Having a background in the spread offense was a prerequisite for Chattanooga's offensive coordinator opening.
Jeff Durden had one, and so did the other four candidates head coach Russ Huesman interviewed for the position.
“I talked to five pretty good guys,” Huesman said. “I wasn’t sure what I was going to do."
But Durden touched on something in his interview that stood out to his future boss, and it might have been what landed him the job.
“In his interview, the thing that I liked the most that he said — and he didn’t say it because I wanted to hear it, he didn’t know — he said I want to get a lot of people involved in the offense,” Huesman said. “That’s wide receivers, tight ends, running backs; he wants to get a lot of people involved."
It’s something Huesman touched on last season. Before he left for Temple last month, Marcus Satterfield described it as one of the team’s main focuses this offseason.
Now it’s one of Durden’s main focuses as offensive coordinator.
“I think the job here is to convince these players that it isn’t just about one or two or three or four guys, we want to get everybody involved,” Durden said. “When that kind of chemistry occurs and you’re on the same page, you tend to be greater than the sum of your parts.”
And the Mocs have some pretty good parts. Not that Durden knows a whole lot about them yet.
“That’s the task at hand, to do some evaluating,” Durden said. “Coach Huesman asked me today when was the last time I saw them play. I saw them play at Nebraska a couple years ago.”
They look quite a bit different now.
For starters, instead of a strong-armed, future NFL quarterback under center, there’s a pair of run-first signal callers in Jacob Huesman and Terrell Robinson lining up behind it.
There’s a pair of battle-tested running backs in the backfield with Kendrix Huitt and Keon Williams, and a receiving corps with loads of returning talent, including Robinson and second-team All-SoCon tight end Faysal Shafaat.
“UTC seems to me like a very dynamic place,” Durden said. “Things are happening around here. I know they’re right on the verge. There’s potential here to have a great football team and to be a part of it.”
The Mocs are two months away from the start of spring practice, so Durden has plenty of time to familiarize himself with his players and the rest of the staff before Chattanooga puts on the pads March 22.
What is Durden looking to accomplish during his first spring with UTC?
“I would say the big 11,” he said. “Those 11 core plays that we’re going to have; five or six runs, four or five passes, a couple screens. Things like that, and then build from that. As far as concepts go, there’s plenty of time to get in and get good at what’s going to be your core.”
That core, though, has yet to be determined.
“We’re going to run the ball in order to throw it,” Durden said. “We’re going to be a play-action type passing team, but at the same time, what have you recruited to; what are the parts that you have. ... Kind of come in, evaluate, see what our strengths are, then build a package around that. I think that’s good coaching.”
Michael Murphy covers UTC athletics for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter @MichaelNooga.