UTC football team puts offseason emphasis on developing running game – Chattanooga Times Free Press

University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football coach Tom Arth and his staff have gone to great lengths to make sure the Mocs’ 2018 season does not mirror their 2017 campaign in any way, shape or form.

Perhaps at no position is that more evident than running back.

First, the Mocs received an in-state commitment from Maryville’s Isaiah Cobb, who stands 6 feet tall and weighs 200 pounds. A few weeks later, Josiah Futrel from Marietta, Ga. — who is listed at the same height and weight as Cobb — pledged to the program.

Then, just before the early signing period in December, the Mocs secured the services of East Mississippi Community College running back Tyrell Price, who rushed for 989 yards and 24 touchdowns last season for the National Junior College Athletic Association national champions. Price is 6-0 and weighs 220 pounds.

See a trend?

The Mocs finished eighth in the Southern Conference and 115th in the country last season in rushing by averaging 78.1 yards per game. With an offseason emphasis on running the football more effectively, the Mocs got bigger at the position, and they also still have Alex Trotter, the team’s leading returning rusher with 113 yards on 28 carries as a junior. Fifty-eight of those yards and 14 of those carries came in the Mocs’ 23-21 win over then-No. 8 Samford on Oct. 28.

“That was a big focus for us coming out of last season,” Arth said after Wednesday’s rainy practice at Finley Stadium. “Tyrell is certainly an example of that; he can run. We also have the two freshmen that both fit that mold as well, and that’s kind of what we’re looking for, but we do like to have a guy that can be a versatile player and do things like Trotter can do.

“You have to have that mix. You have to be able to be big, physical and run between the tackles, but also have a guy that’s a matchup problem. I think we’re getting there. That group is a little closer to what we hope for.”

Trotter, a former McCallie standout who has battled injuries throughout his career, doesn’t have the measurements of the other three. But the 5-9, 185-pounder “plays bigger than he is,” said UTC offensive coordinator Justin Rascati, who believes Trotter is going to be an “elite back” this year.

“There’s a huge place in this offense for Trotter,” Rascati said. “His ability to change direction, his ability to play behind his pads. He comes to work every day with a great attitude, and he works hard. There’s a huge place for him this year, and I think he’s going to be very productive.

“I think a lot of people will know about him this fall.”

With redshirt freshman Chris Broadwater sitting out this spring due to injury, there have been even more opportunities for Price — who had some late recruiting interest from Football Bowl Subdivision Power Five conference programs — and the mid-year transfer been able to take advantage. He runs with a physical style similar to former Mocs standout Keon Williams, who finished seventh all-time in rushing yards at UTC with 2,379.

“He’s a big back,” Rascati said. “I think he’s learning a ton about the game, about our offense — there’s a lot going on. Our big thing is we want him to be able to go out there and play and not think. We’re real excited about him. He’s had a great winter and done everything right.

“He definitely has a bright future here in Chattanooga.”

The Mocs return to practice Friday.

Contact Gene Henley at ghenley@timesfreepress.com.

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