Chattanooga opens spring practice in one week. The Mocs return a wealth of talent on both sides of the ball from last season’s 6-5 campaign, but this spring will offer the first glimpse of new offensive coordinator Jeff Durden’s system.
Nooga.com will preview each position group leading up to the first practice on March 22.
Wide receiver/tight end
Gone: Jarrett Burns (graduation)
Returning: Marlon Anthony (SR); Tommy Hudson (JR); Ron Moore (JR); *Faysal Shafaat (JR); Bryant Belew (RS JR); Tray James (SO); Al Thompson (RS FR); *Troy Dye (RS SO); *Jarrod Coleman (RS SO); Kevin Neithammer (RS FR); C.J. Board (RS FR).
Arriving in summer: Alphonso Stewart (2-star); *Malcolm Colvin (2-star); Xavier Borishade (NR); Davis Howell (NR)
Outlook: Prior to leaving for Temple University, former offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield stated that receiver was one of the main areas in need of improvement this offseason.
The Mocs certainly have plenty of talent at the position, including third-team All-American tight end Faysal Shafaat, but Satterfield’s call for improvement had less to do with pass-catching, route-running or 40 times, and more to do with mental toughness.
Senior Marlon Anthony, along with juniors Tommy Hudson and Ron Moore, all saw plenty of action last season for the Mocs, but the three combined for just 568 yards and three scores.
Backup quarterback/wide receiver Terrell Robinson led the team in receptions (40), yards (489) and touchdowns (5) in limited time at wide receiver, while converted running back Marquis Green hauled in 15 catches for 142 yards and a score.
Anthony returns for his final season for the Mocs following a disappointing junior campaign. He was hampered by a nagging hamstring injury for much of the year, finishing with just 11 catches, 101 yards and a score.
The 6-5, 220-pounder should begin the spring as the team’s No. 1 receiver, but he could be challenged by 6-4, 185-pounder Tray James, who did a solid job filling in for the injured Anthony early last season.
James, who started four games last year as a true freshman, had a season-high three catches, 43 yards and a touchdown in the Mocs’ 27-24 loss at Jacksonville State, and finished the year with 11 receptions for 89 yards.
Junior Bryant Belew,who played in all 11 games for Chattanooga, along with freshmen C.J. Board and Al Thompson, should provide depth in 2013, but solid spring showings could result in more playing time next fall.
Sophomores Troy Dye and Jarrod Coleman-brother of former Mocs quarterback B.J. Coleman-will compete for playing time at tight end behind Shafaat, as will redshirt freshman Kevin Neithammer.
Quotable: Head coach Russ Huesman on the wide receivers:
“We’ve got to find other ways to get the ball in people’s hands. We probably didn’t use Tommy Hudson enough (last) year. He’s a good enough player, he probably should have had 50 catches. But he’s got two more years here.”
By the numbers:
Anthony: (UTC career) 45 catches, 629 yards, 8 TDs
Shafaat: (UTC career) 56 catches, 474 yards, 7 TDs
Hudson: (UTC career) 36 catches, 334 yards
Moore: (UTC career) 13 catches, 310 yards, 4 TDs
James: (UTC career) 11 catches, 89 yards, TD
Projected initial spring depth chart: Anthony, Hudson and Green should be the first three to work with the starters, but with so much talent on UTC’s roster, along with three incoming freshmen this summer, that could change by the fall. Shafaat is a safe bet to start at tight end, while Dye and Coleman will likely battle it out for No. 2.
Michael Murphy covers UTC athletics for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter @MichaelNooga.