AHSEVILLE, NC. (WJHL) – Another season of Buccaneer football officially kicked-off over the mountain in Asheville, as all nine of the league’s head coaches gathered for 2022 SoCon Media Day.

George Quarles is about to embark on his first season as ETSU head football coach, although he’s no stranger to many of his fellow coaches.

“It’s been a lot of fun – just being around the other coaches in the league,” Quarles said. “We’ve got a great group of guys.”

Quarles spent the previous five years as an assistant at his alma mater, Furman University. Current head coach, Clay Hendrix may be the one who best understands just how well Quarles will fit in as a head coach in this conference and for the ETSU program.

“He’s going to continue to do things the right way – he’s a heck of a football coach,” Hendrix said. “Even better man – the kids will enjoy playing for him … I fully expect him to do a great job there.”

When Quarles leads the Blue and Gold onto the field this fall, they’ll step onto the turf as defending conference champions. It’s a topic that’s been mentioned often throughout the Bucs’ program.

“I think our guys know where they stand – a huge target on our chest this year, we’re going to be most teams’ Super Bowl,” Quarles said. “They know the challenge that is ahead of them and we’re excited about the upcoming season.”

Despite losing high-caliber guys like Quay Holmes and Tyree Robinson from a season ago, there is no shortage of talent on the roster. Seven players earned First Team All-SoCon preseason honors on Thursday, including running back Jacob Saylors – who was also named the Preseason Offensive Player of the Year.

“I think that’s very well-deserving,” Quarles said. “Jacob is a heck of a player, had a great year last year and has had a great career.”

Blocks well, great leader, great teammate – anything Jacob gets, he deserves,” he continued.

Both the SoCon coaches and media picked the Bucs to finish second in the SoCon come the end of the season. Quarles says he doesn’t put much stock in preseason rankings – but he will be using them to his advantage.

“We talk about – ‘hey what happened last year is just going to make you a bigger target,’ but at the same time, why weren’t we picked first,” he said. “That’s going to be my message to the guys. We need a little bit of – I don’t know if humbling is the right word – but we just all need to realize that any given day we can get knocked off.”

ETSU will open its season on Thursday, September 1 when they host Mars Hill.