Chattanooga Mocs looking forward to spring game

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The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football team wrapped up its final practice before the Blue & Gold spring game with a nearly two-hour workout Wednesday. There was a little extra bounce in players’ step after their last practice of the spring on Scrappy Moore field.

“Everybody was more upbeat today, and we’re all excited for the game on Friday,” defensive lineman Daniel Ring said. “Especially since we’re going to get our (Southern Conference championship) rings. I’ve seen pictures, but haven’t seen the ring yet. We’ve already been talking that we’ll definitely wear our rings out after the game Friday night.”

Seniors will be given their SoCon championship rings during a halftime ceremony, and all other players will get theirs following Friday’s game, which begins at 7 p.m. at Finley Stadium. It was the program’s first share of the SoCon title since 1984 and the 6-2 league mark was the most since joining the SoCon in 1977.

The format for the game itself will have the first-team offense and second-team defense on the same team, which means the first-team offense will go against the starting defense. None of the special teams — kickoffs, punts, field goals — will be live, to cut down on the potential for injury.

One of the most consistent and versatile players throughout the spring’s 14 completed practices so far has been rising sophomore running back Derrick Craine. There is no drop off in intensity when the 5-foot-10, 205-pound McDonough, Ga., native comes in for starter Keon Williams.

“Hard-nosed football is what I want to bring,” said Craine, who said he feels more confident this spring after a year of getting stronger and a season of action under his belt.

“I love running between the tackles, and I want to be counted on to get the hard yards,” he continued. “Being a running back, you get hit every play so it’s a matter of bringing your hit to them. To me, you don’t want to be the guy getting hit, you want to bring the hit to whoever is in front of me. I’ll do whatever is needed to get me on the field as much as possible.”

Last season he averaged 4.5 yards on just 44 carries but should see a lot more action this fall. Mocs coaches praise not only his ability as a tough runner but also his versatility as a pass catcher and blocker and the fact he will likely see action on special teams.

“He’s so good because he’s a guy — the only one we have right now — that can do a little bit of everything,” Mocs coach Russ Huesman said. “He’s really an all-purpose guy. He knows the offense so well now and is real dependable.

“When we were recruiting him, the thing I liked about him, besides his film, was that during my in-home visit, I asked him what he does in his free time and he said he watched films of old running backs to try to learn more. He’s all about ball. He loves every aspect of the game and we think he’s really going to help us in a lot of ways.”

Bagley attends practice

While most of the Mocs’ signing class will be at Friday’s spring game, heralded running back Richardre Bagley was at Wednesday’s practice instead. He will miss the game to attend his senior prom, but stayed the entire practice, talking with coaches and current players and looked anxious to get started. Bagley was a late flip to UTC, after having been committed to Furman. A four-year starter at Hillgrove High in Powder Springs, Ga., he ran for nearly 1,700 yards as a senior, including several dynamic runs that are featured on the 5-10, 180-pounder’s highlight tape.

“He’s a good looking kid,” Huesman said. “We’re excited to get him here and see what he can do.”

Scrappy Awards set

The third annual ‘Scrappys’, the all-sports awards banquet for Chattanooga Athletics, will be held Thursday, April 10 beginning at 7 p.m. at The Chattanoogan Hotel. Space is limited and the $50 tickets can be reserved by calling Joe Levine with the UTC Mocs Club at (423) 425-4233 or by emailing There is also a private VIP reception with the Mocs coaches at 6:30 p.m. UTC athletes and coaches from all 17 men’s and women’s sports programs will be honored for the accomplishments in competition, the classroom and the community.

Contact Stephen Hargis at or 423-757-6293.

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Freshman QBs get extra work for Mocs

UTC running back Marquis Green, center, breaks up the middle around defensive back Lucas Webb, right, and defensive lineman Josh Freeman (95) during the Mocs' spring football scrimmage Friday at Finley Stadium.

The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football team’s first scrimmage of the spring was designed to let the young, inexperienced players answer questions about how close they are to being ready to contribute.

A good portion of Friday evening’s 94-play scrimmage at Finley Stadium was set up to find out which of the two redshirt freshman quarterbacks battling for the backup job can become comfortable in stressful situations.

Starter Jacob Huesman took limited snaps, completing 7 of 11 passes for 59 yards before turning the offense over to his understudies. With a talented defensive line applying plenty of pressure and coaches continually urging them to speed up the pace, Alejandro Bennifield looked to take a step ahead of Tyler Roberson.

“Alejandro has got a little more poise, a better handle on what’s happening, and he certainly has the stronger arm of the two,” offensive coordinator Jeff Durden said. “Tyler has a little bit of an edge as far as running the ball because he’s faster, but we’ve got to really work on our decision making. I saw him today get happy feet. He was not comfortable back there, but I’m not sure anybody would be when our defense gets after it.

“What I wanted to see today was no turnovers, and they both had one. And then the other thing I wanted to see was who could operate in this up-tempo, no-huddle type system without losing their cool and missing their reads, and ‘Dro got him today. He had a couple of busts, but he really took off and looked more comfortable running it.”

The freshman quarterbacks threw two touchdowns each, with Bennifield tossing a couple of nice fade-route scores late in the scrimmage. Redshirt freshman receiver Alphonso Stewart had a pair of scoring receptions, including a nice over-the-shoulder catch on a fade route, and fellow freshman James Stovall also had a TD.

Running backs Marquis Green and Derrick Craine also got the brunt of carries, and senior-to-be Green proved why his shifty change-of-pace style is expected to be a nice complement to the physical style of Craine and starter Keon Williams. Green finished with 116 yards on just nine carries, including an electric 60-yard scoring run early on. He also turned a short pass into an 11-yard gain.

“That’s what he does,” Mocs coach Russ Huesman said of Green. “You may run him, run him and nothing happens, and then all of a sudden he can pop one. That’s what he did last year. We have to get the ball to him on the perimeter as many times as we can. He was the one who definitely looked like he could pop it and do some things for us.

“Overall I thought we were pretty sloppy. We’ve got to get better. The ball was on the ground too much and there were some ill-advised throws. But the young quarterbacks will learn. They had to see this, they had to be out here and they both got quite a few snaps. Next time they come out they have to get better at it.”

Contact Stephen Hargis at or 423-757-6293.

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