The number 12 is a historical number for the ETSU football team. Last year the team was brought back after being shut down for 12 long years without the sport of football.

This year’s big number is 13.

The upcoming season will be the first time the ETSU Buccaneers have played a full Southern Conference schedule in 13 years. Last year the team was classified a FCS Independent.

The team had a little taste of the SoCon when they went up against the Mercer Bears last season where they were defeated 52-0. The Bucs ending last season 2-9, agree that the season as whole was a learning experience and they are ready to take on the field and play against SoCon rivals.

“We had a year of experience and that helps,” said Redshirt sophomore linebacker Austin Gatewood (Ooltewah, Tenn.). “We’ve all matured. Last year we started a lot of freshmen who had never played college football before and this year coming up all of our starters will have experience in college football.”

This year the team will be facing teams like The Citadel, Chattanooga, Wofford, Furman and Western Carolina — teams that they haven’t played against since the 2003 season.

Two teams out of the SoCon (No. 7 Chattanooga and No. 15 The Citadel) are currently ranked in the Top 25 Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) teams, which are Division I-AA, according to

“We’re getting ready to step it up a notch,” said Head Coach Carl Torbush. “There is no doubt that what we’re getting ready to play week in and week out [not taking anything away from what we played last year, because we played a very competitive schedule with a very young football team] is a big boy schedule.”

The Bucs had a shorter summer break compared to most students on campus, as they arrived back to ETSU on Aug. 4 to start their fall camp on the 5th. Camp consisted of 24 practices, including three scrimmages before their season opener against Kennesaw State on Sept. 3.

Their first SoCon match-up of the season will be on Sept. 17 when they face Western Carolina at Bristol Motor Speedway for the “Bucs at Bristol.”

Both coaches and players are ready to hit the field and give it their all in their first season back playing a SoCon schedule.

“We’re bigger, stronger and faster,” Torbush said.