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Irwin, Faris will follow ‘Cut’ to Duke
Tait to Buffalo, as five KCHS standouts sign college grid scholarships

David Cutcliffe made a “mini-raid” of Knoxville Catholic High School football talent.

The former Tennessee Volunteer offensive coordinator whose now head coach at Duke signed Irish standouts Conor Irwin, lineman, and Jeffery Faris, defensive back, during National Signing Day ceremonies in the KCHS gym Wednesday, Feb. 6.

The All-Region 3-3A pair were two of five Irish football signees, and among 10 total KCHS student/athlete signees during the ceremony. (See related story beginning on page 15).

Other Irish grid signings were All-state linebacker Dustin Tait (University of Buffalo), All-region LB Garrett Trusler (Gardner-Webb, Boiling Springs, N.C.) and All-region lineman Sean Beeler (University of West Georgia).

Irwin, a 6-foot-5, 245-pound lineman and son of former UT and NFL standout offensive lineman Tim Irwin, said he “was obviously comfortable with the coaching staff because of the coaches [Cutcliffe] brought over from Tennessee that I knew.

“And also with the combination of athletics and academics that that place has, that made it an easy choice,” Irwin, 17, added.

About carrying on the Irwin name at Duke as an offensive lineman, “obviously I’m very proud to come from such great football lineage, and very fortunate, I feel like,” the senior said. “I think that’s helped me get to where I am right now, and now I’m ready to work hard to prepare myself for the next level.

Mark Pemberton, KCHS head coach, said Irwin would be “a tremendous offensive lineman for ’em. Very smart. Got great feet for a lineman.”

Faris, a 5-foot-10, 180-pound standout defensive back with the Irish, said said the Cutcliffe/UT coaching connection “was a huge part of the decision.

“Everything you hear about coach ‘Cut,’ you here he’s a great coach, but getting to meet him, he’s even a better person,” Faris, 17, added. “I’d love to play for a guy like that. Four years of college football’s going to be a tough thing, you have to work your tail off. I wouldn’t want to do it for anybody else but coach ‘Cut.’”

Also, “academics are at the top tier,” Faris said. “It’s truly the best of both worlds. I’m blessed to have this opportunity.”

Faris said Cutcliffe informed him he’ll begin at cornerback, “but he said with my ability he may have to switch me to safety, wherever I could play early.”

Pemberton labeled Faris “a tremendous player, a hard worker. He’ll go over there and work his way into playing time.”

Tait, 6-foot-2, 230, is projected as a linebacker at Buffalo, will be going back to the city where he was born. “The coaches were great, it’s an up-and-coming program. How they recruit ... they don’t back down like some other schools do.”

Tait, 17, also cited “a lot of family up there that made the decision a lot easier.”

On the field, “They really turned it around this year, co-[Mid American Conference] champs,” Tait said. “It think we’re going to take it farther than that in the coming years.”

Pemberton said Buffalo “is really up on Dustin at linebacker, they think he can step in there and play pretty quick.”

Trusler, a 6-foot-1, 210-pound projected inside or outside LB, said he “fell in love” with G-W after a recent visit. “I met all the coaches, and the players accepted me like I was part of the team,” he added. “The facilities are awesome.”

The KCHS skipper said Trusler, 17, “will do a great job” at G-W.

Beeler, a 6-foot-6, 300-pound projected offensive tackle at West Georgia, said “we really liked what the coaches conveyed. Coach [Daryl] Dickey, who played at U-T, we felt like he set out the priorities for a very good program.”

Pemberton said UWG “feels fortunate” to get Beeler, 18, adding “they really feel like they got a steal with Sean at offensive tackle.”


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