After winning a National Championship ring as co-offensive coordinator at Florida State in 2013, former Tennessee Vol Randy Sanders is coming home.....sort of. Sanders was hired a couple of days ago as the new head football coach at East Tennessee State University. Sanders is finally returning to his home state and just a few miles from his hometown of Morristown, Tn. Sanders played quarterback for the Volunteers in 1984 and spent another 18 seasons as an assistant coach. In fact, Sanders also has a 1998 National Championship ring when he was the offensive coordinator for the Vols under Phillip Fulmer.
As he was introduced at a Sunday news conference, Sanders said he was excited about his new job regardless of where it is.
"It's very nice but I can tell you if this job were 1,000 miles from where I grew up, I' d still want to be here. I have that kind of excitement about it, that kind of passion."
There is no questioning Randy Sanders' commitment nor his knowledge. Before he arrived at Florida State, he also served as offensive coordinator at Kentucky. The 52-year-old Sanders has coached the likes of Jameis Winston, Andre Woodson, Randall Cobb and Tee Martin among others. He has built a reputation as a great teacher and developer of quarterbacks and, since he was almost a local boy, he was a natural choice for the Buccaneers.
East Tennessee went without football for 12 years after dropping the sport due to financial reasons, but ETSU resurrected the sport in 2015 under the guidance of none other than special consultant Phillip Fulmer. The Bucs hired veteran coach Carl Torbush who recently announced his retirement. Now the job belongs to Randy Sanders and I wouldn't be at all surprised if Coach Fulmer didn't put in a word for Randy even though he has a full plate in his new job as Tennessee's athletic director.
Even though Coach Sanders is excited about being a head coach for the first time, this will be a real challenge. In three seasons under Torbush, the Bucs were 11-22. Not exactly an FCS juggernaut at all. After recruiting four and five star recruits at Florida State, he must now search for the two and three star players, some of which fall through the cracks. Recruiting is not an exact science; never has been and never will be. But he can win at ETSU. The long-time basketball power has a beautiful campus and a lot of plusses, but it has no football tradition.
Austin Peay didn't have a football tradition either, in fact the Governors had a three-year losing streak as Coach Will Healy entered his second season as head coach. But we all know the rest of that story. The Govs went from 0-11 in Healy's first year to a 7-4 mark in 2017. Peay finished second only to Jacksonville State in the OVC this season and barely missed the FCS playoffs. Healy won the Eddie Robinson Award as the FCS Coach of the Year. That's a tough act to follow but if Randy Sanders uses Austin Peay as an example of how to build a program, the Bucs could have a super season in a few years.