“We looked like a young football team in March,” Sanders said after the 2 1/2-hour practice at Greene Stadium. “We still have a million miles to go. We have to get a whole lot better. That’s what this time of year is for.
“I think we have a chance to get better, but we’ve got to get better fast.”
All eyes are on the quarterback position where three untested players — Trey Mitchell, Tyrique Sandusky and Cameron Lewis — are trying to catch the eye of the coaching staff this spring.
None of them have taken a snap in college
“It’s scary, but it’s scary any time you have a new guy,” Sanders said. “Obviously, it’s going to be new whoever it is. Some of what I see at practice scares me to death, but they can make plays. Those guys have to get better because you’re only going to be as good as that quarterback allows you to be.”
Replacing Austin Herink will be a key if the Bucs want to follow up last season’s Southern Conference co-championship and FCS playoff berth with another successful season.
“It’s hard to hide a quarterback,” Sanders said. “If you don’t have a good one, you’re not going to win many games.”
When Sanders was hired, he said he would tailor ETSU’s offense to its strengths. With no experience at quarterback and two solid running backs returning, Quay Holmes and Jacob Saylors could play even a bigger part of the offense next season.
“We just have to support all three guys,” Holmes said of the young quarterbacks. “They’re out here working. For us who have been through the offense, they can learn through us. They’ll get it. That’s really what this spring time is for.”
Sanders said it’ll take some time for him to be able to single out any players who are standing out this spring. Friday was the third of 15 dates the team can practice or scrimmage this spring.
“I like what our O-line is doing and we have a couple of pretty good running backs,” he said. “I’m really encouraged by what I see from several individuals, but we’ve only been in pads one day and we didn’t hit that much.
“I think for the most part our team has a really good attitude. We have to keep working. Effort’s one thing. It all starts with effort, but effort without results still ends up in losses. And we can’t take losses.”
Four more practices are scheduled before the team’s first scrimmage, set for March 30 at 1 p.m.
The second scrimmage will be April 6 with the annual spring game scheduled for April 11.
Quan Harrison, a Greeneville product who was an all-conference pick as a kick returner and returned a punt for a touchdown against VMI early last season, is no longer on the team’s roster. His role had been reduced as last season went on.
The defensive backfield, one of the team’s strengths last year, added to new transfers that had not been previously announced by the school.
Calvin Smith, a Morristown native, began his college career at Coastal Carolina. He will be a junior in the fall.
Javarus Barksdale-Blair, an Oklahoma State transfer, has also joined the program. He will be a junior as well when the coming season starts.