Carl Torbush is officially on the clock.
East Tennessee State’s new football coach was hired on June 21 but didn’t start collecting on his five-year contract until this week. Torbush, of course, has been working feverishly to make connections in the community since that splashy news conference at the Millennium Center.
“This is the first day I’m getting paid on the job,” he said with a laugh Tuesday as he kicked back behind an untidy desk in his office, deep in the bowels of the Dome. “That first week was just about chaos, but I enjoyed it. This has really seemed like home since day one. There are a lot of good people here who love life and East Tennessee in general.
“It’s a very comfortable fit for me.”
Torbush is starting to lay out a timeline for building the ETSU program, with a target date of fall 2015 for kickoff. At this point, public relations still tops the priority list.
“Right now we need to keep the excitement going for ETSU football,” he said. “I want to meet as many people as I can. I enjoy being around people, so that’s no problem. We’re going to need some equipment, but that’s not as big a concern as recruiting. We have to go find some good football players.”
He plans to hire a couple of assistant coaches soon to help move recruiting along, but the state-mandated 30-day wait has slowed down the process and pushed potential candidates closer to preseason camps with their current teams. He’s also looking for two graduate assistants.
“Hopefully we’ll have three more coaches in December or January, and three more this time next year,” he said. “It’s going to be a year and a half to two years to complete the coaching staff.”
Torbush expects to sign about 20 players in his first recruiting class next February — they will redshirt — and perhaps another 20 in February 2015. The group will be supplemented all along with walk-ons, some of whom will surely earn scholarships.
“There are some kids on campus right now, if they get a chance to play, they will,” said Torbush. “There will be some guys who come here to play college football, and other guys who want to prove they can play college football.
“I’d like to think that after two years we’ll have a minimum of 65 to 80 kids out. We just don’t want to have 85 in the spring and 55 in the fall.”
Torbush has been around big-time college football for most of his 37-year career. He held head coaching jobs at North Carolina and Louisiana Tech, and has been defensive coordinator at six FBS schools, including UNC, Alabama, Mississippi and Texas A&M.
As a guy who grew up in Knoxville and was an All-American in football and baseball at Carson-Newman College, he thinks there is enough talent in the area to fuel a championship-caliber team in the Southern Conference.
“The number of kids that end up going to Appalachian, going to Furman, going to Tennessee Tech or Chattanooga … if we’re able to keep those kids here, I think we can compete for a SoCon championship,” said Torbush. “We’re not going to compete with Tennessee for recruits, but at our level of football, if there’s a good players here, we need to get them — from Knoxville to Southwest Virginia. We don’t want to overlook anybody in the East Tennessee area that can help us win in the SoCon.”
At 61, Torbush says he’s more than up to the task of bringing back the Bucs after a decade-long absence.
“If this job had been in Texas, or Iowa, I wouldn’t have even considered it,” he said. “But this is a great way for me to end my career. The difference between me and a 35-year-old coach is that he may still be chasing that dream. I’m not going anywhere.”