The Bucs, playing under first-year head coach Randy Sanders, were picked to finish eighth in the nine-team league.
Player was a first-team all-conference selection last season after recording 67 tackles, 13.5 for loss, with seven quarterback sacks and an interception he returned for a touchdown. The seven sacks ranked fourth in school history. Three of them came against Robert Morris.
Four of Player’s teammates — kick returner Quan Harrison, kicker JJ Jerman, center Matt Pyke and linebacker Dylan Weigel — were on the second team in the preseason voting.
Harrison, a Greeneville native, also earned postseason honors as a return specialist last season. The wide receiver led the Bucs with 694 all-purpose yards, finishing with 475 kick return, 109 punt return and 108 receiving yards.
Harrison had 154 all-purpose yards against Furman in his best game.
Jerman went 14 for 18 in field goals and made all 21 of his extra points last season while being a second-team all-conference pick. His 51-yard field goals against Wofford and Chattanooga were the second-longest in program history.
Weigel, who has started all 33 games in his career, led the Bucs with 92 tackles last season. He was the league’s defensive player of the week after making 18 tackles against The Citadel. He enters the season with 325 career tackles.
Pyke has started all 33 games at center during his career.
Samford received offensive and defensive preseason player of the year honors, from quarterback Devlin Hodges and defensive lineman Ahmad Gooden.
Samford was also selected to finish first by the league coaches and media. Wofford, Furman, Western Carolina and Chattanooga rounded out the top five by the coaches. Furman, Wofford, Mercer and Western Carolina capped off the top five slots by the media. The Bucs were picked to finish eighth by the coaches and media.
ETSU opens fall camp on Friday. The first game is set for Sept. 1 when Mars Hill visits Greene Stadium.