The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football team had a tough final few weeks on the recruiting trail leading up to national signing day.
UTC lost four commitments and lost some recruiting battles with other Southern Conference schools. Coach Russ Huesman said he takes it personally when a player picks another school over UTC.
"I actually hate everybody that didn't sign with us," he said with a smile on his face.
Huesman later added that he didn't really hate the players, but he made it clear he didn't like them too much at the moment, either.
"You're either with us or against us. That's the bottom line," he said.
By the time the Mocs' 15 signees had faxed in their letters of intent Wednesday, there were smiles all around the football offices at McKenzie Arena.
"We really like the guys we've got," Huesman said of his fourth signing class since being hired in December 2008.
The class includes eight defensive players and seven on offense. Huesman said he had a couple of scholarships remaining, but he didn't think UTC would sign any more high school players. One might be used for a transfer at some point, and the other may be used to give additional money to players on partial scholarships.
UTC's biggest area of need was receiver after losing Joel Bradford and Sloan Allison, who combined for 77 receptions in 2011. With only four scholarship receivers on the roster, and only one returning wideout with double-digit career catches (Marlon Anthony), any of the three receivers UTC signed could be on the field when the Mocs open the 2012 season.
That opportunity to play right away is one of the reasons 6-foot-4 Bannaker (Ga.) High School wideout Tray James signed with the Mocs.
"I'm coming in and I want to be ready for that first game at South Florida," said James, who added that he "liked waking up and becoming a Moc" on Wednesday.
Two of the signees Huesman was most pleased with were offensive linemen Corey Levin and Robert Hill. The Mocs wanted to sign two, and those were the two to whom they offered scholarships. Both signed.
Of the four commitments UTC lost, two signed with service academies and two went to Southern Conference rivals.
Bradley Central wide receiver James Stovall signed with Navy, and North Gwinnett (Ga.) High School defensive end Justin Alabi signed with Air Force.
John Law, of Atlanta's Grady High School, signed with Appalachian State, while Hillgrove (Ga.) High School linebacker John Silas signed with Elon.
"We had some bad luck toward the end there," Huesman said. "When you go after good, good people, sometimes it happens like this."
Huesman pointed out that one player could get lost in the signing day hoopla, linebacker D'Eddric Williams of Hillcrest (Ala.) High School. Williams graduated from high school early and has been enrolled at UTC since the start of spring semester.
"We really like him, he's adjusting really well and today will be the first time we get a chance to see him move around," Huesman said, referring to the first day of mat drills for the Mocs.
After weeks of focusing on recruiting, Huesman hurried from his news conference to Scrappy Moore Field for the mat drills. Organized winter workouts are under way and spring practice begins Feb. 24.
John Frierson is in his seventh year at the Times Free Press and seventh year covering University of Tennessee at Chattanooga athletics. The bulk of his time is spent covering Mocs football, but he also writes about women’s basketball and the big-picture issues and news involving the athletic department. A native of Athens, Ga., John grew up a few hundred yards from the University of Georgia campus. Instead of becoming a Bulldog he attended Ole ...