UTC win­ning de­spite de­fend­ers’ in­juries

Chattanooga Times Free Press - - SPORTS - Con­tact Gene Hen­ley at ghen­ley@times­freep­ress.com. Fol­low him on Twit­ter @gene­hen­ley3. BY GENE HEN­LEY STAFF WRITER

MARTIN, Tenn. — Univer­sity of Ten­nessee at Chat­tanooga de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Matt Feeney knows he can use only what he has to work with.

Week by week, that seems to be a lit­tle less and less.

The Mocs played Satur­day’s game against UT-Martin with­out line­backer Tavon Law­son and de­fen­sive end Devonnsha Maxwell. Dur­ing the game, they lost Michael Bean — who moved from out­side line­backer to in­side to re­place Law­son — to an in­jury, fur­ther com­pli­cat­ing the depth chart.

The Mocs still won 34-24, but the de­fense gave up 457 yards to the po­tent Sky­hawks of­fense, with 305 com­ing in the sec­ond half. As the in­juries started to mount, strong safety Jer­rell Law­son was moved to in­side line­backer, while Adrian King, Rashun Free­man and Jabril Malone were among those who re­placed Law­son at his po­si­tion.

Jer­rell Law­son said that he had worked some at the po­si­tion this week in prac­tice, so he was pre­pared in the event he was needed — which he was.

“It wasn’t a prob­lem for me,” he said. “Coach Feeney does a great job of get­ting you ready, so I felt pre­pared. We have a next-manup men­tal­ity, so when Bean went down, I al­ready knew it was my time to step in at line­backer, so it was no prob­lem.”

Ian Hayes, who stepped into Bean’s va­cant slot at out­side line­backer, had three tack­les and was cred­ited with half a sack. Jor­dan Jones had three tack­les and a tackle for loss. Malone, Free­man and ju­nior de­fen­sive line­man Tyler Cross were cred­ited with mul­ti­ple tack­les.

“At the end of the day, we prac­tice and it’s about us hav­ing that ver­sa­til­ity,” said ju­nior out­side line­backer Hawk Schrider, who had eight tack­les (2.5 for loss) and two sacks. “If some­body goes down, the guys be­hind them step up and do what they have to do to make plays.”

Feeney has been given the chal­lenge of try­ing to make all the pieces work. Re­gard­less of those who have gone out there, the Mocs have forced seven turnovers through three games, and the plus-four turnover mar­gin has been huge in the team’s 3-0 start.

“The per­son­nel has been banged up and we’ve moved play­ers around, but I give a lot of credit to those guys. It’s a tes­ta­ment to how hard they’ve worked,” Feeney said. “A lot of credit goes to (in­side lineback­ers coach Os­car) Ro­driguez and (de­fen­sive backs coach Jeremiah) Wil­son. They’re al­ways try­ing to em­pha­size the lit­tle things, be­cause it doesn’t mat­ter what we end up do­ing out there with the calls or the scheme. As long as guys are out there strik­ing blocks, get­ting off tack­les, play­ing ball the right way, we can get things ac­com­plished.

“We have a whole bunch of stuff to clean up. There are a lot of frus­trat­ing things out there, with guys play­ing dif­fer­ent po­si­tions, so some things schemat­i­cally def­i­nitely need to be cor­rected, but I’m proud of the guys and the way they’re work­ing right now. There’s a lot of buy-in to what­ever the heck we’re do­ing. I’m proud of the work ethic.”

UTC PHOTO/DALE RUTEMEYER

UTC’s Will Young, left, and Bingo Mor­ton cel­e­brate dur­ing Satur­day’s game against UT-Martin. Young caught two touch­down passes in the Mocs’ 34-24 vic­tory.

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