Former N.C. State running back and NFL veteran Gary Downs was announced as the Buccaneers’ running backs coach on March, 4, 2015. Downs is now entering his sixth season with the Blue and Gold, including his third season as the recruiting coordinator.
In his five years as the running backs coach, Downs has overseen tremendous success in the ground game. In 2019 alone, the Bucs rushed for 2,062 yards which marked the ninth most yards in a single season in program history and the first time since 1999 that the Bucs eclipsed 2,000 rushing yards. The Bucs rushed for 4.85 yards per attempt, the most in a single season in school history. The 2019 Bucs also posted the highest-ranking rush offense under Downs, ranking 39th in FCS with 171.8 yards per game.
The 2018 and 2019 teams were led on the ground by Quay Holmes and Jacob Saylors. Holmes set a program record for rushing yards in a single game under Downs’ tenure, rushing for 255 yards in a 38-33 win over Mercer. Holmes currently ranks ninth in program history for career rushing yards with 2,071 in just two seasons of action. Under Downs’ watch, Holmes has captured the 4th and 8th most rushing yards in a single season in ETSU history, including 1,143 yards in 2019 which ranks fourth. Saylors turned in the third-most yards per carry in a single season in 2018 with 7.2 per attempt.
The 2015-17 seasons were led by Jajuan Stinson and Falon Lee. Stinson totaled a team-high 1,451 rushing yards (4.5 yards per carry) and 13 touchdowns during the three-year stretch. Stinson ranked ninth in the SoCon in rushing in 2016, while he registered five 100-yard rushing games between 2015 and 2016. Meanwhile, Lee posted 851 rushing yards with two touchdowns in his three seasons with the Blue and Gold.
Downs has seen 11 running backs account for 36 total touchdowns in the previous five seasons, including 20 touchdowns from Holmes.
As a unit, the Bucs have eclipsed 200 yards rushing in 14 games since Downs took over as the running backs coach. ETSU is 10-4 in those games. In the 38-33 win over Mercer on Nov. 16, 2019, the Bucs ran free for 410 yards, the most yards rushing since the return of football.
Downs has coached a total of six all-conference honorees and has coached Holmes to being named the SoCon Freshman of the Year. Downs has also coached three All-American candidates.
Downs has recruited a total of 18 all-conference winners and nine All-American candidates in his two years as the recruiting coordinator.
In his first season as the recruiting coordinator, Downs aided the Bucs in welcoming home 28 recruits. Downs has added seven more recruits in the 2020 early signing period and aims to add more to the repertoire on National Signing Day on Feb. 5, 2020.
Prior to his arrival in Johnson City, Downs served as the head coach at Riverside Military Academy in Gainesville, Ga. for three seasons. Before his stint as a head coach, Downs served as the offensive coordinator and head coach of track & field at Mount Pisgah Christian School from 2007-11.
Downs began his high school coaching career with Riverside in 2003, serving as running backs coach. Downs went on to serve as offensive coordinator for Riverside from 2004-06 -- a period during which the Eagles won the 2005 Georgia Independent Schools Association state championship and played in the GISA semifinals in '04 and '06.
Downs played for former ETSU offensive coordinator Mike O’Cain at N.C. State during the early 1990s, earning Academic All-ACC honors and was an All-ACC selection, finishing third all-time in rushing touchdowns and 10th in rushing yardage for the Wolfpack.
Following his college career, Downs was drafted in the third round of the 1994 NFL draft by the New York Giants. Downs was a special teams leader for the Atlanta Falcons during its 1998 NFC Championship season, and he played seven seasons with three different NFL teams before retiring in 2001.
Along with his prep coaching experience, Downs also had a brief stint as an Atlanta Falcons’ coaching intern and one season as running back coach with the Amsterdam Admirals of NFL Europe.
Coach Downs and his wife Tanya have a daughter Kameron, and sons Joshua and Caleb.