About midway through Tuesday afternoon's practice, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football coach Russ Huesman had seen enough.
Fed up with what he felt was a lack of effort and enthusiasm from the defense, the old defensive coordinator took it upon himself to light that unit's fuse.
After a touchdown pass on the third play of a team drill, Coach Huesman started from the offensive sideline and began walking across the field toward the defense, yelling at defenders with nearly every step. As he turned to walk back toward the middle of the field, Huesman stopped and yelled back at specific defenders for what he termed "not competing all camp!"
"Jacob [Huesman, the quarterback] overthrows two balls so our defense is like, 'All right, we won two,' but we didn't do a thing to win them. And then they come out and pop that touchdown and everybody stares at it. That's when I went off. It's unacceptable. The defense thinks we're winning 2-1 but I told them no, we're losing 7-0, brother!
"They came out, the life, the excitement level was not there. I was more embarrassed by the lack of effort on that play: That's what really got me going there."
As the Mocs wind toward this weekend's scrimmage and the end of preseason camp, players and staff seem ready to begin preparing for a specific opponent and hit somebody other than each other.
After Huesman's rant, defensive tackle Josh Freeman, who was kneeling on the sideline watching, recognized what needed to be done and yelled back, "I got you, Coach!" Freeman then turned to his defensive teammates and tried to get them amped up.
But more than any words from their coach or Freeman, what really got both sides going was moments later when receiver C.J. Board decleated defensive back Sema'Je Kendall with a crack-back block on a sweep, sending the defender straight to the turf on his back. The offensive sideline erupted into cheers, and as tight end Faysal Shafaat walked past linebacker Nakevion Leslie, he nudged him with his shoulder. Leslie already was jawing with an offensive lineman and ready to start swinging before defensive line coach Marcus West held him back.
"It was just there," Board said of the block. "He drove the fly route, so I was just trying to make a block. It wasn't planned or anything. It looks like it kind of made the defense mad, but I was just playing football.
"I think we're all going to be glad when camp ends [this weekend], because we're all ready for the first game. We're tired of hitting each other."
Freeman later had one of the funnier verbal exchanges of trash talk with former defensive tackle mate Chris Mayes, who has transitioned to offensive guard.
"I was just telling Mayes don't even think about it after that play where everybody was talking," Freeman said with a smile. "It's over after that play, so I was looking him in the eyes and saying don't think about starting anything.
"Our intensity level didn't start off where we needed to be, so Coach got on us and we turned it up. I felt like we needed that and the whooping and hollering to get us going, because it was just one of those days where things started dragging on our side. Coach made it clear what he wants, so I just told the guys to get going. It was just a little practice fun."
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 ...