Bradley Central Bears' Austin Sanders shows UT-type ability

Bradley Central Bears' Austin Sanders shows UT-type ability

August 15th, 2012 by Ward Gossett in Sports - Preps

Bradley Central's Austin Sanders

Photo by Jake Daniels/Times Free Press.

Dynamite Dozen

No. 2 Austin Sanders

Bradley Central -- tackle

• Schools recruiting: Has committed to Tennessee.

• Why do you wear No. 52?

"I just liked it. I wanted to be different [for a tackle]. I've worn it since my freshman year."

If the high school football jamboree last weekend was any indication, Bradley Central will be running a lot to its left this season.

Bears tackle Austin Sanders showed why he is No. 2 on the Times Free Press Dynamite Dozen with 10 knockdown blocks in 11 offensive plays. And on one of those knockdowns he took out two defenders.

"He has really turned up the intensity in practice," Bradley coach Damon Floyd said. "He's a big, strong kid who is very athletic for his size."

The University of Tennessee coaching staff saw the same things and collected a commitment from Sanders before his junior season, making him the team's first commitment for the 2013 signing class. He will be the first Chattanooga-area player to sign with UT since 2011 when the Vols landed Calhoun's Da'Rick Rogers and Nash Nance.

"I don't think anybody expected it so early," Floyd said. "Coach [Jim] Chaney was recruiting James Stovall at the time. We asked him to take a look [on video] at Austin and he said, 'Let's get him to camp.'"

Sanders made the trip and did not disappoint.

"I was a sophomore working with sophomores, and they moved me up to the senior group," the 6-foot-6, 300-pound tackle said. "Everybody was bigger and faster and I'd never seen that before, so it scared me a little. But I got out there and did some drills, and I thought, though I was just 15 at the time, that I was as good as those seniors."

UT invited him back for another camp, and Sanders wondered why.

"I went back up there and did some one-on-one drills, and the coach said I needed to talk to the big man [Derek Dooley]. I talked with him and he ended up offering [a scholarship]," he said. "I remember my mom was crying. I told Coach Dooley I'd let him know because I wanted to make sure it was OK with my dad and the rest of my family."

The decision was a quick one because Sanders has grown up a Tennessee fan and he has wanted for a long time to follow in the footsteps of former Vol Chad Clifton, a longtime NFL lineman.

"I've seen pictures of him. I look at him and realize this guy can play," Sanders said. "He still holds the 40-yard dash record for linemen at 4.9. My coach and other people tell me I don't move like a big guy. I look at Chad and think maybe one day I can move just the way he did. It's something to keep training for."

His commitment set off a flurry of letters from other interested schools.

"The pressure was off. Schools still try to talk with me, but I knew Tennessee was the place I wanted to play. I want to go there and experience running through the 'T' and the Vol walk and that environment when all the fans are around. I'm excited."

Contact Ward Gossett at wgossett@timesfreepress.com or 423-886-4765.