Photo by Logan Stapleton
By Parris Clarke, Assistant Sports Editor-
The Chattanooga Mocs kick off their spring football season tomorrow with a game against the Wofford Terriers.
Yes, you read that correctly, the spring season. For the first time in their 113-year history as a football program, UTC will play a regular-season game in the spring.
The Football Championship Subdivision fall football season was postponed due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The Mocs were one of 15 FCS teams that actually played a game in the fall. They lost to Western Kentucky 13-10 on a controversial fair catch ruling that saw the Mocs game-winning kick-off return negated.
Chattanooga looks to restart its season Saturday against Southern Conference rival Wofford after last week’s scheduled game versus VMI was postponed due to COVID-19 complications.
This will be the first game of a seven-game, All-SoCon spring season.
This week’s game will be a good litmus test for the Mocs to see if they stand among the SoCon’s elite this season. Wofford, a perennial powerhouse, has won the SoCon three years running now and is coming off of a 31-14 win against Mercer last weekend.
Expect to see more players rotating in than usual for head coach Rusty Wright’s UTC squad. Due to a number of reasons — COVID and weather included — the Mocs have only been able to squeak in 13 practices this spring. And only four of these practices have been fully padded.
“When you talk about playing in the spring that’s what you gotta do now. We’re gonna have to roll guys and get guys through there, and those guys have to understand that no one’s ready to play 50, 60, 70 snaps a game right now,” Wright said.
Another place to watch for UTC this week, and throughout the course of the regular season, is the offensive line play. The Mocs will be without an offensive line coach for the duration of the spring season after the former coach, Chris Malone, was fired for offensive tweets concerning former Georgia gubernatorial candidate, Stacy Abrams.
“I didn’t think it was fair, the timing, when all that stuff happened, to bring someone in here and get them used to knowing our guys and learning the system,” Wright said.
Luckily for the Mocs, they return four of their five starters upfront. That continuity could prove to be huge during a season filled with so much uncertainty. Only time will tell, as the offensive line gets ready to face off against Wofford’s star defensive end, Michael Mason. Mason was named STATS national player of the week last week for his performance against Mercer where he recorded three tackles-for-loss and forced two fumbles.
The kicking game will be another aspect to watch for UTC this week. Starting kicker Aaron Sears is out with an injury, leaving the Mocs with punter Gabe Boring and freshmen kicker Skylar Wilson manning the kicking duties. Six of the last nine meetings between these two teams have been one-score ball games. If the trend continues, kicking could be especially crucial for the Mocs.
The Mocs will kick off this unprecedented season tomorrow at noon from Finley Stadium. Next week, they’ll be on the road visiting the Citadel Bulldogs.