- Associated Press - Thursday, August 20, 2015

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (AP) - The wait is almost over for East Tennessee State.

After shutting down its football program for financial reasons in 2003, ETSU announced in 2013 it was bringing back the sport. The new era of ETSU football finally begins Sept. 3 when the Buccaneers face Kennesaw State.

ETSU coach Carl Torbush coached North Carolina from 1998-2000 and has decades of experience as an assistant. He’s the latest veteran coach to help launch or relaunch a program, a trend that has included Bill Curry at Georgia State and Larry Coker at UT San Antonio among others.

The Buccaneers will play as an independent this season before playing a full Southern Conference schedule in 2016.


Some things to know about ETSU.

YOUTH IS SERVED: ETSU’s roster is made up almost entirely of freshmen and sophomores. That could lead to some growing pains these next two years as the Bucs play against teams featuring plenty of upperclassmen. It won’t be as much of a problem in the season opener because Kennesaw State is a first-year program that also is relying heavily on underclassmen.

SEASONED STAFF: While ETSU’s roster is full of newcomers, the coaching staff has plenty of experience. Torbush and offensive coordinator Mike O’Cain are both former Atlantic Coast Conference head coaches. O’Cain was North Carolina State’s head coach from 1993-2000 and has worked in the college ranks for 36 years. Defensive coordinator Billy Taylor has plenty of Football Championship Series experience from his years at Chattanooga and Tennessee Tech.

FULMER’S ROLE: The most notable name associated with ETSU’s program isn’t a player or coach. Well, at least, he isn’t a coach anymore. College Football Hall of Famer Phillip Fulmer, who coached Tennessee to the 1998 national title, was hired as a consultant in ETSU’s athletic department when the school brought back football.

TEMPORARY HOME: ETSU will play its home games this season at Kermit Tipton Stadium, an off-campus facility with a seating capacity of 6,212. The Buccaneers are planning to move into a new $26.6 million campus stadium in 2017. Former Atlanta Falcons coach and ex-ETSU player Mike Smith and country music star Kenny Chesney are co-chairs of the stadium fundraising committee.

PLENTY OF COMPETITION: With no returning starters at a first-year program such as ETSU, position battles will be taking place all over the field throughout training camp. Contenders to open the season as ETSU’s starting quarterback include Austin Herink, Nick Sexton and Dylan Wieger.

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