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JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Nov. 7, 2022) – For the first time in two weeks, ETSU football hosted its weekly press conference for local media following its bye week. The Bucs welcome rival Western Carolina for its home finale on Saturday at 1 p.m. inside William B. Greene, Jr. Stadium for the Blue Ridge Border Battle.
ETSU head coach George Quarles was joined by a pair of redshirt sophomores in tight end Noah West (Louisa, Ky.) and defensive lineman Max Evans (Middletown, Ohio) during today’s press conference.
Below are comments from Coach Quarles, West and Evans.
Head Coach George Quarles
How was the bye week and how did it affect the team?
“It was good. Just talking to Coach Lawson this morning, he felt the guys we’re much fresher — reenergized. We had a team meeting last night and we just think that the time away did us some good. Obviously, you’d love to have an open date much earlier. We practiced Tuesday and Wednesday last week and then the guys were able to get away. We will probably have a heavier week of practice this week than we normally would. We will do more today and get back to a normal week tomorrow.
Have you had time to dwell on the flip in the offense and defense’s performances this season?
“At the first of the year, clearly the offense was struggling and the defense kept us in games. Now it has flipped these past few weeks. We’ve been beaten up on defense, especially as of late. We lost Stephen Scott and he’s a big part of what we’re doing. We had to move Chandler (Martin) to his spot and I think he’s more comfortable at his natural position. We’ve struggled in the secondary as of late and haven’t defended the pass game really well. We also haven’t been able to pressure the quarterback as much. Offensively, we’ve been a little bit better, but we’re still struggling in some situations. We have to be better on third down. We have improved in the red zone and made more plays as of late.
Talk about Jacob Saylors with this potentially being the last time he plays in front of the home crowd.
“Although I’ve only been around him for just one season, he’s a special player, a great teammate and he works hard. He cares more about helping his team win and he will be missed. He’s just a unique guy. In recruiting, you’re always trying to find guys that are better. It’s going to be hard to find anyone that’s better than Jacob Saylors. He doesn’t really care about the stats and touchdowns; he just wants to help his team win. He helps us in so many ways – he’s great in the run game, he can catch and run, he can return kicks and he can cover kicks.
What’s the intangible impact of Jacob Saylors on your program?
“I think he would make a great coach someday. Sometimes your better players don’t make good coaches, because they tend to get frustrated about players not knowing what to do. I think Jacob is one of those guys that I think would be a good coach, because he’s always trying to help somebody. He’s over there helping and doing what he can to make everyone better – he’s just a winner. He’s one of those guys that you hope gets a chance to play at the next level. If you tell Jacob to do something, he does it. He just does his job and is pretty low maintenance. He’s a great team player and just wants to win.”
What’s the mental aspect of the team coming off the bye?
“There’s nobody on our team and staff that is happy with how this season has gone. This is the hand we’ve been dealt. Our guys have done what they are supposed to do. I’ve heard other coaches talk about their players missing meetings; our guys haven’t done that. All we can do is go 1-0 this week and we’re clearly going up against a good team. We have to finish strong and go out on a high note. We talked with the team last night about sending these seniors out with a win – sending them out the proper way.”
It always seems to be a high-scoring battle with Western Carolina…are you expecting that Saturday?
“Every game this year has been pretty close. I wouldn’t expect this game to be any different. Most of their games have been high scoring. I’m sure it will be a similar type of game as it is with every other game in this league. It just seems to be how it is in this league.
Does Western Carolina get frustrated when they have to drive the field? Do sense that from them?
“I think a lot of those tempo teams, if you make them have to go 10 plays instead of two or three, it kind of bothers them sometimes. They take a lot of shots. They run the ball well. They’re a unique and an explosive team. They have more rushing attempts than we do, so they aren’t afraid to run the ball, but they also take a lot of shots down field.”
Tight End – Noah West
Does the team enjoy playing for rivalry trophies?
“It’s a great accomplishment to have after the game. It puts a little bit something more on the game. Not that a lot of guys need something more than a win, but it is a nice accolade.”
How did it feel to finally get a bye week?
“The bye week was needed. It came at a late date in the season, and mentally and physically we were exhausted. We played for nine straight weeks and then you add fall camp on top of that so this bye week was needed, it was necessary. Guys are coming back well-rested and you can tell the mental aspect from catching up on some rest was huge. Guys came back more recharged. We were in the weight room this morning and everyone was a little sharper and a bit more energetic. It’s not that we were dragging, but there not as much dragging going on. It was big and it was needed.
Talk about playing with Jacob Saylors and his impact on the offense.
“Jacob is an awesome teammate and an awesome football player as we’ve seen every Saturday. He’s a good friend and a fantastic teammate. He does everything right. You can put him anywhere on the field and he makes plays. He changes the game. He’s always helping guys. He’s never a ‘me’ guy… he a ‘we’ guy. He’s the first one to help you out and he’s never an issue.
Defensive Lineman — Max Evans
What’s the mood of the defense based on how the season has progressed?
“I couldn’t tell you what the biggest difference is, but earlier in the season, when the defense was having some success and the offense was struggling, it’s easy for guys to point fingers and get upset about things. Coach Taylor was really, really good about being like ‘Hey, we’re going to have our day where the offense is going to have us’ so let’s not point fingers. Sure enough, we’ve had our day and a couple of days now. I couldn’t really tell you the difference from the first half to the second half of the season with our defense. I’m not really sure what’s not clicking because the first couple of games we started off firing pretty well on defense. All I can say is we are working on it and we’re trying really hard to come back and bet better.”
Talk about the challenges Western Carolina poses on offense?
“They pose a big challenge. I think we’re going to rise to the challenge because our guys know how good their offense is. We’ve played a lot of good offense’s this season and we’ve done well against most of them. I think having this bye week has given us some time to breathe, get healthy and really reset as a defense and remind ourselves that we are still a good defense. We have had some stumbles along the way but we are still a good defense. This will be another great challenge and our guys are really excited to take it on.
How has it been practicing against Jacob Saylors over the years?
“It’ll challenge you for sure, because you think you have a good idea on what he’s going to do and he still ends up making a big play. He makes you better. He’s a competitor. To piggyback off of Noah, he’s not only a good ballplayer, but he’s a great leader for this team. He’s a great friend.”
For more information on Buccaneer football, visit ETSUBucs.com and click on the football page.