Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, February 10, 2017

New UTC coach out-recruits old UTC coach

As new Chattanooga head football coach Tom Arth faced a room full of boosters, media and loyal fans on National Signing Day evening, he made the rundown of the Mocs’ 2017  class sound very much like a sermon. He even had the congregation clapping on cue.

The audience ate up what sounded like the most important points:

UTC signed four area players, the most in the last six seasons.

10 players from Tennessee turned in their scholarship papers that morning, the most in a decade.

But the most important fact that Arth produced last Wednesday scarcely drew a ripple of appreciation.

“We signed several players from South Georgia, somewhere we haven’t recruited that heavily in past years,” he said. “That will change.”

And it’s not just that the Mocs have made inroads in that hotbed of prep football – an area that has turned out Legends of the Fall for the University of Georgia and other schools for decades – but who they came away with that was so remarkable.

The Southern Conference’s own rating system indicated UTC’s most talented signee was Brandon Dowdell (a 5-10, 195-pound defensive back from Cordele, Georgia), who was ranked as the conference’s No. 4 overall recruit.  So many schools had warmed up to him, his own hometown paper announced his signing Wednesday as “shocking many.” Georgia Southern and bowl team Western Kentucky were among those coveting his services.

Keeping Dowdell, a commitment from UTC’s previous head coach, Russ Huesman, in the fold was a major win for Arth’s recruiters. But they hardly rested, signing 12 future Mocs who were not on Huesman’s commit list when he departed for his “other” school, Richmond.

Among those Arth’s coaches brought on board was Valdosta defensive end Devonnsha Maxwell, a 6-2, 250, Class 6A all-stater with 5.5 sacks for the 14-2 state champions, and Cairo teammates Jashari Patterson, a linebacker, and Jamal Thomas, a defensive back.

The worth of these recruits is best voiced by Arth himself:

“(Dowdell) is an extremely exciting recruit for us. He was just named first-team All-State by the GHS Coaches Association … and has the ability to play any of the four defensive back positions…

“Leading his team to a state championship in 2016, (Maxwell) is one of the most versatile defensive linemen that we have ever seen on film. He has a great family and personality, and some people on campus who have seen his film are comparing him to (senior) Keionta (Davos), which we know what a tremendous compliment that was.

“Patterson was first-team all-state, making seven tackles for losses from his linebacker position. Coming from another of the great programs in South Georgia, he brought tremendous energy with him that was apparent the moment he stepped on campus. …

“One of the fastest guys in the state of Georgia. He can play any of the four secondary positions and (brings skills) as a tremendous long jumper in track and in wrestling. … Projects as an outstanding special team’s player as well.”

All four project  themselves as players with immediate designs on playing, if not competing for a starting job. This sudden, new inroad to the programs of Region 1 6A is the single biggest aspect to this miracle.

You can look at the 2017 signing class turned in last Wednesday by the new coaching staff of the Chattanooga Mocs a half-dozen ways.  And each different perception makes the achievement of Arth and his young staff all the more remarkable.

That they hit the road even as they are attempting to move to town, that they were able to initiate contact with so many new schools and coaches (“Schools are very particular about who they let in their door,” Arth said), that more than 20 players visited campus for the first time in the three weeks they had to evaluate and recruit.

Also, try the timing aspect on for size.

Arth was named to replace Huesman on December 19, and most of his coaches weren’t in place until a week later.

Meanwhile, Huesman took six of his aides with him to Richmond and had that much more time to bring in his first class with the Spiders. Arth’s Mocs coaches signed 13 new commitments, while Huesman’s Spiders staff signed 11 – nine if you don’t count those Mocs commitments who were flipped.

So, looking at this class in that context, the Mocs took the high road and their signing class dwarfed Huesman’s – both here and at Richmond.

Counting the signing of Montgomery Christian’s David Poole, whose papers weren’t filed until after the Wednesday announcements, the Mocs have 19 total recruits with no plans of landing any more than one or two late commitments. More than 20 players were brought in for late visits during their three-week recruitment period by Arth’s staff.

Richmond, in contrast, announced only 13 signees, including the two late flips from Chattanooga, recruits that Huesman vowed he would not take. But going into the final week, he realized he had only one offensive lineman on his board and promptly brought into the Spiders’ web a pair of would-be future Mocs – FRA’s Jack Doherty and Foley, Alabama’s Clayton McConnell. But their de-commitments allowed Chattanooga to bring in Central’s 6-foot-8 man-mountain McClendon Curtis over the final weekend and get his commitment three days before Signing Day. Curtis also had offers from WKU, MTSU and Temple.

In fact, Huesman never got off the ground recruiting in his own backyard. None of his recruits came from the talent-rich Richmond metro area. But there were two from Georgia, two from Alabama and one from Tennessee.

“We spent nine months building relationships with guys that we were going to recruit at Chattanooga,” Huesman told Richmond media Wednesday. “And then you come to Richmond, and the previous staff had built relationships, and then they leave. Now you’re at ground zero again.”

Contrast that to Chattanooga, where the staff largely came from John Carroll University in Cleveland, Ohio. The UTC signing class included zero players from Ohio.

“We kept everybody we wanted to keep,” Arth said. “And we didn’t lose anyone that we cared about losing.”

Despite plucking off the two linemen, Huesman left behind a solid framework to the Chattanooga recruiting class, including two 3-star guys enrolled early (Dakota Davis of Knoxville and transfer Nick Tiano of Baylor via Mississippi State).

Arth’s staff was able to keep six Huesman commitments in-house, which was impressive enough, in addition to a dozen of their own, working right up to the night before Signing Day and beyond.

Of those who got away, the one most indicative of how crazy recruiting can be was the case of John Frizzell, the Hardin Valley lineman. He had made commitments, at different times, to both Richmond and Chattanooga, but at the last moment bailed on Chattanooga when he got an offer from Appalachian State. He signed with ASU despite never having set foot on the campus.

Yet another lineman, defensive tackle Christian Smith, was listed as a Mocs commitment right up until Signing Day. While not going anywhere officially, he was finally declared as de-committed. It was learned that he got a late Signing Day offer from Illinois, which is where he is expected to sign.

Class notes

Some facts about this signing class that may have escaped your notice:

With nine signed from Tennessee, the Mocs had the most in-state signings in last 10 years.

With four future Mocs from Chattanooga area, that equals most in last six years.

With 10 combined two- and three-star recruits, this class equals the most ever.

Vanderbilt tried to flip a Mocs commitment late Monday night, but that player refused.

UTC signee Knoxville Catholic’s Jeffery Wood II was described as “the fastest man in Tennessee” by noted local recruiting guru Jim Harbaugh following a satellite camp held in Murfreesboro. Wood suffered from a lack of exposure, as he missed two entire seasons due to transfer rules. Originally a student-athlete at Farragut High, Wood considered holding out for a bigger school, but none appeared on the horizon. He spoke with Tennessee representatives a week before signing but got no offer.

Early enrollee Dakota Davis is the son of legendary Vol and eight-year NFL veteran Antone Davis.

Tucker running back Chris Broadwater remained firm on his commitment despite a late offer from the U.S. Military Academy (West Point).

A Jan. 29 Southern Conference survey revealed that UTC had 10 of the top 36 recruits in the conference before the defections of McConnell (36th) and Tim Frizzell of Hardin Valley (24th). Among those remaining included Dowdell (fourth), Wood (eighth), Whitehaven DB Jabril Malone (12th), Sandy Creek (Ga.) tight end Parker Mallett (17th), Walker Valley WR Bryce Nunnelly (19th), Davis (21st), Alabama linebacker Zach Feaster (29th) and Bradley Central quarterback Cole Copeland (30th).

Eight players were named all-state this past season.

Arth, however, did not offer any insight as to whether Chattanooga would bring former Ridgeland and Presbyterian College running back Darrell Bridges into fold. Bridges is seeking an extra year at a different school, and he made it clear that coming home would be a welcome capper to what has already been an outstanding career.

Owens snub shocks Chattanooga

For the second straight year, the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee has snubbed former Chattanooga longtime NFL wideout Terrell Owens in its annual election.

Owens, who stands second all-time in receptions and fourth all-time in touchdowns, did not even make the cut to the final 10 candidates, it was revealed. The committed voters can only elect five players each year, along with a senior candidate and non-playing contributors.

Owens, who was never involved in any criminal activity or suspension, was cited as being a “bad teammate” by one voter. A series of increasing disappointed tweets indicated that, at the moment, Owens was now indifferent to any subsequent elections.

That might be a good thing. The injustice figures to continue. Peter King, in his “Monday Morning Quarterback” column, wrote this:

“My guess after leaving the meeting Saturday is that it could be a few years before Owens gets in — if he ever does. I sense the American outrage over this. I get it. It’s a story of how much (voters) should apply to a players’ case for the Hall of Fame.”

Considering the character of several inductees over the years – Jack Tatum, who attempted (successfully) to injure players in his career – comes to mind. Next year, Randy Moss is eligible for induction and figures to leapfrog Owens, according to those in the room.