Ordinarily, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football coach Russ Huesman loves it when the ball winds up in his defense's hands. But not when it's his offense giving the ball away.
Ball security has been a concern for the offense thus far in spring practice, and it will be again today when UTC conducts its first scrimmage of the spring at Finley Stadium. Monday, Huesman initiated post-practice punishment, something that will last throughout the spring, for players who lose the ball at any time.
"Anybody can knock it out, pull it out," Huesman said. "Coaches or players, anybody, so we're making more of an emphasis on ball security. If the ball's on the ground at any time after you've got it in your hand, then you've got extra after practice."
Huesman said the scrimmage, which is closed to the public except for Mocs Club members, will consist of about 80 plays.
"I want to come out of that thing with no turnovers," he said. "We've turned it over every practice so far at least two times. We can't do that. We've got to hang on to the football."
Holding on to the ball and making smart throws was one of the offense's strengths last season. During the Mocs' 6-5 run, the offense gave the ball away just nine times, which was tied for second nationally in the Football Championship Subdivision.
New offensive coordinator Jeff Durden said ball security was just one of the things he was looking for today. Another is a lead rusher at running back.
"I would like to see our playmakers step up and make some plays," he said. "The guys that everyone's told me can play -- Terrell Robinson, Jacob [Huesman] -- they were right. I'd like for one of these backs to establish himself. They're all good at one or two things, but we need the total package."
Robinson dividing duties
Though he likely will get some action at wide receiver with the first-team offense, Robinson primarily will be the second-team quarterback during the scrimmage. That's mainly a byproduct of personnel since he and Jacob Huesman are the only scholarship quarterbacks on UTC's roster.
"He can't play 80 snaps, so it's going to be hard for him to get a ton of snaps at wide receiver," Russ Huesman said.
At Wednesday's practice Robinson shed the red, no-contact jersey and wore white like the rest of the receivers. UTC's top returning wideout from last season with 40 catches, Robinson said he's improving as a receiver every day.
"The more reps you get at anything, the better you should be," he said. "As a quarterback you learn the offense and basically learn every position. When I'm throwing the ball, I know what I'm looking for. Me and Jacob had that connection today and worked well together."
Snapper Oliver quits
The Mocs' long-snapper in all 11 games last season, Bryn Oliver, no longer is with the team. Oliver had followed in the footsteps of his older brother, Brock, a four-year starter at snapper.
"He just chose not to play anymore," Coach Huesman said. "Don't know why-- just chose not to play."
Freshman Will Sharpton, who signed with UTC as a snapper and redshirted in the fall, is handling all the long-snapping duties this spring.
Contact John Frierson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6268. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/mocsbeatCTFP.
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 ...