“There’s no question there was a lot of improvement,” Sanders said Saturday after putting his team through a thorough afternoon of work at Greene Stadium. “When I went back and watched the tape last Saturday, it wasn’t that far away. We’re still not there yet, don’t get me wrong. But it’s kind of like the weather. The weather’s dramatically better today. We’re dramatically better today.”
Sanders’ offense made a major move in the right direction. After the defense dominated the rainy first scrimmage a week earlier, the offense scored eight touchdowns this time around.
Wide receiver Keith Coffee, who missed last season with a knee injury, had two touchdown catches among his seven receptions. Quay Holmes, who will be a redshirt freshman in the fall, looked like the real deal at running back, averaging 6.8 yards per carry.
The two quarterbacks expected to battle for the starting position — incumbent Austin Herink and transfer Logan Marchi — both moved the ball well and produced some touchdowns.
“We’re not a finished product by any means,” Sanders said. “We still have a long way to go. I wish we had 15 more days to practice instead of three. But you’re starting to see guys, the lights are coming on. It’s all starting to make sense. It was nice to see us get one week better.”
Herink, the team’s starter for the past three years, is being pressured by Marchi, who transferred to ETSU after starting seven games at Temple last season before being injured.
Herink completed 12 of 19 passes for 144 yards and three touchdowns, including a 59-yard score to Andrew Heyward.
Marchi was 20-of-32 passing for 151 yards and two touchdowns. He was intercepted by Keanu James.
“Logan is providing great competition,” Herink said. “He’s a great player, obviously. He played at Temple. I look at this as a great opportunity. Without challenge, how can you get better? I go in every day and work like I’m just going to be the best player I can be.”
Competition has been the key word at every position this spring, and no spot seems more competitive than quarterback.
“It’s a healthy competition,” Marchi said. “Me and Austin are really enjoying going out and competing. It makes each of us better.”
Holmes had a 22-yard scamper among his nine carries for 61 yards. He also scored on a 1-yard run.
“I try to make the most of every opportunity,” Holmes said. “I just want to get positive yards. The line’s blocking really good. They’re really buying into the offense.”
Holmes sat out the fall as a redshirt and watched as the Bucs struggled to ever mount a consistent running attack.
“It was tough,” he said. “Of course I wanted to be out there, but you know after my redshirt year, I got my body stronger. I’m definitely glad coming in and playing at 215 instead of playing at 204.”
Sanders definitely noticed Holmes’ performance.
“He has good vision,” Sanders said. “He’s a north-south runner and he brings some size and physicality to the position.You can see how much progress he’s made in understanding he’s 220 pounds, not 180, and have to make guys miss.”
DEFENSE HAS ITS MOMENTS
The defense forced three fumbles in addition to the interception.
Trejuan Purty, a freshman defensive lineman from Maryville, returned one of the fumbles more than 20 yards on the defense’s biggest play of the day.
“We have to eliminate those things, but at the same time, as a head coach, you want to see those things from the defense,” Sanders said. “We had some guys step up and make plays and I expect to see more guys make plays.”
BY THE NUMBERS
Other players with touchdowns were Haddon Hill, Anthony Spagnoletti, Trey Mitchell and Treyson Mills.
Coffee’s seven catches netted 50 yards. Braxton Richburg hauled in five passes for 32 yards, and Quan Harrison had four catches for 35 yards.
Nineteen players caught passes.
Kicker JJ Jerman, who was injured in the previous scrimmage, was back in action. He connected on field goals of 45 and 24 yards and missed from 53. … Olajuwon Pinkleton, a 6-foot-7, 236-pounder, has moved to tight end. The former defensive end caught a pass on Saturday. … Nasir Player, ETSU’s all-conference defensive end, sat out again after missing the first scrimmage with a minor injury. … The team’s spring game is set for Thursday at 7 p.m. at Greene Stadium.