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Bucs picked third in SoCon; Player tabbed top defensive player

Joe Avento • Updated Jul 22, 2019 at 8:05 PM

SPARTANBURG, S.C. — After winning a share of the Southern Conference football championship last year, East Tennessee State has managed to keep people’s attention heading into the new season.

The Bucs were picked third in preseason polls of the SoCon coaches and media, and defensive end Nasir Player was announced as the conference’s preseason player of the year. The announcements were made Monday during the league’s annual media day at the Spartanburg Marriott.

“It’s nice to get a little preseason recognition, but the bottom line is it doesn’t matter,” ETSU coach Randy Sanders said. “It matters a whole lot more where you are when you get to the end of November and December.”

Wofford was picked to win the conference, followed by Furman. The top three teams were the same in the coaches’ and media polls.

Western Carolina quarterback Tyrie Adams was the pick as the preseason offensive player of the year.

ETSU was picked eighth last year, only to tie for the SoCon championship and make the FCS playoffs. The Bucs finished the season, Sanders’ first at the helm, with an 8-4 record.

“Last year, going into the season I don’t think there was a whole lot expected outside of Johnson City or outside of the ETSU campus,” Sanders said. “The way spring practice had gone and the way summer conditioning had gone, I think the players expected more from us. I think they thought having a good year like that was possible but I don’t know that they truly expected it.”

Player, a red-shirt senior, was an All-American selection last year after making 43 tackles, 11 for loss. He also had six sacks and caused three fumbles.

“It just made me feel like ETSU is here,” Player said of his preseason award. “We’re not the laughingstock of the conference any more. They’re putting some respect on the ‘E’ now and we’re getting a lot of recognition that I feel we deserve.

“It makes me feel like this is what I came here for. Everyone was talking about how we have a chance to start something special here, the beginning of a tradition that can carry on for a long time. Now that I’m going into my fifth year here, it’s all coming together. This is what I signed here for.”

Player was one of seven ETSU players to be recognized on the preseason All-SoCon teams. Making the first team were running back Quay Holmes, defensive lineman Jason Maduafokwa and defensive back Tyree Robinson. Offensive linemen Tre’mond Shorts and Ben Blackmon joined defensive back Jeremy Lewis on the second team.

BUCS ON TV

As part of a new SoCon broadcast package called the “Ingles Game of the Week,” three ETSU games will be televised locally.

The package, a collaborative effort between the SoCon, Nexstar Broadcasting Inc. and Ingles, consists of 13 games.

ETSU’s first appearance is a Sept. 28 game at Furman. The Bucs’ Nov. 2 home game against The Citadel is also on the schedule as is their Nov. 9 game at Western Carolina.

Every school will appear at least twice during the season. All of the games in the package will also air concurrently on either ESPN3 or ESPN+.

Locally, WJHL will carry the games. Other Nexstar affiliates participating are WYCW (Greenville/Spartanburg/Asheville), WCBD (Charleston, South Carolina) and WWCW (Lynchburg, Virginia).

WSPA Sports Director Pete Yanity will provide play-by-play and former Wofford All-American offensive lineman Jared Singleton will serve as analyst.

The entire broadcast schedule (all times Eastern):

Aug. 31 — Mercer at Western Carolina, 6 p.m.

Sept. 7 — Mars Hill at VMI, 1:30 p.m.

Sept. 14 — Samford at Wofford, 6 p.m.

Sept. 21 — Mercer at Furman, 1 p.m.

Sept. 28 — ETSU at Furman, 1 p.m.

Oct. 5 — VMI at The Citadel, 2 p.m.

Oct. 12 — Samford at VMI, 1:30 p.m.

Oct. 19 — Western Carolina at Wofford, 1:30 p.m.

Oct. 26 — Chattanooga at Wofford, 1:30 p.m.

Nov. 2 — The Citadel at ETSU, 3:30 p.m.

Nov. 9 — ETSU at Western Carolina, 3:30 p.m.

Nov. 16 — Furman at Wofford, 1:30 p.m.

Nov. 23 — Chattanooga at VMI, 1:30 p.m.

—  —  —

SoCon preseason

MEDIA POLL

Team First place Total
1. Wofford 21 253
2. Furman 6 229
3. ETSU 2 187
4. Mercer   146
5. Chattanooga   134
6. Samford   125
7. The Citadel   111
8. Western Carolina   88
9. VMI   32

COACHES’ POLL

Team First place Total
1. Wofford 7 63
2. Furman 1 55
3. ETSU 1 44
4. Chattanooga   40
5. Mercer   34
6. Samford   33
7. The Citadel   22
8. Western Carolina   21
9. VMI   12

Preseason All-SoCon teams

Offensive Player of the Year: Tyrie Adams, QB, R-Sr., Western Carolina

Defensive Player of the Year: Nasir Player, DL, R-Sr., ETSU

First-team offense

QB—Tyrie Adams, R-Sr., Western Carolina

RB—Quay Holmes, R-So., ETSU

RB—Tyray Devezin, Jr., Mercer

OL—Bo Layton, R-Jr., Furman

OL—Austin Sanders, R-Sr., Mercer

OL—Nick Nixon, Sr., Samford

OL—Justus Basinger, Sr., Wofford

OL—Michael Ralph, Sr., Wofford

TE—Owen Cosenke, Jr., Western Carolina

WR—Bryce Nunnelly, Jr., Chattanooga

WR—Javeon Lara, Sr., VMI

First-team defense

DL—Joseph Randolph II, Sr., The Citadel

DL—Jason Maduafokwa, R-Sr., ETSU

DL—Nasir Player, R-Sr., ETSU

DL—Thad Mangum, Sr., Wofford

LB—Willie Eubanks III, Jr., The Citadel

LB—Adrian Hope, R-So., Furman

LB—Marshall Cooper, Sr., Chattanooga

DB—Tyree Robinson, Jr., ETSU

DB—Brandon Dowdell, Jr., Chattanooga

DB—Jerrell Lawson, R-Jr., Chattanooga

DB—A.J. Smith, Jr., VMI

DB—Ronald Kent Jr., So., Western Carolina

First-team specialists

PK—Grayson Atkins, Jr., Furman

PK—Mitchell Fineran, So., Samford

P—Matthew Campbell, So., The Citadel

RS-David Durden, So., Mercer

Second-team offense

QB—Reece Udinski, Jr., VMI

RB—Devin Wynn, Jr., Furman

RB—Tyrell Price, Sr., Chattanooga

OL—Haden Haas, R-So., The Citadel

OL—Drew McEntyre, Sr., The Citadel

OL—Ben Blackmon, R-Sr., ETSU

OL—Tre’mond Shorts, R-So., ETSU

OL—Andy Godwin, R-Sr., Furman

OL—Cole Strange, R-Jr., Chattanooga

OL—Blake Jeresaty, Jr., Wofford

TE—Chris Ellington, Sr., Mercer

WR—Thomas Gordon, Sr., Furman

WR—David Durden, So., Mercer

Second-team defense

DL—Dorian Kithcart, R-Sr., Mercer

DL—Justin Foster, Sr., Samford

DL—Nelson Jordan, So., Samford

DL—Mikel Horton, Jr., Wofford

LB—Elijah McKoy, Jr., Furman

LB—Will Coneway, R-Sr., Mercer

LB—Jireh Wilson, Sr., Wofford

DB—Jeremy Lewis, Sr., ETSU

DB—Malique Fleming, R-Jr., Mercer

DB—Mason Alstatt, Sr., Wofford

DB—George Gbesee, Sr., Wofford

Second-team specialists

PK—Jacob Godek, Sr., The Citadel

P—Luke Carter, Sr., Wofford

RS—Rohan Martin, Sr., VMI

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