Chattanooga confident it's jelling

(STATS) - While Chattanooga is boasting its highest number of returning lettermen in 20 years, the biggest achievement during spring practice hasn't occurred on the field.

It's been about the players accepting the new coaching staff and focusing on keeping their Southern Conference program at an elite level.

"It's an incredible group," first-year coach Tom Arth said. "They have just brought leadership starting from top down with our senior class. The buy-in has almost been immediate with these guys. It's a great testament to their character - their desire to improve and to be great."

Chattanooga will conclude the pivotal spring with its annual intrasquad game Saturday at Finley Stadium.

Arth, 35, arrived in December from Division III John Carroll after Russ Huesman resigned to become the head coach at Richmond. Huesman led the Mocs for eight seasons, highlighted by three conference titles and three playoff appearances in the last year. Last year's team finished 9-4 and with a No. 13 ranking in the STATS FCS Top 25.

This year's 49 returning lettermen, including five starters on each side of the ball, are the most since 52 came back for the 1997 season.

Arth was the Division III national coach of the year last season and went 40-8 over four seasons.

During spring practice, new offensive coordinator Justin Rascati and defensive coordinator Tom Kaufman have been implementing many of their schemes. Rascati was the starting quarterback on James Madison's 2004 national championship squad and spent recent seasons in the Ohio Valley Conference, while Kaufman was college teammates with Arth at John Carroll and arrives from being the special teams coordinator and linebackers coach at Syracuse.

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide — from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Grant Wahl, Andy Staples and more — delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.