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Bucs announce 28-player recruiting class

Joe Avento • Feb 7, 2019 at 12:27 AM

JOHNSON CITY — East Tennessee State’s football team announced a signing class of 28 players Wednesday and nine of the new signees are from Tennessee.

“We’re excited about the group we have,” ETSU coach Randy Sanders said during a news conference at Greene Stadium. “We feel like we filled a lot of needs. We got a lot of guys in-state, but as we talked about last year, if we need to go out of state to get guys, we’ll do that.”

Seven of the recruits are from Georgia, with three from North Carolina, two from Florida and one each from Alabama, Kentucky, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia.

Jamal Couch, a 6-foot-4, 227-pound wide receiver, is the one transfer in the group. He played two seasons at Mississippi State and caught 18 passes for 304 yards and two touchdowns. He decided to transfer after not playing in the first two games last season.

“I expect him to play well,” Sanders said. “He’s a big guy, there’s no question about it and he had some level of success there. It just didn’t work out for him for some reason.”

Couch, a junior, had committed to Florida State when Sanders was on the Seminoles’ staff. He de-committed and wound up at Mississippi State. He is a former high school teammate of Karon Delince, one of the Bucs’ starting cornerbacks.

Couch is already enrolled at ETSU and will be able to participate in spring practice.

“It’s good to get him on board,” Sanders said.

Couch is one of five wide receivers in the latest recruiting class.

“I felt like that was one of the areas we needed to address, where we wanted to improve if we wanted to win 15 games. That’s our goal,” Sanders said. “I wanted guys who can score touchdowns. I thought we tried to address that last year, and we tried to address that this year. The receiver group is good.”

Who will be throwing to those receivers is up in the air. ETSU has no experienced quarterbacks on the roster after Austin Herink graduated and Logan Marchi left the team. Sanders confirmed that Marchi, the Temple transfer who started at the beginning of last season, won’t be back.

The class included quarterback Tyler Riddell from Tampa, Florida, who originally committed to Akron. Riddell passed for 6,500 yards and 63 touchdowns in high school.

Five players from East Tennessee were part of the latest class.

Science Hill offensive lineman Blake Austin had signed during the early signing period in December. Signing on Wednesday were Unicoi County linebacker Brett Strother, Greeneville defensive lineman Logan Shipley, Jefferson County defensive lineman Jake Hyer and Knox Fulton receiver Dashaun McKinney.

The class also had two kickers, including Murfreesboro Oakland’s Garrett Taylor, the Tennessee high school kicker of the year.

“First time in 31 years I’ve ever signed a kicker, and we’ve got two of them in this class,” Sanders said.

Twenty-seven of the 28 players are high school signees.

“I love maturity,” Sanders said. “If you can get transfers to come in and bring some experience to your program, that’s a great thing. But high schoolers are here four years.

“There’s no question I want to win, I want to win right now. But to build a program where I want it to be, you have to maintain and sustain, and you don’t do that by taking one- or two-year guys all the time. It’s nice to have one- or two-year guys that can fill holes. But in the long term, if I can get guys into my program for four years, we’re going to be much better off.”

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THE CLASS

Blake Austin

OL – 6-4, 290

Johnson City, Tenn. (Science Hill HS)

Lettered in football at Science Hill High School

Earned Lineman MVP honors

Received all-region honors

Two-time all-conference selection

Helped guide the Hilltoppers to the playoffs in 2016, 2017 and 2018

Deven Brantley

LB/DE – 6-2, 215

Riverdale, Ga. (Charles Drew HS)

Earned first team all-region team for 4-AAAAAA in 2018

Recorded 54 tackles, four tackles for loss and four sacks in 2017

Rated as a 3-star recruit from Rivals

Erek Campbell

DB – 5-11, 184

Memphis, Tenn. (Lausanne Collegiate School)

Multisport athlete from Lausanne Collegiate School – lettered in football, baseball and track

Led Lausanne Collegiate School to the 2016 and 2017 state championship

Two-time all-state selection

Named to the USA All-Tennessee Second Team

Totaled 195 tackles, 12 interceptions, five forced fumbles and 35 pass breakups

Father Derek Campbell played football at UT Martin and grandfather Walter Campbell played football at Tennessee State

Jamal Couch

WR – 6-4, 227

Phenix City, Ala. (Mississippi State)

Enrolled at ETSU

Transferred from Mississippi State where he played in 24 games with one start over his two-year career

Caught 18 passes for 304 yards and two touchdowns with the Bulldogs

Finished with 10 receptions for 191 yards and two touchdowns as a sophomore

Scored his first collegiate touchdown against Charleston Southern on Sept. 2, 2017 and recorded a 32-yard touchdown reception against BYU on Oct. 14, 2017

Finished with two receptions for 60 yards at Auburn on Sept. 30, 2017 and totaled two catches for 28 yards against Louisville in the TaxSlayer Bowl on Dec. 30, 2017

Made appearances in 11 games, including all eight SEC games as a true freshman where he hauled in eight passes for 113 yards that season

Was a four-star athlete by Scout.com and listed as the No. 9 ranked player in the state of Alabama and the No. 16 athlete in the nation in by 247Sports.com coming out of high school

Diandre Davis

LB – 6-2, 230

Charlotte, N.C. (Hough HS)

Lettered as an outside linebacker/strong safety at Hough High School

Totaled 46 tackles and one fumble recovery as a junior

Helped guide the Huskies to an 11-win season in 2018, including making a trip to the third round of the NC 4AA Playoffs

Giovanni Dyer

WR – 5-9, 151

Johns Creek, Ga. (Johns Creek HS)

Multisport athlete from Johns Creek High School – baseball and football

Totaled 76 receptions with 1,000 receiving yards and 15 touchdowns

Set the school record in receiving touchdowns

Max Evans

DL – 6-3, 275

Middletown, Ohio (Madison HS)

Three-sport athlete from Madison High School – lettered in football, wrestling and track

Finished with 246 tackles, 25.5 sacks and one interception for his career

Named first team all-Ohio in 2018, while earning Conference Player of the Year honors

Three-time first team all-conference, two-time first team all-area and two-time first team all-district selection

Led Madison to three conference championships, including an undefeated regular season in 2018 and a regional championship in 2017

Father Greg Evans played football at Georgetown

Jaylen Frierson

6-0, 225, RB

Franklin, Tenn. (Battle Ground Academy)

Lettered in football, basketball, baseball and wrestling at Battle Ground Academy

Earned the 2017 Captain Award and second team all-state honors (football)

Totaled over 2,500 all-purpose yards in football and hit 30 home runs in baseball

Helped lead Battle Ground Academy to the state title game in 2018 (football)

Jacob Hensley

OL – 6-2, 290

Fairfield, Ohio (Fairfield HS)

Lettered in football and track at Fairfield High School

Three-time all-conference selection

Two-time Southwest Ohio selection

Max Howell

OL – 6-3, 310

Huntington, W. Va. (Huntington HS)

Lettered in football and baseball at Huntington High School

Two-time first team all-conference selection

Blue-Grey All-American

Sister Madison plays softball at Chatham University, cousin Hunter DeLong is a wrestler at West Virginia, uncle Chris DeLong played football at Wake Forest, and uncle Richard Maxwell played football at Glenville State

Treyvion Houston

ATH/QB – 6-1, 178

Taylors, S.C. (Greer HS)

Lettered in football and track at Greer High School

Played quarterback for the Yellow Jackets

Posted over 4,300 passing and nearly 1,400 rushing yards with 70 total touchdowns in his career

Led Greer to the Upper State Championship in 2018, while winning back-to-back regional titles in 2017 and 2018

Alijah Huzzie

DB – 5-11, 180

Franklin, Ga. (Heard County HS)

Two-sport athlete at Heard County High School – football and basketball

Earned all-state and all-area honors in both football and basketball

Helped guide Heard County to the state championship in football

Passed for over 1,500 yards and rushed for over 700 yards

Cousin Qua Huzzie plays football at Kentucky

Jake Hyer

DL/LS – 6-5, 250

Dandridge, Tenn. (Jefferson County HS)

Lettered in football at both Steinbrenner High School (2016-17) and Jefferson County High School (2017-18)

Registered a sack in the win over William Blount this past September

Tyler Keltner

P/K – 5-11, 160

Tallahassee, Fla. (Chiles HS)

Multisport sport athlete from Chiles High School – lettered in football and soccer

Made six field goals and 32 extra points in 2017

Made a 32-yard field goal and all six extra-point attempts in 47-20 win over Deltona on Nov. 3, 2018

Connected on a 46-yard field goal against Florida High this past September

Set a school record with four made field goals – hitting from 40, 33, 27 and 22 yards – his junior season at Chiles

Dashaun McKinney

WR – 6-1, 211

Knoxville, Tenn. (Fulton HS)

Multisport athlete from Fulton High School – football and basketball

Recorded 36 receptions for 641 yards and six touchdowns in 2018

Totaled 50 receptions for 848 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2016; Also posted 56 tackles, two interceptions and eight passes defended as a sophomore

Missed the 2017 season with a knee injury

Tavon Matthews

OL – 6-1, 309

Woodbridge, Va. (Woodbridge HS)

Played first three seasons at Freedom High School before transferring to Woodbridge

Team captain at both Freedom HS and Woodbridge HS

Two-time all-Cardinal District selection

Three-time all-conference selection

Father Keefe played basketball at Virginia Tech

Trey Middleton

LB/DE — 6-2, 226

Marietta, Ga. (Walton HS)

Named Cobb County Touchdown Club All-County

Earned all-region honors

Posted 88 tackles, 33 tackles for loss, 14 sacks, three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and one interception in 2018

Sister Leah played basketball at Birmingham Southern

Tyler Riddell

QB – 5-11, 174

Tampa, Fla. (Chamberlain HS)

Lettered in football and track at Chamberlain High School

Totaled over 6,500 passing yards and 63 touchdowns for his career

Finished with 1,800 pass yards and 23 touchdowns, while rushing for 263 yards and two touchdowns in 2018

Threw for over 2,400 yards and 30 touchdowns, while guiding the Chiefs to the playoffs in 2017

Received first team all-state and all-county, while earning Hillsborough County MVP honors

Dwayne Ruff

DB/LB – 5-11, 185

Savannah, Ga. (Calvary Day School)

Multi-sport athlete from Calvary Day School – football and basketball

Totaled 62 tackles, four passes defended and one interception as a senior

Earned first-team all-region honors in 2018

Father Dwayne Sr. played football at Savannah State

Stephen Scott

LB – 5-11, 232

Greensboro, N.C. (Page HS)

Two-sport athlete from Page High School – football and lacrosse

Posted 94 tackles, one interception, two forced fumbles, one blocked punt and one extra-point

Named 2018 Defensive Player of the Year

2018 all-area and all-conference selection

Cousin Alan Tisdale plays football at Virginia Tech

Logan Shipley

DL – 6-2, 250

Greeneville, Tenn. (Greeneville HS)

Helped guide Greeneville to back-to-back state championships

Received 2018 all-county honors

Played in the 2018 East-West Tennessee All-Star Classic

Recorded a forced fumble and fumble recovery in the 2018 state championship win

Tim Stayskal

TE – 6-4, 211

Nolensville, Tenn. (Nolensville HS)

Football letterwinner at Nolensville High School

Two-time all-region selection and earned all-state honors in 2017

Finished with 25 receptions for 412 yards and five touchdowns in 2018, while totaling 45 receptions for 547 yards in 2017

Posted 30 tackles, three sacks, 7.5 tackles for loss, three forced fumbles and two interceptions as a linebacker in 2018

Recorded 109 tackles, three sacks, 10 tackles for loss and four forced fumbles in 2017

Brett Strother

LB – 6-0, 196

Erwin, Tenn. (Unicoi County HS)

Two-sport athlete at Unicoi County High School – lettered in football and baseball

Totaled over 3,000 yards with 34 touchdowns offensively, and 188 tackles, 10 tackles for loss and two interceptions defensively

Named 2017 Region 1-3A Offensive Player of the Year

Three-time all-region selection

2018 Three Rivers All-Conference selection

Mother Jeanne played basketball at Tusculum and sister Brooke played softball at Walters State

Garrett Taylor

K/P – 5-10, 155

Murfreesboro, Tenn. (Oakland HS)

Multisport athlete from Oakland High School – football and soccer

Named Tennessee Titans Mr. Football Kicker of the Year

Made five field goals, including a long of 37 and made 55 extra points

Averaged 43 yards per punt

Registered 57 touchbacks on kickoffs

Oakland went 14-1 and won the TSSAA Division I Class 6A state championship

Devontez Walker

WR – 6-2, 173

Charlotte, N.C. (West Charlotte HS)

Multisport athlete from West Charlotte High School – football and basketball

Recorded 91 receptions for 1,153 yards

Earn all-conference honors

Cousin Jasmine Sanders plays basketball at Troy

Isaiah Wilson

WR – 6-0, 205

Norcross, Ga. (Norcross HS)

Registered over 1,000 all-purpose yards in 2018 – 805 receiving, 159 kickoff return and 62 punt return yards

Posted 42 receptions and 10 touchdowns his senior season

Averaged 19.2 yards per catch and 67.1 yards per game

Rodney Wright Jr.

DE – 6-2, 238

Athens, Ga. (Clarke Central HS)

Four-sport athlete from Clarke Central High School – football, basketball, wrestling and track and field

Totaled 79 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, four sacks, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery, 11 quarterback hurries and one touchdown during his senior season

Named first team all-region his junior season

Was a part of the track and field state champion team

Noah West

TE – 6-3, 230

Louisa, Ky. (Lawrence County HS)

Lettered as a quarterback at Lawrence County High School

Totaled over 4,400 rushing yards and 66 career touchdowns

Rushed for over 2,200 yards and 32 touchdowns in 2018

Rushed for 396 yards, seven touchdowns and nine 2-point conversions, which ranks fourth all-time in Kentucky High School history for points in a single game

Named 2018 District and Area Player of the Year

Finished as the Kentucky 3A rushing leader

Three-time all-district selection

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