The Bucs football team is preparing for their first fall season under new head coach Randy Sanders, former offensive coordinator for the Florida State Seminoles. ETSU will get an early-season test in the season’s second game, with a Sept. 8 trip to Knoxville to battle UT.

In spring practice in late March, Sanders made a remorseful mistake involving an incident of striking a player during practice, which he said he feels he could have handled better. He was suspended while the incident was investigated, and ultimately docked one week’s pay. He and the team are ready to put the incident behind them.

“Last week, I responded to a situation with poor judgment toward the end of practice,” Sanders said in an April 6 statement released by the university upon Sanders’ reinstatement. “As I said back in December, I am truly grateful to be your coach and I am thankful for the opportunity given to me by our President Dr. Brian Noland and Athletic Director Scott Carter. I look forward to returning to the sideline.”

Since then, the team has moved forward in their quest under Sanders to win the Southern Conference title and make a playoff game.

What Sanders brings to the Bucs is a championship pedigree, winning a national championship as part of the University of Tennessee coaching staff,  Sanders also coached Heisman winner Jameis Winston, who went on to be the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft.

The past few years the Bucs have struggled to move the ball consistently enough to either hang with teams offensively or put away teams to give their defense a break.

One area the Bucs must improve on going into next season is running the ball effectively to manage the amount of time the defense has to be on the field.

With Sanders, the direction the Bucs seem to be taking is speeding the offense up, looking to catch opposing defenses off guard and get matchups to succeed. Last season, the Bucs offense  scored 19 points per game, while allowing nearly 30 points per game.

The Bucs defense had its moments last season. There were games where their pressure on the defensive line kept them in it, giving the offense a chance to make plays in short field situations.

It will be interesting to see how much the Bucs improve week to week as their first game will be against Mars Hill come the fall. After the Mars Hill contest (date TBA), the Bucs make the trip to Neyland Stadium to take on UT Sept. 8.