JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Sept. 9, 2019) – With the first home contest in the books, the Bucs turn their sights to the conference opener on Saturday, Sept. 14 at 7:30 p.m. ETSU football met the media on Monday afternoon for the third media luncheon of the year where they discussed the Bucs’ home opener vs. Shorter as well as the upcoming Southern Conference opener against VMI on Saturday at William B. Greene, Jr. Stadium.
Head coach Randy Sanders, senior defensive back Jeremy Lewis (Lawrenceville, Ga.) and redshirt-junior offensive lineman Cameron Parker (Asheville, N.C.) met with the media on Monday afternoon at Greene Stadium.
Below are comments from Coach Sanders, Lewis and Parker:
Head Coach Randy Sanders
Sanders on narrowing the focus of the team:
“I try to remind them that every game they need to play the next play. The difference between winning and losing, and even in the “lopsided” scores, is just two or three plays. There's not that much difference in coming out on top on the scoreboard or behind, because you have to play each play and win each play. Certainly, last year that was the case in this [VMI] game. The kicking game was huge for us last year and we need it to be big for us again this year. So, it's going to be a total team effort and VMI is a much better football team than they were last year at this time. So, our challenge is we have to be a much better football team than we were last year at this time.”
On VMI’s passing game:
“They do a good job in the passing game. I think the quarterback is a really good player. They have some receivers that do a great job catching the ball. They do a nice job running, and they throw it so much they're getting a lot of reps at it. They're getting pretty good, and their protection I think is much better than it was when we played them last year at this time. I think the quarterback is much better than he was last year at this time and the same thing with his receivers. So, our secondary is a veteran group and they've seen a lot of game action and a lot of good passers. This is going to be a good test for them. They need to show up. We've also got do a good job rushing the passer and effecting the quarterback. You don't always have to sack him, but we need to have an impact on him, whether it's moving him off the spot or make him throw a little quicker than he wants to.”
How excited is the secondary to play a pass-heavy team:
“I would hope they're excited about it. If you're a secondary guy, it's got to be more fun playing against a passing team than a running team. Just like if you're a quarterback, it's a whole lot more fun to throw it than it is hand it off. You like to win and you're going to do whatever you have to do to win. As a competitor and as a player, I would think it would be more fun for them.”
On creating turnovers in Saturday’s game:
“Hopefully we can create turnovers. That's one thing we need to do a better job of defensively is creating turnovers. I think our defense is playing hard. They're doing a good job, but part of their responsibility is to get the ball back. Offensively, we've turned the ball over twice. You say “one turnover a game, that's not too bad”, but one a game still gets you beat. We don't need to turn the ball over. We have to do a better job taking care of the football. We didn't have a real long discussion about penalties yesterday in our team meeting, but I think they understand how I feel about them right now. I don't expect anything like that again. We had 11 [penalties] this past game and 13 last year against VMI. In many ways the 13 penalties and turnovers on our part is what kept the game as it was. We had a chance to control that football game and we did not control the game last year because of penalties and turnovers.”
Defensive Back Jeremy Lewis
On the secondary having fun:
“Going against a team that passes primarily throughout the game is something that the secondary looks forward to. I know that the guys in the back end are definitely going to lock in and be looking forward to making opportunities when they come to us. Being in the SoCon, you don't really have that many teams that like to air it out. You have Samford, Chattanooga and VMI. So, when you get that chance, you want to be able to show them what we're made of. Wanting to be the best secondary in the conference.”
Last season’s showdown with VMI:
“Last year was last year. We're on a whole new year, whole new team. Yes there were factors that went into getting us outside our comfort zone, but that's what we practice for, the unknown, the unpredictable. So, I feel like we just wait and see how it turns out this year compared to last.”
On personal growth from the first VMI game to this Saturday:
“Well, I do remember my first play. I ended up giving up a touchdown. So, it's hard to forget being thrown in to the game like that. I mean, it came as a shock, being a freshman and having to play right off the jump like that. However, I feel like I've really gotten into a comfortable position in trusting my coach, and trusting my teammates to make plays and they boost me, I boost them. I feel like I've come a long way from that first play against VMI in my freshman year to now in my senior year.”
Offensive Lineman Cameron Parker
On blocking for different style of QBs:
“Trey's a great guy and I really enjoy him being in the backfield. However at the end of the day I don't really care who it is, we just have to trust Coach Sanders. Who he puts back there is who's going to lead the ship and be in control. If it's Cam [Lewis], if it's Trey [Mitchell], if it's one of the freshmen, we're going to protect to the best of our ability.”
Do you prefer run blocking or pass blocking:
“Running the ball. You have to be mean to run the ball. I feel like we're a mean group. We've got to come off low hat, good hands that explode off the ball. I like pass pro too, but I think running block is really a statement. Pass pro is kind of, you just move your feet and you're punching. But running block, you can go and you can dump an opposing player. You can just show him what you're really about and you can set the tone for the game.”
On creating holes for Holmes and Saylors on Saturday:
“We just did our job. We have a bunch of guys that have played a lot of football and we work hard. I'd consider ourselves one of the hardest working groups on a team. We're leaders on the field and I just feel we know what we're doing. We mesh. We mesh very well and we do it for them. We do it for their success and come off the ball hard. We just play with grit, like it's our last play.”
On the first conference game of the season:
“It's huge. I think VMI was our first conference game last year that set the tone for what we needed to improve on. I think this year it's going to be the same thing. These guys are going to come in here expecting to win. They're going to come in here ready to fight and expecting to win, so we have to be ready.”
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