When East Tennessee State football coach Randy Sanders says he has a young team, all it takes is one look at the depth chart to see he’s not kidding.
Of the 115 players on the roster, 75 of them are either freshmen or redshirt freshmen. With just 14 seniors, the Bucs will be building for the future while trying to win this year.
Only one offensive player on the two-deep is a senior, receiver Malik Murray, a transfer from Georgia Southern.
Just a few days from the season opener at Vanderbilt, here’s a look at some of the highlights on the ETSU depth chart, which was just recently released.
Murray is probably the biggest surprise to be in the starting lineup. He led the ground-centered Georgia Southern offense with 21 receptions for 260 yards and a touchdown last season while reportedly wanting out of Statesboro, Georgia, to find a place where they might throw him the ball more.
He’ll be joined in the starting lineup by Will Huzzie and Isaiah Wilson.
Tyler Riddell won the starting job in preseason camp. Even though Riddell seems to have been around a long time, this is really just the start of his career. It’s his redshirt freshman year. He was limited to four games as a true freshman to not use a year of eligibility and he played the spring season, which didn’t count because of the NCAA’s COVID-19 policy.
Junior Brock Landis, the starter by the end of the spring season, is listed as the backup.
It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Cade Larkins get some action as soon as it’s determined that his surgically repaired knee can handle it.
Quay Holmes and Jacob Saylors make this a position of strength for the Bucs.
Holmes is an All-American who has a shot at the school’s career rushing record and Saylors is a dynamic player in his own right. They are both juniors.
Throw in freshman Bryson Irby, who starred in the team’s two preseason scrimmages, and it’s an embarrassment of riches.
This is an experienced group that is still young.
Johnson City’s Blake Austin will start at left guard. The redshirt freshman from Science Hill High School started three games in the spring.
The Bucs’ two tackles are huge and that should help pave the way for Holmes and Saylors to have big years. Left tackle Tre’mond Shorts is 6-foot-4, 335 pounds, while right tackle Fred Norman is 6-6, 330. Shorts is a junior while Norman is a redshirt freshman.
Junior Joe Schreiber starts at center while sophomore Tavon Matthews is the right guard. Noah Wishon, a freshman from Tennessee High, is listed as the second-team right tackle.
Junior Nate Adkins gets the start and has been an All-Southern Conference player. Backup Noah West, a redshirt freshman, impresses every time he takes the field.
Jawan Martin is back after sitting out last season. He scored three touchdowns during his freshman season in 2019.
Most of the team’s experience is on defense with four seniors in the starting lineup.
Graduate linebacker Jared Folks is the most experienced of the bunch, but linebacker Blake Bockrath is a redshirt senior who has been a big part of the defense for four years.
Redshirt freshman Donovan Manuel was a force during the spring and he could move to the forefront of this unit by the end of the season. Another redshirt freshman, D’Andre Davis, is in the starting lineup.
Cornerback Karon Delince and safety Tyree Robinson are both four-year starters and they’re joined by redshirt freshman Alijah Huzzie and sophomore Mike Price to form a unit that will be one of the best in the Southern Conference.
Junior Timmy Dorsey, who appeared on the Netflix program Last Chance U, gets the start at nose tackle. He’s flanked by redshirt freshmen Rodney Wright and Max Evans. Austin Lewis, the former David Crockett star who transferred from Liberty, will miss the early part of the season with a knee injury suffered in a preseason scrimmage.
Sophomores Tyler Keltner (kicker) and Garrett Taylor (punter) will form a formidable duo. Both flashed more range during the preseason. Consistency will be the key.