There were a few louder thuds during the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga's 2 1/2-hour football practice Friday morning.
The Mocs won't put on full pads until Sunday, but there were a few times during team drills and one-on-one line work when players' helmets and shoulder pads were popping more than they had the first couple of days of preseason camp.
"I think a lot of the guys are getting anxious to really start hitting a little bit," defensive end Keionta Davis said. "Everybody likes to compete."
UTC also worked on kickoff returns, with four sets of two returners fielding kicks and following their blocks. Besides experienced kick returners Tommy Hudson, Xavier Borishade and C.J. Board, the Mocs also had true freshmen Richardre Bagley, C.J. Fritz, Bingo Morton and Dejuan McQuarters and junior college transfer Jeremiah Hay in the mix.
Fritz, a former two-time state champion sprinter at McCallie, also has impressed coaches in the secondary. On offense, Bagley has been the one freshman who's tough to miss early on. Whether returning kicks, catching passes out of the backfield or in the few chances he's gotten to work with the first- or second-team offense, Bagley is proving to have an impressive set of skills. So far in practice he catches the ball well, has very quick cuts and is explosive getting upfield.
The Mocs will be back on Scrappy Moore Field early this morning and Sunday.
"Sunday won't be any different than today or yesterday or Saturday," UTC coach Russ Huesman said. "Y'all like full pads. Everybody likes to talk about full pads. Our players come out like, 'Full pads!' but it's all the same. We won't be taking them to the ground. We've just got pants on instead of shorts. That's what you play in, so that's what we'll wear, but that practice will look exactly like the ones before it."
Warren joins mix
Linebacker Dale Warren was the last of UTC's heralded freshmen to be cleared for contact. The three-star recruit from Covington, Ga., had been held out of contact for the first two practices but was finally medically cleared to be on the field Friday morning and joined fellow freshman Tim Whatley at linebacker during team drills.
Hudson on watch list
Senior receiver Hudson has been named to the College Football Performance Awards punt returner watch list. He is the sixth UTC player to be named to a 2014 CFPA watch list, joining quarterback Jacob Huesman, running back Keon Williams, tight end Faysal Shafaat, punter Nick Pollard and defensive end Davis Tull.
Hudson averaged 9.1 yards per punt return last season, which was second in the Southern Conference and 26th nationally. He made a leaping catch over a defender during Friday's team portion of practice.
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 ...