Monday, August 12, 2013
- by B.B. Branton
“We are tired of being a mediocre team. And I feel the last few years we have been mediocre. We have the talent to be a great team and are working every day to improve.”
UTC junior defensive end Toyvian Brand
High expectations. A break-out year. A run at the conference championship and go deep into the NCAA playoffs.
Thanks, in part, to a solid defensive front four, the Tennessee at Chattanooga football program is poised to fight for a Southern Conference title and an NCAA playoff spot for the first time in three decades.
One reason for the excitement among Blue and Gold faithful is the play of the deep and talented defensive front four.
UTC, 6-5 in 2012, was 10th in the nation (FCS stats) in total defense a year ago and tied for 14th in turnover margin (17 for and 9 against; +.73) and all but Josh Williams are back on the front line, including junior Toyvian Brand.
Four of those 17 team takeaways were fumble recoveries by the front four – one each for Zack Rayl, Williams, Brand and Derrick Lott.
“Toyvian (Toy-VEE-ahn) had to play inside (defensive tackle) last year out of necessity, but we have him at defensive end this year and we expect him to have a big year,” said UTC head coach Russ Huesman.
An all-state defensive end for Hillcrest High School (Ala.) outside of Tuscaloosa, Brand started all 11 games in 2012 with 25 tackles, two tackles for loss, one fumble recovery and three quarterback hits.
Anchoring the right end spot on the second group, Brand has started 16 games in his first two seasons and currently plays behind All-American end Davis Tull.
The starting four – Tull, Lott, Josh Freeman or Chris Mayes and Zack Rayl – is among the best in the country, while most Southern Conference defensive coordinators could easily insert the Mocs number two group – Brand, Devin Scates, Daniel Ring and Keionta Davis – as their starters.
When asked what it will take to be a national-quality defense, Brand with a smile and without hesitation said, “be disruptive, be relentless, be accountable off the field and work hard every day in practice will make us better as individual players and as a team.”
The 6-2, 260 junior also stated, improving my foot work, hand fighting to control the offensive lineman across from me and getting off the ball quickly are keys to making me a better defensive end.”
One big change the past few months for the honor roll student has been spending time in the film room.
“My first two years I watched very little game film. I didn't understand the importance, but I now realize that by watching practice and game films I can see where I need improvement.”`
While opposing coaches will also spend time in the film room this fall looking for ways to stop or at least slow down the oncoming charge from the Mocs' front four, Brand and the rest of the two-deep front line will stay the course to be relentless, disruptive and anything but mediocre.
* Sat. Aug, 17 – Meet the Mocs - 1 p.m. at First Tennessee Pavilion at Finley Stadium
The afternoon begins with an autograph session with all teams in the First Tennessee Pavilion. Fans can get photos, autographs, posters, schedule cards and other Blue & Gold giveaways.
Be sure to get a FREE T-Shirt by taking the ‘Tried & True Blue’ pledge. The first 1,500 fans who promise to introduce a friend to the Mocs football home opener will get a free shirt on the spot.
The football team will take the field at Finley Stadium at 2:30 p.m. for an afternoon practice. All fans are encouraged to watch the squad's preparation for the 2013 season.
* Season Opener: Thurs. Aug.29 vs. UT-Martin – Finley Stadium, 7 p.m.
contact B.B. Branton at email@example.com