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JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Aug. 29, 2022) – ETSU Football hosted an opening week press conference Monday, previewing the home opener set for Thursday, Sept. 1 at 7:30 p.m. against Mars Hill.
First year head coach George Quarles was joined by redshirt sophomore quarterback Tyler Riddell (Tampa, Fla.) and redshirt junior defensive back Mike Price (Stockbridge, Ga.).
Below are comments from Coach Quarles, Riddell and Price.
Head Coach George Quarles
How does it feel to be this close to the opener?
“I think I'm ready and I know our players are ready. It seems like we've been practicing for forever. Going through spring and summer camp seems to get longer and longer each year. But I think our guys are ready to play somebody else. We’ve had a great camp and we've stayed relatively healthy. We’re excited about the opportunity to play a good Mars Hill team…I’d be surprised if we didn’t come out and compete at a high level. We’re not going to play perfect, but I think we will play with great energy and great enthusiasm. Hopefully, we can make some plays and figure out a way to come out on top.”
At what point did it hit you that you’re really here and running the whole show?
“I was walking over here (to the stadium) and climbing up the stairs and just thinking ‘this is for real’ and this is really happening. I’m just extremely proud and humbled to have this opportunity. Thankfully for all the ETSU fans, I don't get to play or don't have to play. We've got good players. It's our job (as a coaching staff) to get them out there comfortable and in the best positions to be successful.”
The team last year was successful, but relatively young. Any concerns about the youth again this year?
“We do have a lot of youth as far as redshirt freshmen and redshirt sophomores but a lot of them have played quite a bit. They're young, but they're experienced. And that's a good thing. I think when you get really concerned is when they haven't played much football, but most of these guys have played a fair amount of football. You look at a guy like Jacob Saylors (Jasper, Tenn.) – he hasn't really been a starter, but he's played a whole lot of football, and you expect him to come out and play well. Same thing with some guys from defense like Stephen Scott (Greensboro, N.C.) who's played a lot of big-time meaningful snaps, but this is really his first chance to be a be a starter. I think that part of it I feel pretty good about. It looks like we're really young, but I'm looking at that as a positive. Some of those guys will hopefully be arounf for awhile.”
What do you know about Mars Hill?
“I think in some ways, they're similar to us. I've watched probably a little bit more of their defense than I have their offense. They make it hard to run the football. Defensively, they are a really talented team. They were like +9 last year in turnover ratio so they create turnovers. They have two linebackers that are really good inside. I think they combined for 180 tackles last year and several tackles for loss. I think it starts with them. They they load the box defensively.
“Offensively, their quarterback is back. They're a little bit more of a 12 personnel and play with two tight ends, two receivers – that kind of style. A really solid team, much like us, and they had a great year last year – right there on the edge of making the playoffs…they're coming over here with confidence. They played here a few years ago in a close game. The score wasn't quite as indicative as how close the game was, so I don't think they're going to come in here intimidated by us. We've got to prepare and play well whoever we show up against.”
What kind of crowd are you expecting for your first game in Greene Stadium?
“I’m expecting great energy from the stands. The fans, the students, our players. I’m just excited about being here on the home side – not on the visitor’s side. I’m excited to watch our guys compete. I know there’s going to be nerves all over the place, whether it’s me or the plyers, but if you don’t have some nerves, then there’s probably something wrong…I can’t wait to feel the atmosphere and the electricity.”
Defensive Back – Mike Price
Are you ready to go against somebody else instead of your own team?
“Yes, it’s exciting to finally play someone else for the first time with the first game of the season. I know everybody’s ready to play and ready to hit somebody else and not just our teammates.”
Does playing a team like Vanderbilt and winning last year prepare you for a game like this against a team from a lower level?
“We like to think of every week and the one game that week we focus on. We go into every game like it’s our own game. I think we’ll go out here (against Mars Hill) the same way we did against Vanderbilt and just show everybody what we can do.”
What are you expecting the stadium atmosphere to be like after last year’s sellout crowds?
“I think it’ll probably be the same as last year. Everybody cares about how the Bucs are going to be this year and if we will be the Bucs from last year. I think it’s going to be a good crowd on Thursday and we need that energy on the sidelines.”
Quarterback – Tyler Riddell
Talk about the approach on offense with a new staff and some changes we might see.
“Like coach said, we‘re definitely going to spread it around a little more, but at the end of the day, we have Jacob Saylors and we still have a good o-line. So you can expect us to run the ball. But if (the defense) starts to get nosy, we will have a built-in answer.
Does being the projected starter help you settle down as opposed to competing each year?
“You could say that, but with how college football is nowadays and with the portal, I’m just expecting to compete every year. That’s kind of what you should want as a player. Although, it does feels good to know that you’re the guy and don’t have to worry about that. I can focus on going forward, but I don’t mind competing.
What can we expect from you this year as ‘the guy’ compared to last year?
“My only goal is to win. I don’t care how we do it. Obviously, I want to play well, but if we have to run the ball, or if I have to run the ball, or throw it, that’s what we’re going to do. When I leave here, I just want to be known as a winner.”
For more information on Buccaneer football, visit ETSUBucs.com and click on the football page.