How Does Austin Herink Rank Among All-Time ETSU Quarterbacks?

Marky Billson, Host of Tri-Cities Sports NOW

There stands a chance, albeit a small one, that Austin Herink will play his last game for ETSU tomorrow against Samford.

He’ll be one of 23 seniors on the field, most of whom who helped ETSU go from atrocious in 2015 to Conference Champ in 2018.

There are a few transfers, such as star linebacker Jared Folks, the forgotten transfer from Temple who has allowed ETSU to have the best pass rush in the Southern Conference this season.

But the quarterback is always in the spotlight, and with the exception of the first four games of the season, Herink was the starting quarterback for the first four years of the revival.

How does he compare to former Bucs quarterbacks?

Captain Comeback

Herink is one of five four-year starters to play quarterback for ETSU. The others are Jim Baker, who led ETSC to the 1962 Ohio Valley Conference crown, Larry Graham, the quarterback of the 1969 Grantland Rice Bowl Champion team, Greg Ryan, who also resurrected ETSU from losers to winners in the 1990s, and Todd Wells, who is ETSU’s all-time leader in total offense.

Barring a playoff run where Herink puts up monster passing stats he will go down third in all-time Buccaneer passing yards, and second in passes and completions.

With one touchdown pass he’ll pass Baker for fifth on the all time list. With four Henrink will tie Mark Hutsell for fourth.

Herink does have the opportunity to set one school record. If he can complete 22 of 25 passes against Samford, he will become the most accurate passer in ETSU history with a .602 completion rate.

Herink’s role in Buccaneers legacy will be somewhat comparable to Ryan, who took over a team with six straight losing seasons when he was named a freshman starter in 1993.

Don’t be fooled by the Bucs’ 5–6 record the year before Ryan became the starter. The 1992 team feasted on the likes of Mars Hill and Charleston Southern and experienced the worst defeat in modern ETSU history when they fell 65–7 to Louisiana Tech.

But by Ryan’s second year, he was engineering a comeback at Cullowhee in the 1994 season finale that allowed the Bucs to finish with a winning record for the first time in seven years, not to mention spoil 7–4 Western Carolina’s hopes for a playoff berth.

A monster schedule meant a losing season in 1995, but by Ryan’s senior season, ETSU had likely their second greatest team in school history and arguably their most prolific offense.

Herick didn’t quite measure to those accomplishments. He won’t be drafted by an NFL team like Alan Chadwick, he won’t be an All-American like Baker, he won’t set the records Wells did.

But Herink will be remembered by Bucs fans as a quarterback who could consistently lead ETSU back.

For better or worse, if not for Herink’s 33-yard scramble against Tennessee the Bucs would have been shut out and suffered their worst loss in modern history.

Herink has produced enough dramatic victories for ETSU one wonders what he could have done if fourth down plays on the final drives against Wofford and The Citadel last season were placed in his hands and not Jajuan Stinson’s.

In just his second start as a sophomore, Herink engineered an 18-point comeback two seasons ago at Bristol Motor Speedway against Western Carolina to give ETSU a 34–31 victory and firmly establish himself as the Bucs starter (remember Nick Sexton?).

In the season finale that season, Herink engineered a comeback from a 14–3 second-half deficit against playoff bound Samford that allowed ETSU to win, 15–14, on a last-play 28-yard field goal from J.J. Jerman.

There was the overtime victory last season against Mercer. The two long drives and 2-point conversion with just six and a half minutes left that allowed ETSU to erase a 15-point deficit and beat Western Carolina this season.

Most notably, coming off the bench to lead ETSU from a 27–6 second half deficit to a 29–27 victory against Furman this year. Not only was this the greatest come-from-behind victory in school history but it reversed the course of the season and, at least in the short term, the perception of the program.

That’s the thing. We won’t know what Herick’s legacy will be for a few seasons.

For if ETSU can build off their facilities, young running backs, defensive back Tyree Robinson, and even quarterback Logan Marchi and continue to win in a declining Southern Conference, Henrick’s comeback against Furman will be looked at as exactly when ETSU shed their losing reputation.

And that may make him not the best, but the most remembered ETSU quarterback of all.

Marky Billson hosts Tri-Cities Sports NOW 12–2 p.m. ET weekdays on 1420 NBC Sports Radio Tri-Cities. Watch him live and archived here and here.

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