There was no Saturday morning hangover for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football team following Friday evening's scrimmage. In terms of attitude, Saturday's hour-and-a-half workout was one of the more spirited of the spring.
Following several long completions during one skelly drill (skill-position offensive players running routes against linebackers and secondary), defensive frustration only incited the offensive players to woof and shout louder. That energy carried over throughout the rest of the workout as the Mocs offense continues to work at a fast pace.
"It's one of those things where it's Saturday and you want to get up for practice even though sometimes it starts as fake enthusiasm," said rising senior fullback Taharin Tyson. "A lot of us don't want to be out here on a Saturday -- you know, you've got things you want to do. But if you've got to be out here to work, you need to get excited about practice so fake it till you make it.
"It's a lot of fun to get under the defensive guys' skin. You see them in the locker room after and they're frustrated, complaining about how fast we're going and they can't get lined up, and that's part of our offense now. We're learning the pace of this offense, and now everybody is starting to get a grasp of it so we can go faster. That's going to help us create a disadvantage for any defense."
Young receivers shine
Although the Mocs return several receivers with game experience, two redshirt freshmen have been impressive throughout spring drill, with their size and pass-catching ability.
Alphonso Stewart and former Bradley Central star James Stovall, both with 6-foot-3, 190-pound frames, are gaining the trust of coaches and quarterbacks with each passing practice. And while Stovall has had to sit out the past couple of days with a minor shoulder injury, Stewart, who played quarterback in high school and is still learning the receiver position, has been in the starting rotation at times and seems to make at least one highlight catch each practice.
"We've had high expectations for him for a while," UTC receivers coach Will Healy said of Stewart. "We thought there may be a chance he could help us last year, but he came in with a torn meniscus so he ended up having to miss the first two weeks of camp and then redshirt. But when I watched film of him from scout team and saw him run around, I knew he had a chance to be a special player.
"He works extremely hard, he's got a ton of natural God-given ability, and when you mix those things together you've got a chance to be a pretty good wideout. He's got really good hands and a big frame, so he's a guy we can feature across the middle on slants and physical routes. He can be really good for us."
Spring game extras
UTC coaches will hold a free youth clinic before Friday's Blue/Gold spring game. The clinic is eighth-graders and under, with registration at 5:15 p.m. The spring game will kick off at 7.
Also, at halftime of the spring game the Mocs will receive their Southern Conference championship rings. It was the program's first share of a SoCon title since 1984 and the 6-2 league mark was the best since UTC joined the SoCon in 1977.
Scrappy Awards set
The third annual "Scrappys," UTC's all-sports awards banquet, will be held Thursday at 7 p.m. at The Chattanoogan hotel. Space is limited and the $50 tickets can be reserved by calling Joe Levine with the UTC Mocs Club at 423-425-4233 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. There is also a private VIP reception with the Mocs coaches at 6:30 p.m.
UTC athletes and coaches from all 17 men's and women's sports programs will be honored for accomplishments in competition, the classroom and the community.
Contact Stephen Hargis at email@example.com or 423-757-6293.
Stephen has covered local sports in the tri-state area for more than 24 years, having been with the Times Free Press since its inception, and has been an assistant sports editor since 2005. Stephen is among the most decorated writers in the TFP’s newsroom, winning numerous state, regional and national writing awards, including seven in 2013 and a combined 12 in the last two years. He was named one of the top 10 sports writers ...