The ETSU Buccaneers come to Nashville this weekend and mercifully end this elongated break from the glory of fall football. Vanderbilt will face it’s first non-conference opponent since 2019, and what it hopes will end a losing streak of ten games. Ironically, the last time the Dores won a game was November 23, 2019.... against the ETSU Buccaneers. I don’t really know if that means anything, but the Commodores thrashed that team 38-0, so here’s hoping for a repeat to start the Clark Lea era off right.
ETSU plays in the Southern Conference, and as such they played their season during the spring last year. They went 4-2 last year in their abbreviated season, averaging 21 ppg, with 896 total yards of rushing and 1011 yards passing. It’s hard to tell what exactly that means for this team, because of its shortened time frame, though it’s enough to be able to tell who the players that we should be looking out for are.
During their spring season, the Bucs played two quarterbacks: Brock Landis and Tyler Riddell. Based on their second scrimmage last week, it appears that they will let Riddell take the majority of the snaps this year. Riddell is a Redshirt Freshman from Tampa, who completed 50 of 82 passes last year for 575 yards and three touchdowns. In their spring scrimmage, according to the ETSU website (linked above), he threw for 200 yards and 4 TDs. Landis is still on the roster and there are several freshmen, but it appears like Riddell has locked this job up for now.
This past spring, Quay Holmes was their primary workhorse, rushing for 660 yards on 122 carries, and averaging 106.7 a game. In the scrimmage, you saw freshman running back Bryson Irby get involved, as well as Trey Foster, and junior tailback Jacob Saylors. But in this matchup you will almost certainly see doses of Holmes early and often. The redshirt junior tailback from Powder Springs, Georgia is on the CFPA National Performer of the Year watchlist, and is the third leading rusher in program history. ETSU will no doubt rely on him to take pressure off of Riddell.
The spring’s leading wide receiver for the Bucs return in Will Huzzie, who had 27 catches for 334 yards and 3 touchdowns. He featured as a predominant target in the spring game. Other notable targets will be Isaiah Wilson and Zailes Alexander.
Those who cover the ETSU offensive line note that their entire crew is returning from the spring season, a major help for relatively inexperienced quarterback and certainly a welcome fact for Holmes. The starters are LT Tre’mond Shorts, who won a piece of the Southern Conference’s top blocking aware, LG Blake Austin, C Joe Schreiber, RG Tavon Matthews, and RT Fred Norman, Jr. Shorts, as pointed out, stands out amongst the rest, though the entire unit has had time to gel and should be good. During the spring they only allowed 11 sacks for 54 yards lost and opened up holes to get 154 rushing yards per game out of their team. This is a definite bright spot for their crew, though they will certainly be facing a jump up in terms of SEC talent.
This is a nice opener for Clark Lea to see what he’s got prior at the outset prior to more difficult matches against Colorado State and Stanford. ETSU has an experienced FCS unit, so there will certainly be value in seeing how far the team has come after the first training camp. Like any of these matchups , the talent SHOULD eventually win out over the course of the game, though I think this Buccaneers team is the type to steal one from you if you show up flat.