Austin Herink had camped at a number of spots throughout the South, but it wasn't until the 2014 quarterback from Cleveland (Tenn.) High School spent time at the Marine All-American Combine in Los Angeles nearly a month ago that he felt like he got a greater perspective for the top level.
"That was a good experience out there," said the 6-foot-2, 216-pounder who has heard from numerous SEC schools, including Tennessee, of late. "I'd say the biggest thing I got from being out there is just seeing new competition. I've gone to camps for a while in this region, North Carolina, Florida, Georgia. It was a lot different competition out on the West Coast. A lot of high quality quarterbacks."
After serving as understudy to former Army All-America selection and Pittsburgh signee Chad Voytik at Cleveland, Herink blossomed during a breakout 2012 campaign after previously shining at a number of regional camps. Herink threw for more than 2,200 yards, 20 touchdowns and just six interceptions.
Herink, who until this year had also been a two-sport standout who shined in basketball as well, previously has done collegiate camps at Nebraska, Penn State, Alabama, Vanderbilt, a one-day camp at Tennessee under the previous coaching staff and at Ole Miss. He also competed at the Nike training camp last year in Memphis.
Lately, the strong-armed quarterback has heard from Duke, Mississippi State, Alabama, Penn State, Tennessee, Auburn and Vanderbilt. He's been invited to a couple of upcoming junior days, including one at Duke and Feb. 2 at Tennessee.
New Vols offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian recently bumped into Herink at Cleveland High School and then the two spent additional time getting acquainted when Herink was in Knoxville for a Lady Vols' basketball game. That's when Herink got to check out the Vols' new football facility inside the Neyland-Thompson Sports Center and also when he met new UT head coach Butch Jones.
"Coach Bajakian was actually at the school on Friday and Sunday I was at the Lady Vols' game, so I stopped by to see him Sunday and got to meet coach Jones and most of the staff. That was a pretty good experience," Herink said. "It's a completely new staff. I got to know the last staff pretty good from camping up there for two years, and I'd been up to several games.
"This staff has got a lot of energy and the facilities are amazing. The new weight room and all that stuff is just unreal."
While it is early in the recruiting process for Herink, he said he was honored to spend time with the Vols' new staff and be a prospect that they wanted to take a closer look at.
"Definitely, growing up in East Tennessee it's every kid's dream to play for Tennessee. I didn't know if this staff was going to recruit me or not or show any interest, but when Coach Bajakian sent me a hand-written letter I thought 'Wow! Maybe this staff is going to be interested.' I tried to call him but he actually called my high school coach to tell he was going to come down and see me at school. It was a good experience. I'm really excited that they're showing interest. Hopefully if everything would work out I could play at Tennessee one day, but it's definitely an honor that they're even showing interest in me knowing it would be my dream place to play."
In addition to making it back up to Knoxville in early February for the Vols' first junior day under the Jones regime, Herink said Bajakian indicated the UT staff would continue its evaluation of him and likely see Herink throw in person at some point this spring or summer.
Aside from his work at the Marine All-America camp, Herink last year competed at an elite Rivals/VTO spring camp and showed well. He is expected to be one of the top quarterbacks in Tennessee in the 2014 class.