Gamble QB of choice for Buccaneers

By Matt Hill
STAR STAFF
mhill@starhq.com

   JOHNSON CITY -- While this state gets ready to vote on a lottery, the East Tennessee State football coaching staff has apparently decided to take a Gamble at the quarterback position.
   Sophomore Dashannon Gamble looks like he is going to be the starting quarterback when the Buccaneers open up at N.C. State on Aug. 31.
   Gamble would most likely have been the starter last season if it wasn't for his academic woes that left him ineligible. But he's shaking off the rust of not taking a snap in a game situation in three years, and he looks to be the guy.
   "I don't feel like that we've got a situation at quarterback where we're saying Dashannon's got to go win this job in the next week," ETSU head football coach Paul Hamilton said. "He's done enough things to prove that he should be the guy to start for us."
   The No. 2 guy on the depth chart is Jatavis Sanders. Hamilton feels very good about him as well.
   "I think in Jatavis, we've got a guy that's certainly capable of playing. Hamilton said. "He gives us an opportunity to move the football."
   Another position on offense that looked to be a question mark coming into this season was the tailback spot. But with newcomers Marcus Barnes, Adonis Johnson, Gavin Varner, and the re-emergence of Mando Miller, the Bucs look to be improved from last season.
   "We're going to be good at tailback," Hamilton said. "Marcus Barnes has a chance to be a special player. He's very strong and fast. And I think Gavin Varner once he learns what to do will be a good football player, too.
   "Mando Miller has really played well for us so far, and Adonis once he learns what to do is going to be a good player. I'm not concerned about tailback."
   Despite all of these players, Hamilton is a little concerned with the consistency of the offense in the early stages of practice.
   "My biggest concern is finding things offensively where we can get consistent to be a good offensive football team," Hamilton said. (Saturday's scrimmage) tells me a little more about where we need to be. We've got to see what we are as an offense, and what we need to be. And we need to get that offensive line where they can be aggressive and go play."
   Several key players, including defensive lineman Travis Williams, sat out Saturday's controlled scrimmage with injuries. Hamilton believes his team will be healed by the time it goes to Raleigh.
   "Fortunately right now none of them seem to be too dang serious," Hamilton said. "The ones that are (injured) we should get them back very quickly. We're just trying to get them through one more week, continue to work, get them well and go play."
   The defense is looking pretty stout, but overall the Bucs have a long way to go before being ready to play N.C. State according to Hamilton.
   "I've seen improvement in areas of our football team," Hamilton said. "But we've got a long ways to go. We've got a lot of work left to be done."
   The Bucs will hold the annual Blue-Gold scrimmage next Saturday in Memorial Center.
   REID CASEY UPDATE
   Former East Tennessee State pitcher Reid Casey has been getting some quality innings with the Cleveland Indians' Appalachian League affiliate.
   Casey was put in the bullpen by Burlington, and is doing an admirable job there. His record is 1-4 with a 3.93 E.R.A. in 15 appearances. He also has one save to his credit.
   "I don't think I've been doing so bad," Casey said during a recent visit to Elizabethton. "I ran into some trouble a few times. I picked up some losses in close games, but it's all part of the learning process. Hopefully, I'll have less of those in the future."
   Casey was ETSU's No. 1 pitcher the last two seasons, so he's had the make an adjustment as a reliever.
   "It's a little different," Casey said. "Mentally, you always have to be ready. You never know when you're going to get your name called. I think I've adjusted to it pretty quick. I enjoy it. Whatever they want me to do, I'll do whatever."
   Casey is hoping that he's proven to the Indians organization that he is good enough to play at the next level.
   "There hasn't really been a lot of talk about that," Casey said. "But I think I've proven that I can pitch at a higher level. Hopefully, they'll give me a chance and I look forward to it.
   BUC BASKETBALL REPORT
   The Buccaneers men's basketball squad has been invited to play in the Guardians Classic, which is a preseason tournament in Mid-November. Among the notables that have received invites are Notre Dame and Creighton.
   In other news, the Southern Conference Basketball Tournament will be held in Charleston, S.C. through the 2004 season. The event will run from Wednesday through Saturday next season instead of the usual Thursday through Sunday format.