Mocs Have Quarterback Options As Austin Peay Game Approaches

Tuesday, August 31, 2021 - by Joseph Dycus
Coach Rusty Wright
Coach Rusty Wright
Chattanooga will have options when the 18th-ranked Mocs host Austin Peay’s 20th-ranked Governors on Thursday night. Not the kind of option where the quarterback reads a defender before deciding to pitch, handoff, or keep the ball (although we may see some of that). For coach Rusty Wright, that word means he enjoys having several viable choices at both the quarterback and halfback spots.

“I think it's brought out good competition in that room, and I think they all have a genuine respect and appreciation for what the others do,” coach Wright said about the quarterbacks at Tuesday’s press conference.
“They all have different dynamics, and if you could mold them all into one player, that would be great.”

Those passers are headlined by sixth-year senior Drayton Arnold, who backed up Nick Tiano in 2019 after transferring in from Old Dominion, and then started during the truncated 2020-21 slate. Junior and former Bradley Central star Cole Copeland started as a true freshman in 2017, and returned to the program in 2020 and saw action in two games. Grad transfer and McCallie alum Robert Riddle played in 11 games for the Mercer Bears before joining the Mocs this summer. 

“I’m excited any time I get an opportunity to play the game, so on Thursday we’re going to go out there, fly around, and try to get the win,” Arnold said when he addressed the media. 

Whichever quarterback wins the starting job will have a quartet of backs behind him who are capable of making plays. 2019 SoCon freshman of the year Aliym Ford is the starter as a sophomore, having rushed for 1,081 yards and nine touchdowns in his first year on campus. Behind him is super-senior Tyrell Price, the speedy sophomore Gino Appleberry and freshman Lance Jackson, who ran for 135 yards and two touchdowns in his one start against Mercer in 2020. 

“Aliym is going to start for us, and he’s going to go out for us in the first group,” coach Wright said. “But that’s another group where each guy does something well. TP (Tyrell Price) is a better pass protector, and Gino (Appleberry) is more of an out-in-space kind of guy, and Aliym combines the two.”

“We’re going to have a couple back there sometimes, or just one, or we may have three back there in different spots. We’ll go with the one that’s hot, but I expect all of them to be hot at some point.”

The Chattanooga defense starts their season against a prolific attack with a diverse set of weapons. OVC freshman of the year Draylen Ellis threw for 1,270 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2020-21,  and receiver Baniko Harley and CJ Evans are capable exploding against a veteran Mocs secondary led by sixth-year seniors Jordan Jones, Jerrell Lawson, and Rashun Freeman. 

“I think they’re a good team to start out with. I know they’re pretty talented and have some very good players,” linebacker Ty Boeck said. “They’re going to test us because they’ve got some good running backs and speed on the edge, and their quarterback is pretty mobile. It’ll be a good first game for us to see where we’re at.” 

“They’re going to get tested a bunch on Thursday night because Austin Peay is going to take shots and throw the ball down the field,” coach Wright said. “We’re going to find out if those guys are as good as we think they are early in the game.” 

The game kicks off at 7:30 and can be watched on ESPN+ or listened to on WFLI 97.7/1070AM radio. 

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Do you have an opinion on this article, or have a story you believe needs coverage? You can contact the author at Joseph.A.Dycus@gmail.com or on Twitter at @joseph_dycus.

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