Chattanooga Times Free Press
UTC tight end Sean Stackhouse surveys the field during the Blue & Gold spring game Saturday. Staff photo by Robin Rudd/Chattanooga Times Free Press

The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga had a lot of ground to cover during spring football practice.

Its offensive line had to be rebuilt after losing three starters, the defense had to improve after getting knocked around a bit it in 2010, and every other phase of the game was addressed, as well.

In the long run, the most important byproduct of the 15 spring sessions could be the development of some much-needed depth throughout the lineup.

“I think there’s a lot of progress as far as depth because we got a lot of young guys that stepped up and played,” said rising senior safety Jordan Tippit, who was named one of four co-captains for next season following Saturday’s Blue & Gold game.

Circumstances, both injuries and graduation, forced the Mocs to give a lot of freshmen and other inexperienced players numerous repetitions with the first and second units.

The Mocs haven’t had much depth at any position in the past few seasons, but that began to change this spring. Though spring experience isn’t the same as game experience, it’s something for the younger players to latch onto in the fall when their number’s called.

“I feel like a lot of guys got better this spring, which is what we need for when we go into games,” rising senior wideout Joel Bradford said. “We need to build depth so if one guy gets winded or gets hurt, then the young guys have that experience.”

No group of freshmen and backups got more reps than the defensive line, which was without three of its four starters the entire spring. The already-thin group relied on starting defensive tackle Nick Davison, seldom used end De’Markus Lee and a small gang of freshmen and walk-ons.

The challenges faced by defensive line coach Jimmy Lindsey were enough to have him often muttering how he was cursed. However, the defensive coaches also got to see the development of some potential future impact players, including freshmen ends Davis Tull and Zach Rayl.

Other than on the offensive line, UTC’s offense, one of the best in the Southern Conference last season, didn’t face too many radical changes.

The running backs continued what may be a never-ending battle for the top spot on the depth chart, transfer tight end Sean Stackhouse quickly fit right in and quarterback B.J. Coleman threw a lot of passes to receivers other than standouts Joel Bradford and Brian Sutherland.

Sloan Allison, Jeff Veres and Bryant Belew had a lot of balls thrown their way throughout the spring, including Saturday. Allison had two catches and ran a reverse, Belew caught four passes and Veres seven.

“We probably didn’t get the ball to Brian and Joel as much as we would in a game,” wideouts coach Will Healy said, “but we were also trying to find ways to get the ball to those other guys and give them some confidence heading into the summer.”

Coach Russ Huesman said the Mocs had a good spring — “I think we did what we set out to do,” he said — but added that all that work doesn’t count for much if the players spend the next four months on the couch.

about John Frierson...

John Frierson is in his seventh year at the Times Free Press and seventh year covering University of Tennessee at Chattanooga athletics. The bulk of his time is spent covering Mocs football, but he also writes about women’s basketball and the big-picture issues and news involving the athletic department. A native of Athens, Ga., John grew up a few hundred yards from the University of Georgia campus. Instead of becoming a Bulldog he attended Ole ...

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