CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) -- Consistency has been key for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football team while Russ Huesman tries to rebuild his alma mater into a Southern Conference contender.
But change is the big theme as Huesman enters his fourth season, and it was very evident as the Mocs went to work at Scrappy Moore Field on Monday afternoon in the first of 15 spring camp workouts.
"It didn't feel like I had much of a break because we were hiring coaches," Huesman said before practice. "Normally when signing day is over, you get right into game-planning and getting ready for spring practice
"But we got behind a few weeks just by hiring coaches."
In all there are four new guys carrying whistles at UTC practices these days. Running backs coach Thomas Brown, defensive backs coach Adam Braithwaite, offensive line coach Alex Atkins and tight ends coach Wesley Satterfield are all new to the staff this year.
But they're presence is far from the only, or even biggest, change.
Former South Pittsburg quarterback Terrell Robinson is now taking the snaps with the first team offense after entering spring camp as the leading candidate to replace NFL-hopeful and three-year starter B.J. Coleman under center.
But he's not a clear-cut winner just yet.
"It feels great to come in as number one, but at the same time I know I've got to compete with these other two guys, Jacob Huesman and Graham Nichols," Robinson said. "It's just about being a good teammate and pushing each other. I really want the best player to play, so it's all about the team."
Huesman said Robinson starts as the No. 1 because he has a clear experience advantage after starting several games in place of the injured Coleman last year. However, he said a decision on a starter in the fall is a long way from being made.
"I'm interested to see that competition," Huesman said. "Terrell had a really good year last year, but I don't think Graham or Jacob is just conceding the job to him. It's a process.
"There's a lot that will go into it. We need a guy that can get us first downs and score points no matter how it gets done. Leadership will also play a huge role. It will be fun to watch this spring."
The same can be said for the installation of the Mocs' new offense.
Offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield is working on a new spread scheme that hopes to better utilize the dual-threat abilities of both Robinson and Huesman. The coaching staff pieced together a similar system last year when Robinson stepped into the lineup, but now Satterfield has time to tweak it to his specific personnel.
"I told him before we started, here's what I want. Here's who's hands I want the ball in. Here's how I want to do it, and then let the offensive guys take it over from there," Huesman said. "It's his offense, but I get to see a little more of it this year since we hired a defensive back's guy."
While Huesman hopes change is a good thing for the offense, he is taking the opposite approach on the other side of the ball.
UTC returns all but one from a front-seven that turned into one of the most dominant units in the Southern Conference in 2011. The Mocs lose starters Chris Lewis-Harris and Jordan Tippit in the secondary, but Huesman feels comfortable about the players coming back.
"We just to continue to play like we've been playing," Huesman said of his defense. "Our defense last year was really good. When you lead the conference in every statistical category, that's pretty impressive."
But ultimately it wasn't enough as the Mocs stumbled to a 5-6 finish, including four losses by a total of nine points.
That mark followed back to back 6-5 seasons, meaning the veteran players are hungrier than ever to take the next step.
"Especially for us older guys, we've been here for a few minutes and we've had enough of the six-win seasons, the winning seasons. "It's time to do some work," said running back J.J. Jackson, who is one of five backs vying for the starting role after the return of Keon Williams.
Added Robinson: "We are definitely putting last year behind us. We're all hungry for a championship. We're going to do the little things right and try to be a better team. Hopefully that we'll lead us in those games we came up short in, we'll get some victories this year."
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