Vols on the board in '13

Austin Sanders

Coach Derek Dooley and the Tennessee coaching staff aren't solely concentrating their efforts on the current recruiting class. They received their first pledge of the Class of 2013 on Saturday morning. Sign in or subscribe now to see the latest on Volunteer recruiting.

Tennessee got a head start in building its recruiting class for 2013 as coach Derek Dooley accepted the commitment of in-state product Austin Sanders.

On Saturday morning, Sanders made the short trip over to Knoxville from his home in Bradley County. Not long after leaving the Tennessee campus, he made the call to offer his commitment to Dooley and his staff.

Proud parents Jennifer Baker and Marc Sanders let their emotions out, knowing their son was being afforded the rare opportunity of living out one of his dreams — playing for Tennessee.

"It was really exciting," Austin Sanders told InsideTennessee.com. "My mom and my dad started crying. I was trying to hold my composure."

The offensive lineman isn't your average looking 16-year-old, sporting grown-man size at 6-foot-6, 300 pounds.

Sanders called himself a "big fan" and made mention of how his entire family roots for the Big Orange. The chance to run through The T before the start of a game excites the big fella already.

"I'm really happy," he said. "Honestly, I just want to run through it right now. Today when we were at the school and I got to see (Neyland Stadium) without people in it, and I can see and imagine people being in the stadium watching me and cheering for Tennessee. I'm excited."

Sanders first got the scholarship offer from offensive line coach Harry Hiestand back in mid-June. Hiestand, like much of the Tennessee staff, is entering his second season at Rocky Top. Dooley trusts his opinion of linemen as Hiestand's previous post was as the O-line coach for five seasons with the Chicago Bears.

The staff didn't pressure Sanders for a pledge and allowed him time to think it over. He told them that wasn't necessary and wanted to give his word that he will sign with the Vols.

"They said, 'Go for it. Do what you want to do. You can wait, or you can shoot for it.' I really didn't want to wait. I want to go to UT. That's where I've always wanted to go," Sanders said.

Tennessee has enjoyed quite a haul of blue chip prospects on the offensive front the last couple recruiting classes, including Under Armour All-Americans James Stone, Ja'Wuan James and Marcus Jackson. Sanders doesn't take the accepting of his commitment lightly, knowing that fact.

Sanders expects to get his best from opponents throughout his final two seasons on the prep level.

"Honestly, I think it puts a red target on my back for other players and people that aren't fans of Bradley," Sanders said. "I feel like it's going to be something big for Bradley County too knowing they've got a kid down there that is going to UT."

Bradley Central competes in the state's largest classification, Class 6A.

In 2010, the Bears won District 5-AAA with an overall regular season record of 8-2 and outscored opponents 280-171. They eliminated Coffee County 34-7 in the opening round of the TSSAA state playoffs last November before falling to Oak Ridge 28-26.

Sanders is a candidate for the Class AAA Mr. Football Lineman of the Year honor. The trophy was taken home by current Volunteer freshman Kyler Kerbyson of Knoxville Catholic in '10.

Bradley Central opens up its regular season schedule by hosting Polk County in Cleveland on Aug. 19.

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