published Thursday, August 1st, 2013

Chattanooga Mocs have smooth opening practice

Mocs wide receiver Bryant Belew (80) runs a route during practice at Scrappy Moore Field on Wednesday.
Mocs wide receiver Bryant Belew (80) runs a route during practice at Scrappy Moore Field on Wednesday.
Photo by C. B. Schmelter /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

A veteran University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football team conducted a very veteran opening preseason practice Wednesday afternoon at Scrappy Moore Field.

There wasn’t a lot of yelling from the coaches, the returning starters looked fit and in form and the Mocs went through the 24-period session with an air of confidence about themselves.

“We’ve got a lot of guys that are older on this team, a lot of juniors and seniors, a lot of guys that have played,” senior linebacker Gunner Miller said. “I think this is the best team we’ve had since I’ve been here and there’s a lot of excitement going into the season.

“We’ve got a lot of guys that have played here a long time and I think it shows.”

The lack of yelling by coaches made it possible to hear the music blasting from the speakers located in the middle of Scrappy. Mocs coach Russ Huesman said wide receivers coach Will Healy approached him about playing music during practice, and Huesman went along with it.

It was all hip-hop Wednesday, though the style of music could change from day to day. Huesman said he would probably enjoy country music day.

Entering his fifth season, Huesman looked more relaxed than normal during the summer. He also looked more relaxed during practice, though apparently looks can be deceiving.

“I’m not relaxed — I’m nervous,” he said. “I went home last night and laid in bed for 45 minutes just thinking about everything.”

Because the Mocs will be back practicing at Scrappy at 6:30 this morning, Huesman planned to spend Wednesday night in his office. He wasn’t expecting his mind to be racing any less.

Offensive coordinator Jeff Durden liked most of what he saw, though freshman quarterbacks Alejandro Bennifield and Tyler Roberson had several passes intercepted. Of the returning players, Durden said he saw a group that had clearly put in work during the summer.

Running back Keon Williams, who worked a lot with the No. 1 offense, said that summer work is already paying off.

“There were more people here than I’ve ever seen in the summer workouts,” the redshirt junior said. “We all stayed, we all got the concepts down and we know what’s going on now.

“I feel like a lot of the older people, we’re taking ownership. … We’re putting it on our shoulders.”

Mocs quarterback Jacob Huesman said hadn’t noticed the lack of yelling until it was pointed out to him. He also noticed a more confident air about the team.

“It’s day one, and hopefully we’ll keep adding to it,” he said.

Wide receiver is one position that could have a true freshman or two play this season. Xavier Borishade threw his hat into the ring with some good route-running and several quality receptions. Freshman wideout James Stovall also had a solid first day.

“I don’t know all their names yet, but we’ve got some guys out there making plays on offense, and on defense, as well,” Miller said.

This is the final camp for Miller, as it is for the 11 seniors on the roster, including seven projected starters. Miller is sporting the “Wolverine” beard for camp.

“The movie came out and I decided to do it for the premier and then I was like, ‘ah, I’m going to keep it,’” he said. “It’s camp and you’ve got to do something a little crazy during camp.

Extra points

Safety D.J. Key (foot) and wideout Alphonso Stewart (knee) did not practice. Safety Dean Haynes went out midway through and had a bag of ice on his right ankle, later leaving Scrappy on crutches. …. Linebacker A.J. Hampton had two interceptions and cornerbacks Will Johnson and Dee Virgin also picked off passes.

Contact John Frierson at jfrierson@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6268. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/MocsBeat.

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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