A little over a week after Carl Torbush announced he was stepping down as head football coach at ETSU, the school wrapped up its coaching search with a flourish.
ETSU athletic director Scott Carter introduced Morristown native Randy Sanders as the 18th football coach in school history during a press conference at William. B Greene Jr. Stadium on Sunday night. Sanders has spent the last 29 years as an assistant at Tennessee, Kentucky and Florida State. He was Tennessee’s offensive coordinator when the Vols won the 1998 national championship, and he was also the OC at Florida State when the Seminoles captured the 2013 national title.
“I’m unbelievably excited to be here at ETSU and thankful for the opportunity that (ETSU President) Dr. Brian Noland and Scott Carter have given me to be the head coach of the Buccaneers,” said Sanders. “This program has a great tradition and I was really happy to see it brought back five years ago. Coach Torbush did a great job of building the foundation, and now I’m ready to get to work making this program one that all ETSU fans can be proud of.”
Sanders gained notoriety by helping recruit Peyton Manning at Tennessee and presiding over some of the most prolific offenses in school history.
“Coach Sanders was a strong early influence on me as a prospect and as a player in my years at Tennessee,” Manning said. “With his football knowledge and abilities as a recruiter and leader, ETSU has a bright future both on and off the field.”
Coaching under Johnny Majors and Phil Fulmer, Sanders spent 17 years as an assistant at Tennessee, and the Vols compiled a record of 162-46-2 (.776) during that time. During his run in Knoxville, Tennessee won four SEC championships and six Eastern Division crowns in addition to its national title.
“Randy Sanders is as good a coach as I worked with during my 40 years of coaching,” Fulmer said. “He is smart, tough, a great game planner, and at his best calling plays on game day. Randy is excellent at identifying and recruiting talent. He and Cathy are wonderful people and the people of East Tennessee will enjoy having them back home.”
After leaving Tennessee, Sanders went to Kentucky before landing in Tallahassee for a tremendous five-year run with the Seminoles. Upon his arrival at Florida State in 2013, Sanders helped guide freshman quarterback Jameis Winston to the Heisman Trophy. The Seminoles went 14-0 en route to a national title while piling up a national record for points in one season with 723.
“Coach Sanders’ work ethic, humility and preparation was a huge part to my success as a player,” Winston said. “He never got too high or too low. His ability to stay calm and confident helped me tremendously at the quarterback position, but it also helped me grow as a young man. I’m am so thankful that I had a coach that was able to lead and coach me into a player that understood I must take advantage of every opportunity.”
Winston became the Florida State player taken No. 1 overall in the NFL Draft in 2014. After the Seminoles lost nearly all of their offensive production to the NFL Draft in 2015, Sanders found a way to reinvent Florida State’s offense and keep the Seminoles atop the ACC in 2015 as running back Dalvin Cook set school records in rushing (1,691) and all-purpose yards (1,935) on his way to earning All-American honors. Cook went on to be drafted by the Minnesota Vikings.
Sanders’ track record caught the attention of ETSU athletic director Scott Carter, who was thrilled to bring him home to East Tennessee.
“Randy Sanders is a man of outstanding character, integrity and competitive spirit,” said ETSU Athletic Director Scott Carter. “His top priority is the shaping and development of the young men he leads. His background in college football speaks for itself, with two National Championships, 12 conference or division championships, and 26 bowl games. With nearly 29 years of coaching in the SEC and ACC, he led offensive production at each program to historic heights.
“ETSU football is very fortunate to have Randy Sanders as our head coach. I cannot wait to get to work with Coach Sanders and bring championships to Johnson City.”