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Sanders' opening message as ETSU's coach: Keep it fun

Joe Avento • Updated Jan 3, 2018 at 6:16 PM

Football is a game, and new East Tennessee State head coach Randy Sanders wants everybody connected to his program to remember that.

“When we go recruit, I want to recruit guys that when we hit the field for practice, we look like a bunch of fourth-graders at recess,” Sanders said Wednesday. “I want the same kind of energy from our coaches. We’re going to work hard and we’re going to get after it, but I want it to be like letting the kids go out and play on the playground.

“That’s the kind of guys I want. That’s the kind of players I want. That’s the kind of coaches I want and that’s the kind of mentality I want in the program.”

Sanders, who has officially been on the job for a week, is in the process of putting together his coaching staff. He says announcements will come any day and there will likely be a few holdovers from Carl Torbush’s staff.

“The staff is really coming along and I feel good about who we’ll have,” Sanders said.

Billy Taylor, a former ETSU linebacker who served as the Bucs’ defensive coordinator under Torbush and Paul Hamilton, would be a good fit to stay based on his well-documented passion for the university and the success of his defense, which ranked third in the Southern Conference last year.

While Sanders wouldn’t tip his hand regarding any of his choices for the staff, he spoke highly about Taylor when asked. Don’t be surprised if Taylor’s name is among the announcements.

“Billy and I, we go way back,” Sanders said. “We played Pee Wee ball against each other in Morristown growing up. We’ve known each other a long time. Billy’s a good person and a good football coach. Nobody loves ETSU more than Billy Taylor.”

ETSU got four new players during the early signing period last month and Sanders said he expects to sign somewhere between 13 and 17 additional  recruits. After one more “dead week,” coaches can begin recruiting again right up until the traditional signing date, the first Wednesday in February.

“We’re open to all options right now,” Sanders said when asked about the possibility of adding some transfers. “There are a few positions we need some guys to come in and contribute right away, but I don’t want to build the program around transfers. I like having guys come in and become third-, fourth- and fifth-year players. They’ve been in the weight room, they’ve been in our program, they buy in, they become the glue to your program.”

When Sanders took the ETSU job, he was still under contract at Florida State, which was preparing to play Southern Miss in the Independence Bowl.

“The past couple of weeks have been really, really busy,” he said.

Once he was introduced as ETSU’s new coach, Sanders headed back to Florida State to take care of some unfinished business. He got back just in time for the quarterbacks meeting and the ensuing practice.

“We were trying to put a plan together, get a game plan that not only we can learn and do, but doing it with the players we had,” he said. “We had a few players out, either they weren’t going to be able to play or chose not to play. That took a lot of time, a lot of effort.

“It was good to finish off Florida State with a win.”

Now Sanders is at ETSU, wearing blue and gold for the first time ever, and his first message is a reminder that football is supposed to be fun. It’s supposed to be fun to watch, fun to coach and especially fun to play.

“Let’s go play and have fun,” he said. “Yeah it’s hard work and it’s serious business, but it’s a game. That’s why these young men are here, to get their education and play football. And let’s not forget it’s a game. Most of the great players, I’ve been around, they love to play.”

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