Football seniors experience recruiting

Greenback School’s Braden Carnes drops back for a pass Dec. 6 in the Cherokees’ 38-23 loss to Lake County High School in the Class 1A BlueCross Bowl.

As the 2019 high school football season closed for most seniors in Loudon County, the recruiting process heated up for National Signing Day.

Loudon High School head football coach Jeff Harig said this has been one of the most diverse and talented senior classes in program history.

“We’ve got three, maybe four that have that chance to play at the next level,” he said. “Obviously, Drew (Jackson) is being looked at. Primarily, the most interested schools are Division 2 and the biggest deal with that is we had the early signing period, so sometimes those big time guys start dropping, so a lot of the smaller schools haven’t come back with offers yet. It gets a little hard for the guys that don’t go to Division 1.”

Jackson was the Redskins’ leading rusher this season with more than 1,400 yards and 22 total touchdowns.

Other Redskins getting looks include tight end Noah Burnette and defensive linemen Tyler Whitfield and Emerson Tripp.

Tripp started along the offensive and defensive lines and finished with 43 tackles, as well as being named to the All-Region 3-3A first team.

“I’m open to any opportunities and stuff like that,” Tripp said. “I really like (Eastern Kentucky University) and Austin Peay (State University). Both are really good programs. Lindsey Wilson College is another really good school, a really good program with a winning history. Those are some of the really good schools that I’m looking into right now.”

In order to gain interest and be seen by colleges, recruits are encouraged to put together solid highlight tapes and workout regimens.

Greenback quarterback Braden Carnes began that process last year as a junior at Maryville High School.

“Really, just film and putting that out on Twitter and out on social media,” he said. “I’m posting my stats, records and different things like that I’ve accomplished while at Greenback. Really, just trying to get as much film as I can out to college coaches and just trying to get them to take a look at it.”

Carnes’ film and stats have already impressed several schools, including the University of the Cumberlands, Union College and Maryville College.

He passed for more than 4,000 yards and became only the second quarterback in Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association history to complete more than 50 touchdown passes in a season.

“Right now, I’m talking to some schools — I have two or three small college offers,” he said. “I’m just kind of waiting to see what else might happen, especially since the first signing period, just kind of seeing who else comes knocking. I’ve also got a Division 1 school, not FBS, that saw me on MaxPreps, so they’ve been talking to me.”

Greenback and Loudon could potentially combine to have 10 to 15 seniors sign with colleges by February.

Greenback’s Derrell Bailey Jr. signed with Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University last week, and Holden Willis already holds several Division 1 offers.

“I think Loudon County — Greenback and Loudon high schools — I don’t think we’ve ever shared this level of success,” Harig said. “I think it gives great exposure to not only Loudon County, but to the kids that play. For us, we’ve had good years before, but from a talent standpoint, this is one of our most talented teams. Going forward, it’s going to be a little while that we have this kind of talent again.”

“Our senior year’s been pretty hyped ... a lot of schools were pretty much looking at the 2020 class,” Tripp added. “Everybody has had some ballers in the 2020 class, so it’s been anticipated from everybody. I think it’s awesome having everybody from Greenback, Lenoir City and Loudon getting these offers, getting their names out, especially from such a small town.”