The self-proclaimed "people's captain," University of Tennessee at Chattanooga linebacker Gunner Miller, likely will be a spectator the rest of this football season.
A redshirt senior co-captain with big WWE dreams, the former East Ridge High School standout probably has played his last snap for the Mocs because of recurring stinger injuries.
Coach Russ Huesman said the shoulder problem isn't too serious, but the rehab will take several weeks. UTC (8-2, 6-1) already has clinched a share of the Southern Conference championship but has two games left in the regular season.
"I don't know this for sure, but he probably won't play the rest of the year," Huesman said Tuesday. "Just too many stingers."
Miller, a four-year starter with 166 career tackles, re-injured his shoulder against Appalachian State, missing much of that game, and sat out last week's win against Wofford. Stingers have been a problem for Miller throughout his career. He missed games late in the season as a freshman and junior as well.
Redshirt freshman Nakevion Leslie started at Sam linebacker in Miller's place last week and had a career- and game-high 14 tackles. Huesman said he feels better about what's happening at linebacker after seeing how UTC handled the shakeup at the position against App State and Wofford.
"A week ago I wouldn't have said that, and obviously you'd like to have Gunner back, but after last week and maybe even the week before, you feel a little bit better about your situation, just because some guys stepped up," he said.
Muhasibi Wakeel (ankle) sat out the Wofford game -- he was could have played if necessary, Huesman said -- and will be closer to 100 percent this week. UTC played with two linebackers and five defensive backs against Wofford and likely will do the same again Saturday against Samford, which leads the SoCon with 308.4 passing yards a game.
Georgia Southern, winner of 10 SoCon titles since 1993, will play its final SoCon game this Saturday at Elon. The Eagles, along with App State and Elon, are in their final season in the league.
It hasn't been the send-off coach Jeff Monken wanted -- GSU is 5-4 overall, 3-4 in the league -- but it has been a tremendous run for the Eagles.
"There's certainly a different feel for us, not being there, not being in the mix at the top of the league this year," Monken said Tuesday during the SoCon coaches' teleconference. "We certainly would have liked to have been ... but I'm proud of the way our kids have battled."
App State, which like Georgia Southern is headed to the Sun Belt, has two conference games remaining. Colonial Athletic Association-bound Elon also has two games left.
Following UTC's 31-9 win over Furman on Oct. 12, the Paladins were 2-4 overall and 1-2 in the SoCon. It was not a good time for the men in purple.
Since then, Furman has won three of four games, with the only loss coming at LSU, 48-16, and the Paladins even led that game 10-7 after the first quarter.
Furman (5-5, 4-2) has won its past three league games (App State, Georgia Southern and Samford) and is in the mix for a share of the league title, and the automatic bid, if it wins its last two SoCon games and the Mocs fall at Samford on Saturday.
A big reason for the turnaround has been the return of quarterback Reese Hannon, who is 35-of-51 passing for 473 yards in the Paladins' past three SoCon games.
Contact John Frierson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6268. Follow him at twitter.com/MocsBeat.
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 ...