The Chattanooga football team is less than a month way from start of spring practice . The Mocs, coming off their first Southern Conference title since 1984, return several key pieces from last year’s 8-4 campaign, especially on the offensive side of the ball.
Nooga.com will preview each position group leading up to the first spring practice on Monday, March 17.
Gone: Kendrix Huitt (dismissed)
Returning: Keon Williams (RS SR); Marquis Green (SR); Derrick Craine (SO); *Taharin Tyson (SR)
Arriving in summer: Richardre Bagley (★★)
Outlook: One of the top stories last season was the emergence of Chattanooga’s backfield under first-year offensive coordinator Jeff Durden.
UTC’s backs generated just 754 yards in 2012—essentially serving as tackling dummies in the team’s read option attack, pulling opposing defenses out of position to provide quarterback Jacob Huesman room to operate.
The situation wasn’t ideal, but the strategy gave the Chattanooga its best chance to be successful.
That changed drastically in 2013.
Huesman still finished as the team’s leading rusher (894 yards, 9 TDs), but unlike his freshman campaign, he had plenty of others capable of carrying the ball for positive gains.
Senior Keon Williams was dominant early on, racking up 687 yards and nine touchdowns through seven games, before suffering a season-ending ankle injury against The Citadel on Oct. 26. The powerful 6-foot, 215-pounder notched five 100-yard performances in 2013, including a season-high 147 in the Mocs’ Week 2 win at Georgia State.
Williams is back to 100 percent, and he’ll likely be the No. 1 option this spring. As the Mocs showed last season, though, there’s room for more than one back in Durden’s offense. Senior Marquis Green and sophomore Derrick Craine are sure to see plenty of carries as well.
Green, a shifty 5-7, 175-pound speedster, proved to be a perfect fit for Durden’s perimeter-oriented running attack, piling up 634 all-purpose yards a season ago while finishing as the team’s second-leading receiver (32 receptions, 284 yards, 3 TDs).
Craine, one of just two true freshman to see the field in 2013, is a more physical, straight-ahead runner, but the 5-10, 205-pound, McDonough, Ga., native is quicker than he looks. He got his first taste of the collegiate game at Georgia State, finishing with a season-high 53 yards on six carries, but his work load really picked up after Williams’ injury.
The offseason dismissal of junior Kendrix Huitt cut into the Mocs’ depth, but as long as the unit is not riddled with injuries in the fall, that shouldn’t be a huge issue.
By the numbers:
• Williams: (UTC career) 270 rushing attempts, 1,342 yards, 16 TDs
• Tyson: (UTC career) 60 rushing attempts, 209 yards, 2 TDs
• Craine: (UTC career) 44 rushing attempts, 197 yards, 2 TDs
Projected spring depth chart: The Mocs have three experienced ball carriers returning to the backfield this spring, and it’ll be interesting to see how the coaching staff divvies up the carries. As long as he’s healthy, Williams should be the every-down back for Chattanooga, but that’s not to say Green and Craine won’t also have important roles. Durden’s offense doesn’t utilize a true fullback, but senior Taharin Tyson’s athleticism and soft hands should get him on the field some, too.
Michael Murphy covers UTC athletics for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter @MichaelNooga.
Updated @ 12:21 p.m. on 2/26/14
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