Player stands out as Bucs hold first scrimmage

Joe Avento • Updated Aug 12, 2017 at 10:49 PM

Nasir Player walked off the field after the East Tennessee State University football team held its first preseason scrimmage on Saturday morning. His No. 45 jersey was torn, split directly between the two digits.

“They were holding me,” he said.

They weren’t holding him enough.

Player, a red-shirt sophomore defensive end, was a disruptive force during the scrimmage, which was moved into the Minidome because of wet conditions on the practice field.

“Nasir Player, he was all over the place,” ETSU starting quarterback Austin Herink said. “He’s got a tremendous amount of talent. He’s figuring it out and that’s scary for us. It’s tough to go against him, but I’m glad he’s on our team.”

Player was wearing a white jersey, signifying he was on defense. But you’d swear he was on offense as much time he spent in the backfield.

“Play after play, he continually jumped out at me,” ETSU coach Carl Torbush said. “The thing that excites me was I saw him run from one hash all the way to the out of bounds on the other side with tremendous effort. If we can get everybody on defense running to the football like that, I think we have a chance to be special.”

The 6-foot-6, 247-pound Player said he was just playing his role.

“On defense we like to get everybody to the ball,” he said. “That way there’s less of a chance of big plays, so I just want to go out there and be one of the dudes running to the ball.”

While Player was running to the ball, he did most of his damage in the backfield. Among his six tackles were two quarterback sacks and three more for loss.

“I feel a lot better than I did last year,” Player said. “Last year was my first year and I was injured a lot of the season. This year my body feels better than it did last year.”

On offense, Herink got things going early as the team scored touchdowns on the first two drives. The junior left-hander completed his first nine passes and finished 11 of 13 for 121 yards.

“I thought he looked like he was in mid-season form, and he needs to look like that for us to be successful,” Torbush said.

Dontavius Monroe and Matt Thompson each ran for a touchdown and Kobe Kelly hauled in a 34-yard touchdown pass from Dylan Wieger, who threw for 146 yards.

“Coach Torbush told us this would be one of the most important scrimmages that we have so it was important to get going early,” Kelly said. “It’s easier to do it the when we’re out there by ourselves, but when you get people watching — I know we only had a couple hundred in here today, but when there’s 7,500 people in that stadium — it’s going tone very important to make a good play for them.”

Thompson led the running backs with 50 yards on 12 carries, while freshman Quay Holmes had 35 yards on seven attempts.

Among the receivers, Hunter Wike led the way with five catches for 64 yards. Vincent Lowe added four receptions for 51 yards.

Defensively, River Boruff had eight tackles, including a sack. Austin Hicks, a freshman linebacker from Happy Valley High School, had seven tackles and a sack. The defense posted nine sacks as the offense wracked up 536 yards on 95 plays.

“We got to be out there and execute some plays in a live setting,” Herink said. “When people are getting hit and the linemen are getting blitzed, it’s a little bit different than in practice.”

The Bucs get Sunday off before returning to practice on Monday. The next scrimmage is scheduled for Thursday at 10 a.m. at the team’s practice field.

“I’m excited to watch film to see how individuals did and then hopefully create a depth chart probably on Tuesday,” Torbush said. “The guys we knew what they could do, for the most part, we let them play early and got them out. And then we let the guys we need to evaluate continue to play.”



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