published Friday, November 22nd, 2013

Chattanooga Mocs' Tull faces big Bama challenge

UTC defensive lineman Davis Tull (90) sacks Wofford quarterback Evan Jacks, forcing a fumble, in the final quarter of their game at Finley Stadium in this file photo. The Mocs defeated the Terriers 20-10.
UTC defensive lineman Davis Tull (90) sacks Wofford quarterback Evan Jacks, forcing a fumble, in the final quarter of their game at Finley Stadium in this file photo. The Mocs defeated the Terriers 20-10.
Photo by Doug Strickland /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

The good news for Davis Tull, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga All-America defensive end, is that he's not likely to see many double- and triple-teams Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

The bad is that the 6-foot-3, 240-pound redshirt junior, the Mocs' all-time sack leader, is in for maybe the toughest one-on-one challenge of his career.

Through the No. 21-ranked Mocs' first 11 games, offenses typically -- perhaps as much as 80 percent of the time -- committed two players to block the reigning Southern Conference defensive player of the year. Not that it stopped him.

Tull is tied with Samford linebacker Justin Shade for the league lead with nine sacks, and his 15 tackles for loss trail only Shade's 15.5.

When UTC (8-3) wraps up its regular season Saturday against top-ranked and two-time defending BCS national champion Alabama (10-0), Tull likely will go head to head with right tackle Austin Shepherd, a junior listed at 6-5, 315 pounds.

Should Tull flip-flop with end Keionta Davis and go against the Tide's left tackle, he'll be facing a 6-6, 310-pound junior in preseason All-Southeastern Conference pick Cyrus Kouandijo, who was named a semifinalist this week for the Outland Trophy.

"I don't think it changes how you prepare," Tull said. "You've still got to come out and expect to be successful."

Prior to this season, Tull was ranked in Phil Steele's College Football Preview as the No. 1 defensive end in the Football Championship Subdivision and the No. 6 overall player. He's the only junior ranked in the top five among FCS active leaders in career sacks (26.5) and tackles for loss (42).

The challenge Tull faces comes at a time of great opportunity. There likely will be a lot of NFL eyes on the field, and the Knoxville native will have a chance to show what he can do against an Alabama offense with numerous future pro players.

"It's more about us as a team, but definitely you want to play well individually, and I think me and the seniors, we do look at it, kind of, as an opportunity and as a great challenge," Tull said. "I'm definitely looking at all of that, and it makes it more exciting."

Mocs coach Russ Huesman said impressing the scouts is something Tull will need to worry about more next season.

"Most of them don't know who Davis is right now," Huesman said. "He's got a whole year to wait on that."

Getting to Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron is probably a little easier than busting into Fort Knox, but it's not easy. Alabama has allowed just two sacks since the third quarter of the Ole Miss game on Sept. 28.

In his first college game, the 2011 opener at Nebraska, Tull was held in check and only assisted on two tackles. Last season at South Florida, he had five tackles, a sack and a forced fumble.

Extra points

Mocs quarterback Jacob Huesman was in pads during Thursday's practice at Scrappy Moore Field, but he didn't do much. Russ Huesman said if the game was today, Jacob wouldn't play. ... UTC will hold a campus celebration of the Mocs' share of the Southern Conference championship at noon today at Chamberlain Pavilion. If it rains, the event will be moved to the Tennessee room of the University Center. ... The game will be available to watch on pay-per-view, with numerous cable outlets offering the telecast (advance price is $29.95; Saturday price is #34.95).

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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