ETSU QB situation still muddled

By Matt Hill

   The East Tennessee State coaching staff might want to take some from recording artist Sheryl Crow. A change at quarterback might do them good.
   The Buccaneer football team is 2-4 and in need of some answers. And while it's hard to blame one person or one position, the quarterback spot has been one of the most inefficient for head coach Paul Hamilton this season.
   ETSU starting quarterback Matt Wilhjelm is currently dead last in the Southern Conference in passing efficiency with a rating of 83.7. The former Science Hill standout is currently 59-of-133 for 735 yards. He also has eight interceptions, which is second highest in the Southern Conference.
   With these unproductive numbers, you would think that the Buccaneer coaching staff could possibly make a change. I thought this would be a good thing for the Bucs.
   But Hamilton doesn't think so.
   Many ETSU faithful have been wanting to see N.C. State transfer Jatavis Sanders come get into the mix more, but the Bucs are going to go with Wilhjelm when ETSU faces top-ranked Georgia Southern Saturday in Memorial Center.
   When watching the Bucs this season, I've noticed that Sanders has been fairly productive in his limited action. But Hamilton sees things a little differently.
   "The other guy is not as good in practice," Hamilton said Tuesday at his weekly press conference.
   Sanders may not be as good in practice, but he showed against Appalachian State a few weeks ago that he's capable of giving the Bucs a boost.
   Against the Mountaineers, Sanders went a very respectable 7-of-10 for 175 yards, and threw a touchdown pass. I thought this would give Sanders the job, but Hamilton decided to stick with Wilhjelm.
   Sanders saw one series of action against Furman last Saturday, but was put into the ball game at ETSU's 1-yard line in the fourth quarter in a game the Bucs lost 31-6.
   It really didn't seem fair to do that to him. Why would you throw your inexperienced quarterback into the fire like that? But at the same time, they were at least giving him a chance.
   "I was just ready to get out there and play," Sanders said after ETSU's game with Furman Saturday. "I've been wanting to help the team all year. If that's the situation I had to be in, I was happy to do it."
   The evidence seems to be there in favor of Sanders, but Hamilton insists that he's not ready yet.
   "When an opportunity is there to make a play, he's got to stand in the pocket long enough to give the play an opportunity to happen," Hamilton said. "The same thing goes for some of the other things we asked him to do in the run game. When the play is there, he's got to be able to execute the play all the way out to the point where it has a chance to happen, and not get out of the play immediately."
   With the season pretty much lost, it may be a good idea to test Sanders. But Hamilton would still like for his team to have a winning season, and he believes Wilhjelm is the man to deliver that.
   "I think we've got to do the things that are best to continue to develop this football team, and to play this year all the way out and hopefully assure that we come out of this thing with a winning season. I don't think we can sit here and say let's go ahead and make the change at quarterback."
   Next year, the Bucs will probably be just fine at quarterback. DaShannon Gamble should be back after being academically ineligible this season. He was very impressive in spring practice before it was announced he couldn't play.
   But until then, Buccaneer fans will have to be patient because that's what the coaching staff seems to be doing.
Saturday night is your last chance to see Heisman Trophy candidate Adrian Peterson in person. The Georgia Southern fullback is leading the Southern Conference in rushing with 926 yards on 158 carries.
   I know the Tennessee-South Carolina game is going on at the same time, but Peterson is worth missing that contest.
   "He's one of the best players to come through college football at any level," Hamilton said.
   The game starts at 7 p.m. and will be broadcast on CSS sports network, but this is a player who you would like to see in person.
   Don't miss it.