#9 Chattanooga FCS Football 2014 Preview

George Hammond

Chattanooga Mocs

Overall Rank: #9
#1 Southern Conference

Chattanooga Team Page#9 Chattanooga FCS Football 2014 PreviewBuy Chattanooga Football Tickets

Coming off a share of its first Southern Conference title since 1984, excitement is building in southern Tennessee for this once moribund program. The Mocs shared the title with Furman and Samford but didn’t receive the league’s automatic bid to the playoffs nor did it receive an at-large spot. With several returning players, that might change in 2014. Russ Huesman, now in his sixth year at the helm, is a big reason for the change. Chattanooga has enjoyed four winning seasons in the last five years. In the 23 years prior to Huesman’s arrival, it had only four winning years. The SoCon certainly thinks UTC is capable of success as the Mocs were the preseason favorite to win the league title this year for the first time since 1982.

2013 Record: 8-4, 6-2
2013 Postseason: None
Coach: Russ Huesman (31-25 at Chattanooga, 31-25 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Jeff Durden
Defensive Coordinator: Adam Braithwaite

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Jacob Huesman, QB, 894 yards
Passing: Jacob Huesman, QB, 1,637 yards
Receiving: Faysal Shafaat, 322 yards
Tackles: Davis Tull, DL, 52
Sacks: Davis Tull, DL 9.0
Interceptions: Dee Virgin, CB, 2

Other Key Returnees: RB Keon Williams, OL Synjen Herren, TE Faysal Shafaat, OL Corey Levin, DL Josh Freeman, DL Derrick Lott, P Nick Pollard, WR Tommy Hudson, WR  C.J. Board, CB Dee Virgin., OL Brandon Morgan.

Key Losses: LB Wes Dothard, WR Terrell Robinson, C Patrick Sutton, OG Kevin Revis, LB Gunner Miller, S. D.J. Key, S Zach McCarter, CB Chaz Moore, CB Kadeem Wise, S Zach McCarter.

There are two areas to focus on. First, the Mocs return a veteran quarterback in junior Jacob Huesman, the coach’s son. The 2013 SoCon Player of the Year, Huesman ranked fourth nationally in completion percentage (68 percent). In addition, he rushed for 894 yards and passed for more than 1,600 yards. Other than Huesman’s passing percentage, the Mocs’ offensive statistics weren’t anything special, but the coach’s son is one of those players who just make things happen. Besides Huesman, the Mocs’ defensive line is loaded. In fact, there are many FBS teams who would like to have this array of talent. The line returns all four starters, including last year’s SoCon Defensive Player of the Year Davis Tull. In three seasons, Tull, who had nine sacks a year ago, has totaled 26.5 sacks – a school record. He will be joined on the defensive front by junior Josh Freeman, who started every game last year, Daniel Ring, who played in every game in 2013 and Derrick Lott, who was granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA after an elbow injury ended his season early last fall. Keionta Davis and Taylor Reynolds also are in the mix.

The defensive front will have to dominate because there are no returning starters at linebacker or at safety. Gone from the secondary are Kadeem Wise, D.J. Key (both were all So-Con picks), Chaz Moore and Zach McCarter. The only returning member of the secondary is cornerback Dee Virgin from a unit that was fifth in the nation and first in the SoCon. In addition, the Mocs must replace all-everything linebacker Wes Dothard and linebacker Gunner Miller. How big a hit is this for the defense? Chattanooga lost its four top tacklers from last year.

The Bottom Line:
There is obviously a lot of talent here, but there is also a schedule filled with pitfalls. This winning thing is fairly new to Chattanooga so maybe it should be excused for not crafting a schedule that is more conducive to success. Last year, the Mocs were stunned by Tennessee-Martin in the opener and this year more trouble lurks. Chattanooga opens at FBS Central Michigan (6-6 last year) then follows that contest up with a home game against Ohio Valley Conference preseason favorite Jacksonville State. It’s conceivable the Mocs could open 0-2 and still be one of the top FCS teams in the nation. But the damage would be done, and it would be a big obstacle to overcome. It would take away their margin for error considering games with Tennessee and the entire SoCon slate would remain. The Mocs absolutely must gain at least a split of those first two games. In recent years, the Mocs have feasted on turnovers. If they want to have the kind of success they expect, they’ll need those turnovers again.

Projected Postseason: FCS Playoffs

2013 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 212.4 (22nd in nation, 4th in conference)
Passing Offense: 149.0 (111, 6)
Total Offense: 361.4 (68, 4)
Scoring Offense: 26.3 (64, 4)
Rushing Defense: 177.3 (71, 4)
Pass Defense: 151.6 (5, 1)
Total Defense: 328.9 (17, 1)
Scoring Defense: 20.4 (11, 1)
Turnover Margin: 0.5 (9, 1)
Sacks: 1.67 (88, 3)
Sacks Allowed: 1.83 (54. 7)

Madness 2014 Recruit Rankings:
#4 Dale Warren
#29 Tim Whatley
#80 Zach Rasmussen
#93 Penny Smith
#149 Will Young


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