Sometimes looks can be deceiving, and that’s the case with Chattanooga’s Derrick Craine.
At first glance, he looks more like a fraternity bro or a surfer dude than a Division I running back. But if you look a little closer, you’ll pick up on what coach Russ Huesman and his staff saw when they offered the 5-foot-10, 205-pound back out of McDonough, Ga.
A quick peak at his 2012 stat line — 2,105 yards and 26 touchdowns — shows that he was an extremely effective high school running back, but it was the way the Union Grove High School product picked up those yards that caught his coach’s eye.
“The physicality I bring to the position,” said Craine, a 2012 all-state selection. "That’s what Coach Huesman has said to me from day one. He said ‘I love the way you’re a physical running back, and I need that’. I told him I could get the job done.”
He seems to be a man of his word.
Craine arrived at UTC in what offensive coordinator Jeff Durden called “tremendous shape,” and by all accounts, he’s had a solid fall camp. He’s seen substantial playing time in both of Chattanooga’s preseason scrimmages, which, he admits, was a bit of a surprise.
“It definitely did shock me,” Craine said. “All the talk is ‘game speed, game speed.’ As a freshman [in high school] when I moved up to varsity at the end of my season, that was a huge adjustment. When I came [to UTC], just from day one, I kind of fit in. Coaches talked me up a little bit, got me motivated, and from there it’s just been playing football. Playing the game I love.”
But like just about every collegiate football player in America, that first fall camp put that love to the test. For Craine, though, that uncertainty only lasted a couple days.
“Coming in the first week, you know, it was real tough,” he said. “They always say freshmen will call their moms and say I’m coming home. Honestly, it does enter your mind, just waking up at 5:30 in the morning and going until 10:30 at night. It’s rough, it’s physical and it takes a toll on your body, but after that first week it becomes mental because your body has already broken down.”
Now that he’s made it through, though, he’s ready to contribute.
And while he’s still a ways down the depth chart at running back, there’s a strong possibility of him suiting up for the Mocs in 2013. If not in the backfield, Craine is sure to have a significant role of special teams.
“He’s ready physically to play, but can we get him ready mentally,” Durden said. “He’s a guy the coaches are all excited about because of the potential to play on special teams, and be that backup H-back if we were to lose Keon [Williams] or Taharin [Tyson].
“He’s accepted his role, and Coach [Huesman] has said if we can find a place for him on offense, we can play him.”
Michael Murphy covers UTC athletics for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter @MichaelNooga.