Chattanooga took to Scrappy Moore Field on Friday afternoon for the first day of spring practice, and there weren’t many surprises, at least not for head coach Russ Huesman.
The Mocs’ star-studded defense looked solid, while the team’s offense, which is trying to absorb a new system for the second straight year, struggled.
“It was probably about what I expected to see,” Huesman said. “I saw a lot of energy from the defense, I saw a lot of experience and a lot of athletes defensively. I saw an offense that’s really trying to learn a new system. If we’d have scrimmaged today, the defense probably would have won 50-0, but I’m not discouraged with our offense at all.”
The Mocs didn’t scrimmage Friday, but they did keep score. You didn’t have to see a scoreboard to determine who won, either. The number of wind sprints run by each unit at the end of practice told the story.
Senior C.J. Murrell concluded the workout by intercepting a shallow out route thrown by Jacob Huesman, which was returned for a touchdown, and once Russ Huesman blew the whistle, signalling the end of team drills, the offense and defense each headed to opposite sidelines.
That’s when Huesman revealed what most of the players probably already knew.
The offense’s exit fee was a round of “gassers,” while the defense exploded like it’d just won the Super Bowl on the other sideline. They better get used to it, too.
“Everyday there’s going to be six things that the offense has to accomplish and six things the defense has to accomplish,” Huesman said. “You’ll do the number of gassers based on how you do, like big plays offensively versus not giving up a big play defensively. That's worth a gasser."
Huesman is hoping the new tactic breeds more competition amongst the team, and from the looks of things on Friday, it worked.
“Nobody wants to run sprints,” said senior linebacker Wes Dothard, with a smile on his face.
The offense and defense aren’t the only ones competing against each other, though. There’s plenty of competition at just about every position as well. From quarterback to defensive back and every spot in between, the players, specifically the younger ones, will be battling it out on daily basis this spring.
“We have a couple of people whose positions are set, but as far as the competition, it’s mainly between the younger guys,” Dothard said. “That gives the whole team a good drive because people want to play. We have a lot of depth and they’re getting to see a lot more reps.
“Our role is to coach the younger guys. That’s our job, to teach them and make sure they know what they need to know.”
Injury update: Safety D.J. Key was sporting crutches on Friday after undergoing offseason surgery, which will keep him sidelined for the entire spring season, while offensive tackle Brandon Morgan and safety Zach McCarter were both walking under their own power. Neither will see much action this spring, though.
• Jeff Durden took to field for the first time Friday, and the former James Madison offensive coordinator liked what he saw from his new squad, especially at the skill positions, but he did express concern about a lack of depth on the offensive line. “They’re salty and they’re quite a unit,” Durden said of the O-line, “but you’ve got to have seven up there. I think we’ve probably got five. We really need some of these younger players to come on."
• It felt like someone had turned the volume down at Friday’s practice. Durden and new defensive coordinator Adam Braithewaite don’t appear to be quite the screamers that former coordinators Marcus Satterfield and Adam Fuller were, but as Dothard pointed out after the team’s workout, it’s still early. “I think it’s going to get worse,” he said. “Satt was a yeller, but these coaches are still going to get on us if we mess up or whatever. They’re still going to drive us, so we’ll hear some yelling here and there.”
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