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Mocs O-Line Prepares For Appalachian State
Tennessee at Chattanooga offensive line coach Russ Ehrenfeld believes he has best job on the 11-member Mocs football staff.
“These guys (offensive linemen) are in the trenches every day, don’t receive much publicity, but it’s great to work with them and see them succeed,’’ said Ehrenfeld.
And succeed they have.
Chattanooga was second in the Southern Conference and tied for fourth in the nation in fewest sacks allowed (9) in 2009 and did not allow a sack in the final four games, including against BCS national champion Alabama and FCS national semifinalist Appalachian State.
Now in his second year on the Mocs staff, Ehrenfeld directs one of the best O-Lines in the SoCon with five returning starters from 2009; seniors Chris Harr (left tackle), Justin Galyon (center) and T.J. Hurless (right guard), junior Omre Harris and sophomore Adam Miller.
“For Chris, T.J. and myself, this is our third year together as starters,’’ said Galyon. “We have played in some big games and have learned to trust each other on every down.”
“This is a big year for the O-Line and for these guys to take it up a notch we have to establish the running game,’’ said Ehrenfeld.
The Mocs are deep at running back with returners Errol Wynn, Bryan Fitzgerald, J.J, Jackson and Chris Awuah combining for 16 rushing touchdowns and nearly 3,500 career yards, plus talented freshman Keon Williams and should be successful in 2010 running behind a veteran line.
But the Mocs were only eighth in the league in rushing offense in 2009 averaging 85 yards a game.
Wynn sat out 2009 due to an injury suffered in the spring and a foot injury limited “Fitz” to four games and 342 yards last season.
Season opening foe Appalachian State was third in the SoCon in rushing defense in 2009, allowing 135.6 yards per game and returns four starters up front, including pre-season All-American defensive ends Langston Tanyi and Jabari Fletcher.
“We must be a strong running team this season which will open up the passing game and keep the defenses honest,” Ehrenfeld said.
The New Jersey native knows what it takes to form a strong O-Line as he was a key member up front on the Mocs first three Southern Conference championships; 1977-78-79 while Mocs head coach Russ Huesman was a starting defensive back for the final two title teams.
But he has more than just the starting five and has the depth for a solid seven or eight man rotation.
Nick Gipson, Dustin Tate and Austin Wilson are playing well and gives Ehrefeld and assistant line coach Geep Wade plenty of depth and experience with which to work.
In 2009, Tate played in 10 games with two starts while Wilson saw action in nine games with one start. Gipson redshirted in 2009, but played in four games in 2008 with one start as a true freshman.
“We are also excited about the three scholarship freshman in Devin Caldwell, Taylor Dodds and Chas Presnell as they are part of a good future we see for the O-Line,” Ehrenfeld said. “Dodds is extremely athletic and can move. He has been impressive.”
The Mocs O-Line will have the opportunity to showcase its experience and depth to a Finley Stadium crowd and region television audience when the five-time defending SoCon champion Mountaineers come to town in four weeks.
By B.B. Branton, The Chattanoogan