The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga defense has become acquainted with dual-threat quarterbacks over the years.
The Mocs started the 2011 season trying to contain Nebraska’s heralded Taylor Martinez, who rushed for 135 yards and three touchdowns and completed 11-of-22 passes for 116 in the Cornhuskers’ 40-7 victory in Lincoln, Neb.
While UTC faces another double-dip threat Saturday in South Florida’s B.J. Daniels, the Mocs may be able to cause opposing teams headaches this year with a quarterback – albeit in the form of a two-quarterback package – with the ability to create havoc in a new spread offense.
It all gets started Saturday when the Mocs travel to Tampa, Fla., to play the Bulls at 7 p.m. in Raymond James Stadium, home of the NFL Tampa Bay Bucs.
“It’s here and it feels like game week,” UTC coach Russ Huesman said. “The first game is always scary no matter who you’re playing. And when you’re playing a BCS school it makes it even tougher. We have a tough test at South Florida.”
Huesman made clear it’s conceivable he’ll have two quarterbacks together on the field at times – possibly on the Mocs’ first offensive play – in an attempt to confuse the Bulls, a serious contender in the Big East title chase.
When senior starter B.J. Coleman was injured in 2011, freshman Terrell Robinson, stepped in and performed admirably.
The 6-foot-3-inch, 195-pound Robinson, a dual-threat himself, played in eight games, started three, rushed and passed for 753 yards with 11 touchdowns and claimed the Southern Conference Freshman of the Week award in three consecutive weeks.
As a senior at South Pittsburg High School, Robinson led the Pirates to the Class 1A state title game, was the state’s Class A Back of the Year, and passed and rushed for 3,009 yards and 46 touchdowns his senior year.
However, Robinson hasn’t been able to separate himself from the other quarterback – redshirt freshman Jacob Huesman, the coach’s son – in a battle to take control of the offense.
Coach Huesman couldn’t – or wouldn’t – say he’s decided on which player will start against South Florida, but the father/son relationship certainly adds a little spice to the situation as the Mocs prepare to open their 105th football season.
“I don’t think about it that much,” Huesman said Tuesday morning on the Southern Conference’s teleconference featuring the league’s nine head coaches. “I’m good right now leading up to (the game). I’m guessing when he runs out to the field for the first time I’ll have butterflies, just like any other parent. You want your kid to do well and early on I’ll feel like a parent, but I’ve got to get it out my system pretty quick.”
Huesman has watched Jacob play many times, but he’s never watched and coached him with such a critical eye in a college game before. The younger Huesman redshirted last season.
“He’s a good player,” the coach/father said. “We just have to let him play and let him do the things he can do. But there will be a little bit of added pressure.”
The 6-1, 190-pound quarterback/son arrived at UTC with sterling credentials, piling up 2,828 yards of total offense, with 1,750 rushing yards and 25 touchdowns his senior year at Baylor. He was selected as the Division II-AA Mr. Football and led the Red Raiders to a 17-7 record in two seasons.
While Russ Huesman stopped short of naming a starter on Tuesday, he’s sure both quarterbacks will see action Saturday against the Bulls, who were picked second behind Louisville in preseason Big East balloting.
“Both will play,” Huesman said. “They could be in there together on the first play. Both will have significant snaps in some capacity. There isn’t a ton of separation between them. Both have done well and worked hard, but Terrell has the advantage with all the snaps last year.”
UTC’s senior offensive tackle Adam Miller, a 6-4, 275-pound three-year letterman from Cohutta, Ga., sees the ups and downs of having two quarterbacks bracketed at the No. 1 position.
“Terrell and Jacob are both are great players,” said Miller, one of four players (Dean Haynes, Synjen Herren and Dustin Tate being the others) from Northwest Whitfield High School on the Mocs’ roster. “They both bring a dynamic that’s different from what we’ve had here in the past, but they’re kind of hard to separate.
“Terrell has the game experience that Jacob is going to need this coming year.”
Huesman – the coach – was impressed with Robinson’s performance under fire last season and nothing has changed his opinion in preseason drills.
“Terrell is cool, calm and collected and has had a great offseason,” the coach said. “Nothing bothers Terrell and hopefully Jacob will be the same way. Terrell has not gone backward from last year. He’s got some experience. When Jacob gets in the game, it’s going to be a new experience for him. But I do feel good about both of them.”
Rest assured that South Florida coach Skip Holtz is preparing the Bulls to face both Mocs quarterbacks and his defense, which ranked fifth in the Big East in 2011, will have answered for both.
“South Florida has a very good defense with a lot of team speed,” Miller said. “They are a Big East team, so you know they’re a high-caliber team and we’ll have to perform at our best to be on the field with them. It’s going to be a struggle.
“But ours is an explosive offense with a lot of explosive plays and that brings a lot of excitement to all of us up front.”
South Florida’s offense isn’t bad. The Mocs’ nationally ranked defense was superb against the pass in 2011, ranking No. 2 in the country, can expect a stern test from Daniels, a senior.
The 6-0, 217-pound Daniels, who is from Tallahassee, Fla., was the BCS’ 17th ranked quarterback a year ago with 3,205 total yards, or 291.1 yards per game.
How did Martinez compare at season’s end? He was 58th with 2,963 yards, just under 230 yards per game.
Linebacker Wes Dothard, a Sports Network All-American in 2011, can certainly recognize an outstanding quarterback when he sees him.
“I think (Daniels) is similar to the quarterback at Nebraska,” he said. “He might move a little bit better than Martinez. Their offense is pretty good. They can spread it out, they can run the ball and they’ve got some play-action. They’re kind of like an NFL style offense with a college quarterback.”
Daniels is 18-15 as a starter and ranks third with 7,973 of total offense in USF history. He also ranks third all-time at the school in passing yards (6,339) and touchdown passes (38).
“(Daniels) deserves to be on that list,” coach Huesman said. “We have to defend him like any other dual-threat quarterback and make decisions on that. They use a spread offense but I just learned the other day they led the Big East in rushing (182.1 yards per game). You could have knocked me off my chair. They can lull you to sleep that way.”
One key preseason question for Holtz is who will be Daniels’ backup. Redshirt freshman Matt Floyd and junior Bobby Eveld are listed at co-backups.
“I’d almost say (it’s by) committee,” Holtz was quoted as saying in the Tampa Tribune. If something were to happen to B.J., I’d go with whoever had the best week. It goes from week to week. They are two very capable guys and we’ll be able to split up (the practice reps).”
South Florida will be the sixth FCS team the Mocs have played since 2008. The five previous FCS opponents – Oklahoma, Florida State, Alabama, Auburn and Nebraska – beat the Mocs by a combined score of 250-40.
“(The Bulls) aren’t an Alabama or Auburn, but athletically, they’re just as good,” Huesman said. “They have really good players. Maybe their tradition isn’t as good, but if you line them up against any of those teams, I’d say they have a chance to compete and compete well.”
(Contact Larry Fleming at email@example.com)