(Photos by Lee Talbert/Johnson City Press)
Carl Torbush was looking for a few good walk-ons Wednesday.
East Tennessee State’s head football coach and a large support staff conducted tryouts for students who thought they might be capable of suiting up for fall practice. At the 5 o’clock cutoff, 16 who had cleared the paperwork hurdles and other requirements lined up in shorts and t-shirts for drills in the Dome.
“We already have seven or eight here on campus that we looked at a year ago, before I ever even had this job,” said Torbush, the veteran coach who was named last June to restart the ETSU football program after more than a decade’s absence. “I’d like to think we’ll end up with at least 10 good walk-ons. Most of these kids are very realistic about things. Some may have come to ETSU because they wanted to get an education and realized they missed football. This could be a second chance.”
Under the instruction of Lee Morrow, ETSU’s longtime strength and conditioning coach who is now director of football operations, the students launched into a variety of drills to measure speed and agility. Defensive coordinator Billy Taylor and defensive backs coach Teddy Gaines looked on intently.
The group then went outside to see how they performed on the grass in more of a football setting. The whole process was supposed to take two hours or less.
“The biggest thing we’re looking for is athleticism, how guys run and jump,” said Torbush. “We want to see how fast they are and how they move. That’s more important right now than projecting anybody for positions.”
An initial recruiting class of 47 was announced in early February, and a few more players have trickled in since. Torbush plans to begin fall practice in mid-September and play a club schedule of perhaps a half-dozen games.
After another full recruiting class next February, the Bucs will start to narrow their focus for a Sept. 3 opener against Kennesaw State. That will be their first game of scholarship football since 2003.
In the meanwhile, Torbush is looking toward adding more assistant coaches. Taylor and Gaines are the only ones now on staff.
“I hope we’ll have one more in the next two to three weeks,” he said, “and hopefully another in the next month.”