The first football preseason Top 25 poll has been released and the Buccaneers find themselves sitting in a two-way tie for 23rd on the HERO Sports’ Preseason Top 25. The Bucs are tied with Sacramento State for the 23rd slot and are one of three Southern Conference schools ranked inside the poll.
ETSU is coming off a 4-2 season in the spring of 2021, narrowly missing the FCS playoffs after dropping the season finale at Mercer on April 10. The Bucs showcased their talents throughout the year, beginning with a key season-opening win over Samford by the final of 24-17. ETSU concluded the season ranked No. 22 in the STATS Perform FCS Top 25 Poll and picked up a huge win over No. 10 VMI in Lexington, Va. by the final score of 24-20.
The Bucs boasted a huge offensive performance from redshirt-junior running back Quay Holmes (Powder Springs, Ga.) who finished the season with 122 carries for 640 yards and eight touchdowns. Holmes was named an FCS Walter Payton Award Finalist as he racked up 1,094 all-purpose yards, ranking second in the nation in all-purpose yards per game with 182.3. ETSU was able to catch a glimpse of what Brock Landis (Hoschton, Ga.) and Tyler Riddell (Tampa, Fla.) were capable of. Riddell began the season for the Bucs, starting the first three games and tossing for 575 yards and three scores. Landis played the final three games, finishing 46-92 for 436 yards and two touchdowns. Will Huzzie (Duluth, Ga.) and Juliun Lane-Price (Mosheim, Tenn.) emerged onto the scene for the Bucs this spring. Huzzie finished with 27 receptions for 334 yards and a career-high three touchdowns. Meanwhile, Lane-Price hauled in 14 catches for 224 yards and one touchdown.
The Bucs shined on the defensive front, leading the conference in scoring defense after allowing only 18.8 points per game. ETSU also led the SoCon in rushing defense, surrendering just 114.5 yards on the ground per game. Veteran linebacker and reigning SoCon Defensive Player of the Year Jared Folks (Harrisburg, Pa.) led the squad in total tackles with 50, while newcomer Mike Price (Stockbridge, Ga.) was right on his tail with 48. Redshirt-sophomore linebacker Donovan Manuel (Ellenwood, Ga.) paced the team in tackles for loss (6.0) and sacks (3.5), while ranking third on the team in total tackles (44) and second in interceptions (2). Competing in his first season, redshirt-freshman defensive back Alijah Huzzie (Franklin, Ga.) quickly made a name for himself as he racked up 42 total tackles and led the team in interceptions with three.