CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) -- Experience at the wideout position looked to be at a premium this year for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football team.
But that's already changing in the first three weeks of fall camp.
With UTC's leading returning receiver Marlon Anthony (ankle) and sophomore Ron Moore (hamstring) missing camp this week with injuries, opportunities abound for a big crop of underclassmen receivers.
"It gives everyone extra chances and a greater opportunity we need to show the coaches we can play," said sophomore Tommy Hudson, who had five catches in ten games last year. "It's mainly about trust. If we can show them they can trust off, they'll have no problems putting us in the game."
And Russ Huesman needs a lot of wide receivers in the game in the Mocs' new spread offensive. Offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield's new wide-open scheme utilizes a variety of three, four and five wide receiver formations, meaning practice reps have already been increased more than usual for UTC's youngest wideouts.
"We better have seven or eight guys ready to go every week," Huesman said. "So far, all of these young guys have been really involved throughout camp. So right now I think we'll have seven or eight really good guys that we can line up and compete at that position."
True freshman Tray James has been one of the standouts so far in camp. The 6-foot-4 high-flyer from College Park, Ga., has been praised by Huesman and wide receivers coach Will Healy in his first three weeks of camp, and is doing his best to learn all he can from the similarly-built Anthony.
"The younger guys and me have had such a great chance to get in the game, get reps and pick up the college game really fast," James said. "All of us, I feel, are picking it up fast. All of the young guys have already been making plays in camp, and we keep getting more help ever day."
Huesman said the Mocs will certainly need both Anthony and Hudson back if the offense is to run at full strength, and both are expected back on the field next week if not sooner.
Still, the fourth-year coach is pleased to see UTC developing much-needed depth at the position in their stead.
"A lot of them have good days and bad days," Huesman said. "Tray James has made some special plays. Brian Belew has had a great summer. He's catching everything and has looked really good out here. (Michael) Trundel has been good.
"The other freshman are working, but they've got to keep coming. They're doing fine, though, and hopefully we've got enough talent at the position that somehow we'll be able to redshirt a couple of those guys."
Defense turns up intensity after disappointing week
After a poor showing over the last week, the Mocs' defense had one of its best days of camp during Tuesday's two-a-day workouts.
Linebacker Gunner Miller said the unit was tired of being pushed around by the quickly-improving offense, and decided to make a change.
"I've kind of been lackadaisical myself over the last week, so I woke up early this morning at 5:30 a.m. and started blaring music to wake the boys up. Got to the locker room and started talking trash," said Miller, who added some black "war paint" to his face for the morning session. "The offense has had a couple of good days and we haven't matched that intensity. Today we came out with the mindset that we were going to match them, go above and beyond, and it paid off with a great practice."
Huesman had been anything but pleased with the sloppy, slow play of a defense that ranked among the best in the country last year. He, too, noticed a change in its play Tuesday, and it was much appreciated.
"I was in panic mode yesterday," Huesman said. "The problem has been nobody wants to make a play. It's not good enough to be in your gap. It's not good enough to be near the ball. You need to go make plays, and we finally started doing that.
"Today we were more physical up front. We'd been really soft up front, and I mean embarrassing-type soft, and I think they got better today."
Now the key for Miller and company is maintaining that intensity and that level of play throughout the rest of camp, whether or not face paint and blaring music is involved.
"You've got to wake up every day now and do the same thing over and over again. We're not where we want to be right now. We need to get back to being the best defense in the SoCon and hopefully be on a level to become SoCon champs. We've got a lot of work left to do, but I think we're making progress.
Tuesday's final two-a-day marked the midway point of fall camp. "We're 15 practices in now and it still seems like we just got here yesterday," Huesman said... The Mocs will take Wednesday off completely to rest and recuperate for the second half of the preseason... Defensive tackle Derrick Lott was back on the field Tuesday after leaving Monday's workout with a shoulder injury.