Area signees listView
On a recent visit to Johnson City, Jacob Saylors fell in love with the small-town feel surrounding East Tennessee State University. Marion County's two-way star, and one of the area's most productive and decorated players over the past three seasons, was part of the first signing class for Buccaneers coach Randy Sanders Wednesday.
"Everything about that area — the campus, the school, the town and the coaching staff and players — reminded me of home," Saylor said. "I just felt comfortable there.
"I'm not sure if they want me to play offense or defense, but I don't have a preference. I just want to play."
A Warriors starter since his freshman year, Saylors earned all-state recognition each of his last three seasons and was a finalist for the state's 2017 Mr. Football award. Saylors accumulated 74 touchdowns and more than 4,100 career yards and also intercepted 18 passes to help Marion reach three straight Class 2A state championship games.
Bradley Central, Brainerd and Ooltewah led the area with six players from each signing scholarships or Division III commitments, while Howard had five and Baylor had four.
From Bradley Central, offensive lineman Chris Cash signed with Air Force, fellow lineman Tyler Collier with Thomas More, defensive lineman Kevin Gentry and fullback Adam Mullis with Maryville and defensive backs Jeffrey Brewer and Jordan McIllwain with Shorter.
For Brainerd, besides defensive back Joseph Norwood signing with Tennessee, defensive lineman Jared Jackson Brainerd is set for Hocking College and linebacker Renus Evans, receiver Jailen Wofford, offensive lineman Jalen Jordan and cornerback Jaylan Pinkerton all signed with Middle Georgia State.
Ooltewah's impressive list included receiver Andrew Manning with the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and four offensive linemen — Jack Richards (Birmingham-Southern), Jordan Campbell (Cumberlands), Brandon Davis and Zaire Bruner (Lindsey Wilson) — along with linebacker Jaylin Rogers, also with Lindsey Wilson.
From Howard, linebacker Rico Weaver and offensive lineman Shunn Jackson committed to Maryville, while linemen Alex House and Greg Pitman are headed to Arkansas Baptist. Tight end Markil Fintch and receiver Antorry McComb are Hocking recruits.
A new coaching staff with Georgia ties at North Carolina private school Lenoir-Rhyne University left a strong impression in northwest Georgia during this recruiting season.
New head coach Drew Cronic, a Georgia native and former Furman University and Reinhardt coach, landed three area recruits Wednesday in Calhoun defensive end Zeke Nance, Heritage receiver Ryan Carter and Ringgold tight end Drake Starks.
Nance (6-foot-3, 230) was a key cog on the Yellow Jackets' Class AAA state championship team with 19 tackles for loss among his 97 stops. Carter was a two-way starter for Heritage's AAAA playoff team. He had 545 yards receiving to go with 39 solo tackles and four interceptions while adding 15 total touchdowns — eight receiving, one rushing, three on punt returns, one kickoff return and two on interception returns.
Starks (6-3, 225) was a stellar blocker for the Tigers as well as a big downfield target in the passing game. He totaled 26 catches for 427 yards and three touchdowns. Ringgold coach Robert Akins said the presence of the Hickory, N.C., Division II school is a good thing for area high school football players.
"Lenoir-Rhyne is a prestigious private school, and it's not too far away," he said. "Drake and the other guys they signed will do some great things there. They are back in the area and I'm glad to hear it."
Gregg likely walk-on
One of Georgia's most productive senior running backs was left without a scholarship offer as signing day ended.
Murray County's Tucker Gregg, who finished his career with school single-game, season and career rushing records, will likely accept a preferred walk-on position at Football Bowl Subdivision school Georgia State. Gregg (5-11, 210) was a three-year starter for the Indians and had a combined 3,346 yards in his final two seasons, including 1,746 yards and an area-best 19 touchdowns this past season.
"It's crazy. Somebody is missing out big-time," Murray County coach Chad Brewer said. "Tucker really likes Georgia State and is OK with being a walk-on. The coaches came by a couple of times and said they want him but they just don't have a scholarship at this time."