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Sanders likes Bucs' enthusiasm at first practice

Joe Avento • Aug 4, 2018 at 2:09 AM

JOHNSON CITY — The first day of practice is in the books for the East Tennessee State football team and first-year head coach Randy Sanders said nothing he saw on the field surprised him.

“I loved the energy our guys had,” Sanders said after the 2½-hour workout at Greene Stadium. “I loved the enthusiasm. I loved the way they bounced around, but it looked like a first day. There were a lot of mistakes out there.”

Sanders, who came to ETSU from Florida State, is installing his new offense. He said he got only about half of what he wanted to get done in the spring and with less than a month before the season opener, there’s a lot of work to be done.

“We want to get it in, but we also want to get good at it,” he said. “It’s a whole lot different knowing how to do something and knowing how to do it well.”

All five quarterbacks on the roster got plenty of action. Austin Herink and Temple transfer Logan Marchi will be pressed by youngsters Tyrique Sandusky, Trey Mitchell and Cameron Lewis. Sandusky is a redshirt freshman, and Mitchell and Lewis are true freshmen.

“After being in shorts all summer, it’s good to be out here in helmets throwing with he guys,” said Herink, who has started the past three years and is trying to keep his job. “We did a lot of good things, but there’s a long way to go still installing a lot of plays, getting the offense down pat. We’re going to be working hard putting in the time.

“Once we get this thing fully rolling, it’s going to be a really dynamic offense, something we haven’t seen.”

Sanders said the defense “got too many hands on the ball,” which was bad for the offense but good for the defense. He said one of his biggest adjustments to being a head coach as opposed to an offensive coordinator is to be pleased when the defense stops his offense. They’re all his players now.

The mistakes don’t bother Sanders at this point, not as long as they don’t continue into the season.

“They’re going to make first-day mistakes,” he said. “I know that. I’ve been doing this long enough that we expect those things. But we can coach technique. We can coach fundamentals. We can teach them the offense, teach them schemes.”

With 21 seniors on the roster, Sanders inherited the most experienced team to suit up for ETSU since the program was reinstated.

“It’s nice to have guys who aren’t teenagers anymore,” he said. “I love teenagers, don’t get me wrong. I used to have two. I used to be one. But it seems like their brain’s a little more fully formed when they turn 20.”


Dylan Wieger, the former Sullivan South star, has a new role on the team this year. He is a student-coach.

Wieger began his college career as a quarterback and was moved to tight end in the spring.

He was on the sideline on Friday helping signal the plays in to the quarterbacks.


Senior linebacker Alonzo Francois was back at practice, which was a good sight for everybody to see.

Francois was injured during the team’s spring game and carted off the field on a stretcher. He has since received a clean bill of health and will be playing again this season.

“What a great young man he is,” Sanders said. “There was a lot of observations that they thought he was OK that day, but it was very scary when it first happened. Finally getting confirmation he was OK was great.”

When Francois went back for a final checkup, he told the doctors his knee was bothering him, too.

“He had an old injury that they cleaned up,” Sanders said. “He had a little cartilage they pulled out.”


Olajuwon Pinkleton, the tallest player on the team, is back on the defensive line after experimenting at tight end in the spring.

“We wanted to see what he could do, but a few things changed on the defensive line,” Sanders said. “I was really proud of his attitude because he was excited about playing tight end. He embraced it. When we told him we might need him back on the defensive line, he said, ‘Whatever’s best for the team.’ I’m excited about his attitude.”

Pinkleton is 6-foot-7, 238 pounds.


The team got a transfer tight end in from Georgia State. Ari Werts, a 6-4, 245-pound senior, caught 43 passes over the last two seasons.

After a sophomore year during which he caught 21 passes and three touchdowns, Werts was placed on the watch list for the John Mackey Award before last season. He caught 22 passes as a junior.


Karon Delince is one of the fastest players in the Southern Conference and he sure has been tough to keep up with on the roster.

During preseason practice during his freshman season, Delince wore No. 4. Then when the season began, he was in No. 38. He was wearing No. 9 on Friday to start his sophomore year.

Delince was the SoCon’s freshman of the year in track and was the conference’s champion in the 200 meters.

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