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Spring game showcases ETSU’s new offense

Joe Avento • Apr 5, 2018 at 10:22 PM

Randy Sanders wasn’t on hand, but his new offense was in full display when the East Tennessee State football team held the Blue-Gold game on Thursday night.

The Bucs proved they could score different ways as they closed spring practice with their annual intra-squad game at Greene Stadium.

With Sanders still on administrative leave, the offense was in the hands of wide receivers coach Mike Rader.

“I think the guys realize they got better from Day One to now and that’s critical,” Rader said. “I think there’s going to be a ton of excitement going into the offseason.”

The Bucs scored four touchdowns — two through the air and two on the ground — in their most extensive display of the new attack.

“When we first started, it was like learning a foreign language,” said wide receiver Kobe Kelley, who had eight receptions for 93 yards. “Some of the stuff we had never even heard of before but we’re getting fluent.

“I felt like without coach Sanders, it would come a little slower, but actually Coach Rader got us off on the right foot and we started moving the ball quick and it took off from there.”

With Sanders not on the sidelines, his coaching staff made it a point to run the show as he would.

“Coach Sanders is our head coach and we’re very thankful for that,” said defensive coordinator Billy Taylor said. “What we were trying to do was keep everything as smooth as possible until he gets back.”

QUARTERBACK BATTLE

The two candidates for the starting quarterback position posted pretty much the same numbers. Austin Herink, who started the past three years, completed 14 of 20 passes for 158 yards and a touchdown. Temple transfer Logan Marchi was 14 of 19 for 154 yards and a TD.

Herink’s scoring pass was a 44-yarder to Greeneville’s Quan Harrison, who caught six passes for 73 yards.

Harrison said the entire team is feeling more comfortable with the new offense after three weeks of spring practice.

“The first time he started talking about it was like Spanish to me,” Harrison said. “I had no idea what he was talking about. Now we’re all comfortable. We’ve studied it a lot and we’ve had meetings.”

Braxton Richburg caught Marchi’s touchdown pass, a 25-yarder.

QUAY’S WAY

Quay Holmes, a freshman running back who red-shirted last season, scored on runs of 1 and 5 yards.

“It was a good conclusion to my first spring in college,” Holmes said. “I just went out there and had fun and showed the people what we can do offensively. I feel like if you’re right there, you have to score. I just want to do what I can to get in the end zone and make it more automatic.”

Holmes finished with 16 yards on six carries.

Herink and Dontavious Monroe were the night’s leading rushers with 24 yards apiece.

POINT OF VIEW

Linebacker Austin Gatewood said spring practice flew by, but Herink had quite the opposite opinion.

“It went by really fast,” Gatewood said “That was my last spring and we were talking about how fast it went, but it was a good spring.”

The quarterback politely disagreed.

“It went by really long,” Herink said. “There was a lot of things going on and I had to learn a brand new offense after three years of the same one. Staying up late, getting up early, trying to figure out this offense, that was a grind.

“I think it provides us with a new challenge, which we may have needed for this season. I thought as a senior I’d be really sad with my last spring practice, but I feel pretty glad it’s over with because spring ball is just one of those things there’s really no reward at the end other than the spring game.”

HONORARY COACHES

There were six honorary coaches — Bill Greene, Johnny Mills, Dale Fair, Alan Levine, Steve Grindstaff and Bo Wilkes — introduced before the game.

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