Sanders, the new head football coach at East Tennessee State, said he got most of the players he wanted as the signatures began to come in Wednesday morning.
“If every signing day as a head coach goes this smoothly, life will be good,” Sanders said at Greene Stadium during a news conference announcing his 24-player class. “It was smooth, easy a signing day that I could ever remember. There were no surprises and we didn’t lose anybody, even though we did have a few of our guys get a lot of interest the last couple of days. They hung tough with us.
“I think we brought in 23 recruits this month, and we ended up getting commitments or signing 19 of those 23. We had two guys that wanted to come here that honestly we didn’t have room for. Twenty one out of 23, if we can keep that kind of batting average, we’ll be pretty good.”
Sanders’ class included a mixture of size and speed. The Bucs need immediate help on the offensive line and in the secondary. Thirteen of the players were multi-sport athletes in high school.
“The class as a whole is very athletic,” Sanders said. “I think we filled some holes with speed, athleticism. We got some big guys, some big bodies that we needed. Hopefully, we’ll see a bunch of them on the field soon. Who knows?”
Nine players in the class are from Tennessee, including five from Northeast Tennessee.
“That’s certainly where we focus,” Sanders said. “If you can find what you need, what you want, close by, that’s where you always go. Just like if you’re out Christmas shopping and you can’t find what you need for your wife close by, you keep going until you find it or it’s a miserable Christmas.”
The local kids signing with the Bucs were offensive linemen Nick Rideout of Greeneville, Dawson Pierson of Dobyns-Bennett and Caman Cody of Jefferson County in addition to defensive back Juliun Lane of West Greene and long snapper Chandlor Mullins of Elizabethton.
“I’m a Tennessee guy,” Sanders said. “It’s always nice to have local players. It’s always nice for the local fans to have local players to watch. But they don’t want to watch local players go out there and lose, either. We want to get the best players we can get that can give us a chance to win.”
Lane, who was a star running back in high school, was one of five defensive backs Sanders signed on Wednesday.
“We felt like we needed some help at some positions in the secondary,” Sanders said. “We wanted to get some guys with speed and athleticism. That was one area I felt we could improve. You never have enough speed. You never have enough guys that can go out and there and run and cover the field and hit and make tackles.”
Mullins will join his brother Adam at ETSU. Adam is the Bucs’ current long snapper.
“It’s one of those unique families that they go out and play catch in the yard with their heads between their legs,” Sanders said. “Long snappers, if you don’t have one then you find out how critical they are. He’s good at it.”
The class also included a couple of transfers from Temple, quarterback Logan Marchi and linebacker Jared Folks. Marchi started the first seven games at Temple last season before getting hurt.
One of the gems of the class could turn out to be Will Huzzie, a 6-foot-3 wide receiver from Duluth, Georgia. During his senior year, he had 148 receptions for 1,958 yards and 14 touchdowns.
“My philosophy is if they are ready to play and help us win, let’s play them,” Sanders said.
Nate Adkins TE 6-3 220 Knoxville, Tenn. (Bearden HS)
Cam Lewis QB 6-3 200 McDonough, Ga. (Eagle-s Landing HS)
Kendell Wright DL 6-4 285 Indianola, Miss. (Copiah-Lincoln CC)
Donovan Manuel LB 6-1 195 Ellenwood, Ga. (Stockbridge HS)
Will Huzzie WR 6-3 185 Duluth, Ga. (Duluth HS)
Juliun Lane DB 6-2 180 Mosheim, Tenn. (West Greene HS)
Javion Heard DE 6-2 245 Monroe, Ga. (Monroe Area HS)
Dilan Henderson ATH 5-11 185 Pinson, Ala. (Pinson Valley HS)
Quinn Smith DB 5-10 175 Cincinnati, Ohio (Winton Woods HS)
Desi Lester Jr. WR 6-1 160 Vienna, Ga. (Dooly County HS)
Jalyn Williams RB 5-9 170 Swainsboro, Ga. (Swainsboro HS)
Dru Bowens OLB/DE 6-4 210 Palm Coast, Fla. (Matanzas HS)
Cason Setzekorn OL 6-6 285 Gainesville, Ga. (Fork Union Military Academy)
Nick Rideout OL 6-4 300 Greeneville, Tenn. (Greeneville HS)
Chandlor Mullins LS 6-0 315 Elizabethton, Tenn. (Elizabethton HS)
Dawson Pierson OL 6-2 260 Kingsport, Tenn. (Dobyns Bennett HS)
Caman Cody OL/DL 6-2 260 Dandridge, Tenn. (Jefferson County HS)
Logan Bowers P/K 5-10 185 Knoxville, Tenn. (Knox West HS)
MJ Woods DB 6-1 195 Seale, Ala. (Central HS)
Jacob Saylors DB 5-11 190 Jasper, Tenn. (Marion County HS)
Chris Armstrong DB 6-0 200 Foley, Ala. (Foley HS)
Jalen Porter LB 6-2 220 Gallatin, Tenn. (Gallatin HS)
Jared Folks LB 6-1 235 Harrisburg, Pa. (Temple University)
Logan Marchi QB 6-0 205 Bristol, Conn. (Temple)