The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football team got to work on two game situations for the first time this spring — one scripted by coaches, the other completely out of their control.
As the Mocs moved past the midway point of their scheduled 15 spring practices, and one day after their first live scrimmage, they began working on their two-minute offense near the end of Saturday morning's workout. And with a steady downpour pelting the Scrappy Moore field throughout, every portion of the hour-and-a-half practice began an impromptu wet-ball drill.
"As much as you would like for it to be sunny every day, this has got to happen," UTC quarterback Jacob Huesman said. "You know, what happens when we go somewhere and it's raining on game day? We don't want to have never seen that situation before, so it's good to have a day like this sometimes.
"The ball slipped a few times and it was tough, but for the most part it's just getting used to it and trying not to let the rain affect us too much."
Assistants instructed the quarterbacks to take a bit of steam off their short throws and keep the ball low to avoid deflections of a slippery ball, while runners and pursuing defenders were reminded to use shorter, choppier steps for better traction on the wet field. But head coach Russ Huesman, a perfectionist who'd rather practice one more drill than eat when he's hungry, wasn't buying into much of the benefits of dreary conditions.
"Coaches will say it's good, that a day like this can help, but I'd just as soon have a dry day so we can get something done, to be honest with you," Coach Huesman said. "The thing that bothers me, and I know it was miserable and a wet ball feels like it weighs probably 50 pounds and I'm good with all that, but it forces you to focus and concentrate, and I don't think we did that today.
"Don't use a wet ball as an excuse. The quarterback has to throw it, and if it's in your hands you've got to catch it. I'd rather have a good practice."
Despite the wet conditions, by the time the Mocs began working on their two-minute drill, the offense had adjusted and Jacob Huesman sharply punctuated a couple of drives with touchdowns and answered each scenario coaches threw at him.
Coaches also created some favorable situations for the offense during the two-minute drill, perhaps to even things out after a talented and deep defensive line exposed the inexperience along portions of the offensive front during Friday evening's scrimmage.
"The main thing with the two-minute offense is we have to make sure we know what we want to do and when we want to do it in every situation," Coach Huesman said. "We want to make sure we're on the same page as far as when do we use a timeout, when do we change the personnel groupings?
"It's hard to simulate, but I thought we got some good things out of that for sure."
Having already watched video from the previous day's scrimmage at Finley Stadium, Coach Huesman admitted he saw the expected spring mistakes but liked the overall effort, especially from the defense.
"I saw some guys playing really hard," he said. "Most of our front defensive line got after it pretty good, and when you've got Davis [Tull], Keionta [Davis], Free [Josh Freeman], [Daniel] Ring and Toy [Toyvian Brand], all those guys can disrupt. I didn't know what to expect, to be honest with you, but we've got some guys who've played a lot of football and the effort was good."
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 ...