published Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013

UTC Mocs ends thriving under coach Marcus West

  • photo
    UTC defensive line coach Marcus West jumps on star end Davis Tull after the Mocs stopped The Citadel's last possession for a 28-24 UTC victory this season at Finley Stadium. Tull was the Mocs' third end honoree as Southern Conference defensive player of the year in West's five seasons with the program.
    Photo by Angela Lewis /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Marcus West has coached the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga defensive ends for five seasons, since Russ Huesman was hired as head coach.

Three times the Mocs have had an end voted the Southern Conference defensive player of the year: Josh Beard in 2009 and Davis Tull the past two seasons. Coincidence?

"He's an excellent football coach, there's no question about it, but two of those have gone to Davis Tull, and that's a pretty special individual," Huesman said. "I don't want to take anything away from Marcus, but a lot of people could coach Davis Tull.

"Now, the things he did with Josh Beard were incredible. Josh had barely played the year before, and he did a tremendous job with him."

With a player as gifted as Tull, who became UTC's all-time sack leader during his redshirt junior season, being voted the league's top defensive player isn't a surprise.

"I'm excited, for sure, but it's also a standard around here," West said. "The league's coaches should know it because they're the ones that watch film [of Tull]."

Beard appeared in eight games in 2008, getting one sack and two tackles for loss. In came the new coaching staff and a new defensive scheme, and Beard tied a school record with 12 sacks.

Tull broke that record last season with 12.5. Facing mostly double- and triple-teams this season, he had nine sacks and 15 tackles for loss in 2013, giving him 26.5 for his career. Tull credits a lot of his success to the techniques, especially the hand moves, taught him by West.

"In terms of the pass rush, everybody looks at the sack numbers of defensive linemen and that's what's been getting these awards, and that's his specialty," Tull said. "He's really good; he brings some NFL moves to the team."

West also helped develop Josh Williams into the school's sack king with 23.5, a record he held for less than a year before Tull broke it. Chris Donald also had a good season at end, leading the team with 7.5 sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss in 2010.

West was an All-Conference USA end at Memphis in 2004-05 and spent a season with the Indianapolis Colts during a brief pro career. Still just 30 years old, West brings a lot of energy to coaching his group, which is consistently one of the UTC defense's strengths.

"I think what's cool about Coach West is he's constantly evolving," Tull said.

Whether he continues to evolve at UTC is an unknown heading into the offseason. West is married to former UTC associate head women's basketball coach Nikki West, who went with Wes Moore to North Carolina State last spring.

Living apart isn't easy, West said, but at the same time he enjoys coaching at UTC and especially the best defensive line in the SoCon -- one that will be even better next season with the return of all of this season's starters, plus ends Vantrell McMillan and Zach Rayl and tackle Derrick Lott will be back from injury.

Also joining the mix will be redshirt freshman end D.J. Prather and tackle Taylor Reynolds.

"It's a tough situation, no question about it," West said of living nearly 500 miles from Nikki, "but we're both career driven right now. I'm young, she's young and we've got the rest of our lives together.

"I don't want to leave all this -- I don't want to -- but I don't know what's going to happen."

Speaking to the Chattanooga Quarterback Club on Monday, Huesman said he wanted his entire coaching staff to return. But realistically he said he expects probably to have some turnover, which happens after just about every season.

Contact John Frierson at jfrierson@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6268. Follow him 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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