Bryce Nunnelly (19) catches a pass. The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Mocs Football Team hosted their Spring Showcase on March 24, 2018 (Photo by Robin Rudd /Times Free Press.)
Since arriving on the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga campus for preseason camp last summer, Bryce Nunnelly has been willing to do whatever it takes to get on the field.
So far it's worked.
He'll enter his sophomore year with even larger goals.
One of the fastest wide receivers in the program — if not the fastest — Nunnelly has put himself in a position to be in the playing rotation this season. The 6-foot-2, 190-pound former Walker Valley football and track standout totaled 89 yards on seven catches as a UTC true freshman while also contributing on special teams.
Both of his brothers, Drew and Trent, were track standouts in high school and at Bryan College, and Bryce says he's the fastest in the family, depending on the event.
UTC coach Tom Arth feels he's the fastest receiver on the team.
"He's very athletic. He runs well," Arth said after Monday's practice. "I would put Bryce up against anybody; I wouldn't bet against him in a race.
"He has a savviness against zones — he knows how to find the voids — but he's also strong enough, athletic enough to win in man-to-man situations. He's had a very good spring. He had a good season for us last year, and we're expecting him to be a really big contributor for us."
Nunnelly realizes the Mocs will have four senior receivers in the 2018 season but still says his goal is to start at one of the positions in addition to being in on all special-teams units.
"I know we've got seniors, including three redshirt seniors, so I get that, I understand that," Nunnelly said, "but I'm still working. I want to start; that's my goal."
He feels his knowledge of the offense will help him as he continues to improve in practices. He's been able to get additional repetitions with the first-team offense on Mondays and Wednesdays, when senior Wil Young has been in class. It's given Nunnelly an opportunity to go head up against senior cornerback Kareem Orr, one of the team's best defenders and trash-talkers. Although admitting he doesn't speak much, Nunnelly had a moment in last week's practice when he made a catch on Orr and handed the ball to the cornerback, who kicked the ball back in his direction.
"I love that part," Nunnelly said. "Kareem is obviously one of the best in the country. I just do what I need to do, and that day handing the ball was enough for me."
Going through his first spring with the Mocs, he's been able to take some strides that could help him earn more time on the field this season.
"I feel I know the offense 10 times better than I did in the fall," Nunnelly said. "I knew the basic stuff, the route concepts, but I didn't understand the quarterback progression and what we need to do for that, so as this spring has gone, we've been meeting with the quarterbacks and Coach (Justin) Rascati (the offensive coordinator) and listening to what they go through.
"Their mindset on each play has definitely helped me grow a lot, and I can be what they need me to be — running a route or whatever it is."
Contact Gene Henley at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @genehenleytfp.