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Sanders sees 'a lot of energy' in Bucs' first practice

Joe Avento • Aug 2, 2019 at 9:26 PM

JOHNSON CITY — Moments before East Tennessee State’s football team was scheduled to start preseason practice, the skies opened up.

The team didn’t miss a beat, however, moving practice into the MiniDome. The much-maligned building was like an old friend Friday as one of those scattered thunderstorms we hear about scattered all over Greene Stadium.

“This is probably the best indoor facility I’ve ever had the first practice in,” coach Randy Sanders said Friday after his Bucs’ initial official workout of the preseason. “I’ve been in some nice ones, but never one that had this many seats in it. What a blessing it is to have a place like this to come to when we do have lightning or when we do have bad weather.”

So as it stormed outside, the Bucs didn’t even miss a play.

They’re coming off an 8-4 season, a share of the Southern Conference championship and an appearance in the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs.

“I saw a lot of energy,” Sanders said. “I saw a lot of guys wanting to do well. And I told them it’s easy to have energy and it’s easy to want to do well on the first day. We’ll find out a lot about our football team as we go forward. There were a lot of mistakes, a lot of things we’ve got to correct.”

The Bucs have some holes to fill if they’re going to duplicate last season’s surprising run. They have six quarterbacks on the roster and none of them has ever taken a snap for ETSU. Figuring out that position will be key.

“I like what I saw out of the guys,” Sanders said. “I thought Trey (Mitchell) and Cam (Lewis) had a nice carryover from what they did in the spring. I feel like the guys are definitely better players now than they were when they started spring practice. A couple of transfers, a couple of freshmen ... you can see some talent and ability, but they looked like it was their first day.”

The star of Friday’s practice was Karon Delince. The Southern Conference sprint champion beginning his junior year as a cornerback on the football team intercepted three passes, including two on consecutive plays.

“It feels great to get back in action,” Delince said. “All I’ve been dreaming about the last few weeks is just football.”

What was the dream like?

“When I was in my room, I was like, ‘I’m getting five picks today, so when I got three, I was like wow, I can’t believe I actually got three,’ ” he said.

At this time of year, any time one side of the ball does something well, it’s at the expense of the other. With Sanders being an offensive coach, he’d likely rather not see Delince running down the field with interceptions in his hands.

“It was good to see the defense get their hands on the ball, but obviously from an offensive standpoint, the defense had their hands on the ball way too much,” Sanders said.

The Bucs will work out Saturday, Sunday and Monday before donning pads Tuesday for the first time. That’s when Sanders will learn a whole lot more about his players. They worked out in shorts and helmets on Friday.

“I think some of them like being in shorts because they can’t hit,” Sanders said. “Some of them like to talk a good game. That’s the beauty of being in pads. You find out who backs up what they have to say and who doesn’t. Most of the really good players I’ve been around don’t have to talk about it.”

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