University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football coach Russ Huesman typically is not big on slogans. He prefers a hard day’s work over clever word play to inspire his team.
But after being left out of the 24-team FCS playoffs last year, Huesman put two simple words — “Do more” — on signs with the date that UTC was shunned from the bracket and handed out copies to the players and staff.
“I remember [defensive back] Chaz Moore in the hallway crying his eyes out after we were left out,” Huesman said. “ We missed it last year. and it was hitting him that he had played his last college football game. These seniors don’t want to go through that, so hopefully they kept those signs and will apply it.
“If we do the same, we’ll get the same result. We’ve got to do more. The goal is to win the Southern Conference, but it’s not our only goal.”
Two of the Mocs’ four losses last year were by three points or less, and another was a mistake-filled 10-point nonconference loss to open the season. A few more positive plays could have swung any of those games in UTC’s favor and likely meant reaching the postseason.
But from spring practice, throughout preseason camp, neither the coaching staff nor the players have been shy about discussing this year’s goal of winning the conference title outright and reaching the playoffs for the first time in 30 years.
And much like Huesman’s coaching style, the slogan he came up with is a direct and blue-collar approach to a promising season.
“To me it’s about doing more than what you’re required to do,” said senior tight end Faysal Shafaat. “We did enough to win last year, but not enough to be the best, so our goal is to do more and get there. We had a chance to win the conference outright in our last game, but we ended up losing and it wasn’t just because of that last play (a missed field goal in overtime). We had chances throughout the game — different plays that could’ve helped us win and go to the playoffs — and that’s why we’re doing a lot of extra work now so we’ll be ready to make those plays when we need to.”
According to several players, the number of teammates who stayed to work out together during the summer was more than double that of last year. And the adopted slogan was the inspiration to show up early and stay late for workouts, video study and throwing sessions involving quarterbacks, receivers and backs.
“Last year we had a lot of close games that could’ve gone our way,” said sophomore linebacker Nakevian Leslie. “We could’ve won any one of those and gotten to the playoffs, so this year we carry that motto everywhere.
“When we run, we go a few yards extra or we may take a few extra reps in the weight room. During summer workouts we pushed each other and did more than we had to, and now at camp we still talk about doing more than coaches ask us to do so we can get where we want to be.”
'C Club' launched
In an initiative to reconnect with former student-athletes, cheerleaders, managers, athletic trainers and coaches, UTC has announced it’s forming a C Club for all former letter winners. Membership is free and former letter winners interested in joining can do so online at gomocs.com.
Benefits of the C Club include all that comes with a Mocs Club membership at the starter level and also include invitations to attend special events held throughout the year and the chance to network with other members.
UTC 16th in poll
UTC is ranked 16th in the FCS Coaches Poll released Monday evening, with Tennessee State 17th and Furman 18th. Jacksonville State is eighth.
The preseason poll is headed for the third straight year by North Dakota State, which won its third consecutive national championship last December.
Contact Stephen Hargis at firstname.lastname@example.org 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 ...