Hard-Hitting Mocs Linebacker Dothard Uneasy When Feet Leave Ground
The UTC Defensive Standout Simply Doesn't Enjoy Taking Flights To Games
Wednesday, August 29, 2012
- by Larry Fleming
Once University of Tennessee at Chattanooga’s Wes Dothard steps on solid ground in Tampa, Fla., on Friday he will revert into a smash-mouth linebacker searching to drive South Florida runners unceremoniously into the turf.
0001pt 0in; ">On the team’s charter flight to Tampa, however, Dothard admitted he will be nothing more than a weak-kneed infrequent flyer.
“I don’t like to fly at all,” said the 6-foot-1-inch, 235-pound Dothard, a Sports Network preseason All-America linebacker.
The Mocs will depart Chattanooga’s Lovell Field on Friday at 2 p.m. and arrive at the Tampa International Airport at 4:15 p.m.
In the time leading up to takeoff, during the 2-hour flight and his hasty walk into the terminal, Dothard will be the most uncomfortable passenger on the plane.
Saturday night in UTC’s season-opening game against Big East power South Florida at Raymond James Stadium, Dothard will be his old self – the Mocs’ top returning tackler from 2011.
The game starts at 7 p.m. and will be broadcast on ESPN3.
UTC also flew to Lincoln, Neb., for last season’s opener against the Nebraska Cornhuskers. And Dothard was a complete emotional wreck on that trip, too.
“Last year was my first time flying,” he said. “I almost passed out on the takeoff. I’m afraid of heights and (flying) is just not my thing.”
Dothard’s teammate Kadeem Wise can testify to that.
“I was (sitting) right beside him,” said Wise, a junior cornerback and another preseason All-American who has watched Dothard manhandle big, strong, fast players for a couple of years. “Before we ever got on the plane he was sweating. He was nervous.”
Once seated, Dothard turned to Wise and said, “I’m all right. I’m all right.”
When the plane began moving, Wise saw something different.
“He put his head between his legs and started to panic a little bit,” Wise said. “After five or 10 minutes, he was all right.”
Did Dothard pass out?
“He was close,” Wise said, a big smile sweeping over his face. “He was swaying back and forth. (Wes) said he’d do better on this trip. I don’t know about that.”
A Mocs upset victory over the Bulls, picked to finish second behind Louisville in this year’s Big East title race, could help Dothard enjoy the high-altitude trip home a bit more.
Either that or hitching an earth-bound ride home to Chattanooga.
Two-State Feeder System
The Mocs have 89 players on their roster and 79 are either from Georgia (30) or Tennesssee (49). Four Georgia players – Adam Miller, Synjen Herren, Dustin Tate and Dean Haynes – are from the same school, Northwest Whitfield near Dalton.
And speaking of Haynes, a junior safety who transferred from North Carolina State, UTC coach Russ Huesman said he will miss the South Florida game, and possibly more, due to a foot injury suffered in the first week of preseason camp.
“We’re hoping for Glenville State, but that’s the best case scenario,” Huesman said, referring to Haynes’ playing status. “He’s watched at practice and he’s in meetings, but until you get out there you can’t grasp everything in the defense.
“He may be healthy for (Glenville State), but how effective he can be playing in that game is the issue.”
Are Openers All The Same?
A year ago, South Florida opened the season against Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., and upset the No. 16 Irish, 23-20.
This year, the FCS Southern Conference Mocs provide the opening test and Bulls coach Skip Holtz and at least one key player don’t really see any difference.
“I don’t know if there is ever an easy opener,” Holtz said in a story written by Tom Zebold and posted on the school’s website.
Senior quarterback B.J. Daniels, the Bulls’ starter in 33 of their last 38 games, is preparing for Saturday’s opener against UTC the same as he did Notre Dame.
“We’re not looking past anybody or down the road,” said Daniels. “This is right now the most important game of my career and it’s the first one of my senior year.”
Lucky To Still Be Kicking
South Florida place-kicker Maikon Bonani, three points shy of the school’s career scoring record, considers himself extremely lucky to still be kicking for the Bulls.
Bonani missed the entire 2009 season due to a back injury suffered while working at Busch Gardens when he fell 35 feet from the Skyride.
“Every day is a blessing to be out here,” Bonani said. “I could have been sidelined forever. Doctors told me I could have been paralyzed or even dead.”
Mocs’ Jackson Starting Tailback
Huesman said J.J. Jackson, a 5-9, 200-pound senior from Marietta, Ga., will start at tailback against South Florida, nosing out Marquis Green and Keon Williams during preseason competition.
In three seasons, Jackson has gained a combined 493 rushing yards with six touchdowns. He started three of eight games in 2011 and had 234 yards and three scores.
The 6-2, 210-pound Green, a sophomore from Fairburn, Ga., who transferred from Navy, saw no action for the Mocs last season. Williams, a 6-0, 215-pound sophomore from Red Bank, rejoins the team after being dismissed in 2011 for a violation of team rules.
“We’ll kind of play it based on who has the hot hand,” Huesman said. “Marquis may start if his package is called for the first play. We might have Marquis and J.J. in there together, or maybe J.J. and Keon.
“But if we were going to say right now who we would start at tailback, it’d be J.J. Jackson.”
Anthony Expected To Play
Wide receiver Marlon Anthony, bothered by a sprained ankle, should be ready to play in Saturday’s game, Huesman said.
Anthony, a big target at 6-5 and 220 pounds, is the Mocs’ leading returning receiver, having caught 27 passes for 333 yards and four touchdowns last season. The junior from Acworth, Ga., set or tied a career-high for receiving yards and/or catches in four of the first five games in 2011.
“An ankle (injury) is tough for a wideout because he’s got to cut, get out of breaks and jump up and come down,” Huesman said. “Having a few days off in the last week hopefully helped give him a little more bounce, so by game time we’re hoping he’s close to 100 percent.”
(Contact Larry Fleming at firstname.lastname@example.org)