Austin highlights ETSU signings

Jeff Birchfield • Dec 19, 2018 at 8:35 PM

Blake Austin decided to stay close to home to further his football career.

The 6-foot-4, 280-pound lineman from Science Hill High School signed with East Tennessee State on Wednesday afternoon in a ceremony at the new Science Hill Gym.

He was one of five players who the Bucs picked up on National Signing Day.

Other players were Diandre Davis, a 6-foot-2, 230-pound linebacker from Charlotte, Jacob Hensley, a 6-foot-2, 290-pound offensive lineman from Fairfield, Ohio, Noah West, a 6-foot-3, 230-pound tight end from Louisa, Kentucky and Jaylen Frierson, a 6-foot-1, 235-pound running back from Franklin’s Battle Ground Academy.

“We’re excited about this group that we were able to sign today,” ETSU coach Randy Sanders said. “It gives us a great start on the 2019 signing class. We look forward to finishing this group and filling the rest of our needs on the February signing day.”

Austin, who was originally committed to Coastal Carolina and had offers from 11 other schools. He ultimately decided ETSU was the best place to further his athletic and academic careers, as he plans on majoring in education to follow in the footsteps of his parents, who are teachers.

“It just felt like the best fit for me,” said Austin, a two-star recruit on Rivals.com. “I got the support from the community through the whole recruiting process. Science Hill has given me all the opportunities to get to the next level with facilities, coaching and teaching me to fight through adversity. I had the pull to stay home with ETSU and it just felt right for me.”

He attended a couple of the Bucs’ games during the season and liked the atmosphere surrounding them. It was another factor in choosing ETSU over Samford and other Southern Conference rivals.

Austin was a three-year starter for the Hilltoppers and was on the All-Region 1-6A team all three years. He was selected to play in the Toyota East/West All-Star Game and was a member of the Johnson City Press Elite 11 team.

The Bucs have spoken to him about playing offensive tackle, although his high school coach, Stacy Carter, talked about his versatility.

“He can play tackle because he’s long and he has good feet, but he can also play guard,” Carter said. “He’s a guy who can play multiple positions and he’s smart enough to handle anything you do.

“ETSU is getting a fine young man of good character. You don’t have to worry about him. He’s a fine student, someone who does the right thing and grades are important to him. I think they’re getting a great one.”


Davis is another player who brings versatility to the Bucs. He played fullback and tight end on offense and both safety and linebacker on defense in high school.

Hensley, a guard and center, had an early offer by Toledo. He was a high school teammate of tight end Erick All, who has signed with Michigan.

West was a quarterback and outside linebacker at Lawrence County High School. He had a game in November where he rushed for 396 yards and seven touchdowns. He scored 60 points in the game and also had the game-clinching interception in a 78-74 win over Western Hills.

Frierson, a two-star recruit according to Rivals, was part of a Battle Ground Academy team that reached the Division II, Class AA state championship game, losing to rival Christ Presbyterian Academy.


Dobyns-Bennett standout lineman Cade Salyers signed with the University of Richmond on Wednesday. His ceremony won’t be held until the February signing day.

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