Former Marion County High School star Jacob Saylors attempts to break a tackle during East Tennessee State's season-opening win against Mars Hill.

KNOXVILLE — Connections in the Tennessee high school football scene are paying off already for first-year East Tennessee State University coach Randy Sanders.


Several area players have helped rebirth ETSU’s football program.

some text Jacob Saylors

The former University of Tennessee quarterback and longtime assistant is preparing his Buccaneers to play against his alma mater Saturday at Neyland Stadium, and there is a chance a freshman he found at Marion County High School may be on the field when they face the Volunteers.

Jacob Saylors, a four-year starter for the Warriors, rushed for 70 yards on nine carries in ETSU's 28-7 win over NCAA Division II program Mars Hill to open the season last week.

"I had a couple of high school coaches that are good friends call me and tell me about him and told me I needed to take a look at him, and I did," Sanders said. "He honestly did not have a whole lot going on recruiting-wise."

Saylors is listed as the Bucs' third-string running back but made a strong impression with his collegiate debut that also included two receptions for 26 yards.

"He had a really nice game," Sanders said. "For a freshman to come in and do that in college is pretty impressive."

The 5-foot-11, 190-pound Saylors played offense and defense for Marion County and was a finalist for the Tennessee Mr. Football honor as one of the state's top high school players in 2017. He had 74 touchdowns, racked up more than 4,000 yards and intercepted 18 passes in his high school career.

ETSU redshirt junior Myles Smith, a right guard who played at Red Bank High School, noticed Saylors' potential during the preseason.

"In the first couple of scrimmages we had, you can see the way he runs," Smith said. "He runs really hard; really explosive guy. He's quick in the open field, too. So blocking for a guy like that, you love guys that can make big plays happen. It makes our job a lot easier."

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