So much for easing into spring practice.
The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football team hit the ground running, literally, Monday evening. And while the first day of spring drills was mostly about knocking off the offseason rust, the Mocs were reminded several times by coaches during the 26 five-minute periods to pick up the pace.
"We've got enough young guys or inexperienced guys who had to step in today and play at a level they weren't used to before that it was like chaos a little at first," Mocs coach Russ Huesman said. "It was OK. It wasn't great but it wasn't awful. It was a typical first day.
"We had to jog their memory a little about what's expected, but we have several who aren't out there and the guys stepping in for them are being asked to go from scout team last year to first-team now. We've got a long way to go, so we have to temper it a little."
Even with eight offensive and five defensive starters back, between graduation and several other players on the sideline nursing injuries or continuing to heal from offseason surgery, the door is opened for inexperienced players to step up at several positions. There's also a chance for new leaders to emerge through spring drill.
Junior quarterback Jacob Huesman, who no longer has to share first-team repetitions, not only has complete command of the offense now but was noticeably active in tutoring redshirt freshmen Alejandro Bennifield and Tyler Roberson, who are battling for the backup job.
"I feel like I can step more into a leadership role now, and I'm comfortable with that," said the coach's son, last year's Southern Conference offensive player of the year. "I'm trying to be a mentor to the other guys right now.
"Today we were really just knocking off the cobwebs. You can't expect too much on day one. But it's nice to be back out with the guys competing."
The Mocs worked out in helmets and shorts for more than two hours Monday and won't go in full pads until Friday. The practice schedule has them on the field three or four days each week before the spring game at Finley Stadium at 7 p.m. on April 11.
"I can't wait to have the pads on and get physical," said junior defensive lineman Josh Freeman, who added that the combination of last year's success and the experience returning has expectations noticeably higher.
"You always want to be great," Freeman continued. "We know a lot is going to be expected from this team, and it all starts out here now."
Season tickets on sale
Tickets for the 2014 home games are on sale now at GoMocs.com and the ticket office, 423-266-MOCS (6627). Season-ticket prices start at $50 for youth and UTC faculty, staff and alumni and $75 for the general public.
Home games include Jacksonville State (Sept. 6), Samford (Sept. 27), VMI (Oct. 4), Mercer (Oct. 25) and Wofford (Nov. 8).
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 ...