East Tennessee State has a big one to answer.
When the Bucs open spring practice on Tuesday, second-year coach Randy Sanders and his staff will be trying to figure out who will be the team’s quarterback when the season begins in September. The Bucs don’t have anybody on the roster who has ever taken a college snap.
Sanders will be trying to find a replacement for Austin Herink, who rebounded from losing his starting job to leading ETSU to a Southern Conference championship and the FCS playoffs.
All Herink did was come off the bench and rally the Bucs from a 21-point deficit for a 29-27 win against Furman and then win five of his next seven starts.
ETSU finished the regular season 8-3 and claimed a share of its first-ever Southern Conference championship. Herink is playing professionally in Austria for the Vienna Vikings.
Quarterbacks Trey Mitchell, Tyrique Sandusky and Cameron Lewis were all freshman last season and didn’t see any action. Mitchell traveled with the team to the playoff game at Jacksonville State after Logan Marchi was injured during practice.
Marchi, who transferred to ETSU from Temple and started the first four games before being replaced by Herink, has left the program with a year of eligibility remaining.
Sanders signed two quarterbacks in February, although neither will be at spring practice because they are still in high school.
Tyler Riddell passed for more than 6,500 yards and 63 touchdowns in his high school career in Tampa, Florida.
Treyvion Houston had more than 4,300 passing yards, 1,400 rushing yards and 70 total touchdowns during his high school days in Greer, South Carolina. Houston was also on the track team and was listed as a quarterback/athlete on signing day.
Replacing center Matt Pyke, a first-team All-American and winner of the SoCon’s top blocker award, will also be a priority.
ETSU has some other spots to fill.
All-conference kicker JJ Jerman is gone after setting the school record for field goals made in a career with 53. He is also second all-time at ETSU in extra-points (94) and scoring (253 points).
The Bucs must replace punter Marion Watson as well.
Linebackers Dylan Weigel and Austin Gatewood are gone. Weigel was one of the top tacklers in school history and Gatewood and played a key role in a defense that ranked second in the SoCon in yards allowed.
On the defensive line, the team will have to replace stalwarts Tremond Ferrell and Chris Bouyer.
Two players from the February signing class — wide receivers Jamal Couch and Dashaun McKinney — have enrolled in school and will be with the team for spring practice. Couch is a transfer from Mississippi State and McKinney is an early enrolee from Knox Fulton.
The team has scrimmages scheduled for March 30 and April 6. The annual spring game is set for April 13.