Derrick Craine successful in relief role for UT-Chattanooga running game
Derrick Craine can be so soft-spoken that there are times you have to lean in closer just to hear what he is saying. But when it comes to the nonstop effort it takes to grind out tough yards, the Chattanooga running back is emphatic.
The sophomore from McDonough, Georgia, got his most significant playing time of the season Saturday against the toughest defense the Mocs will face, playing in place of injured starter Keon Williams against Tennessee.
"It was an incredible experience. We had prepared for them but it wasn't real -- it didn't hit me -- until we walked into the stadium and you see 'Tennessee' up on the board," Craine said. "With Keon being out, it hurt our offense tremendously, but I just had to try to get the tough yards we needed and do whatever I could.
"Tennessee closed on the ball really well. When we had some inside runs, they were able to fill the holes really quick, so you have to make quick adjustments. It was another learning experience. I try with everything I can."
Williams, a 225-pound hammer in the UTC run game, sat out the UT game following surgery on his left hand, which left the 205-pound Craine to fill the role of getting the tough yards between the tackles. He ran 16 times for 45 yards and caught two passes.
"I thought he did a great job," Mocs coach Russ Huesman said after Saturday's game. "He's a tough dude. I love the way he runs. He's a great kid, too.
"I'm proud of our guys. [The Volunteers] were hard to move the ball on and to get first downs on with their first group in there, no question."
Craine's motor doesn't just run on gameday. A former all-state player whose father played at Pittsburgh, Craine also is one of the most intense and focused players during practice, and he doesn't mind doing the work that can go unnoticed.
"Whether it's blocking or getting the ball in short-yardage situations, I like being in there for pressure situations," Craine said. "Knowing the coaches depend on me to get it done makes me give that extra effort, and if we get a first down I get up from the pile and just kind of smile, because that's my job to get those tough yards.
"I try to play with a chip on my shoulder and be ready to be the guy when the team needs me. I'm hoping Keon is back this week for the team, because he's such a huge part of our offense. But I'll prepare just like I do every week and be ready."
Williams is expected to return this week for the Mocs' visit to The Citadel. UTC is tied with Western Carolina atop the Southern Conference standings at 2-0 in league play. The Citadel's defense ranks near the bottom in yards allowed (414.8 total), but UTC had to rally from a 10-point second-half deficit to win last year's meeting at Finley Stadium.