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Clarksville, TN – A much different Austin Peay State University football team will kick off Year 2 of the Kirby Cannon Era when the Governors travel to West Tennessee to face Memphis in a 6:00pm, Saturday contest at the Liberty Bowl.
The Governors, coming off a 0-12 2013, enter the season with a roster makeover that has 39 freshman dotting the list, with 18 spots on the two-deep held by first-year players.
Austin Peay Football opens the 2014 season at Memphis tonight. (APSU Sports Information)
“We are planning on about 14 or so of the freshmen seeing active duty on Saturday, and we plan to hold a couple back to see if there is a way to redshirt those guys,” said Cannon. “We will have to push them—they are going to make mental mistakes and the staff must prepare for that.
“Our team speed is much improved since last year—the freshmen certainly have helped us upgrade in that area. On the offensive side it gives us a chance to be more productive in fewer plays.”
On the defensive side, one freshman, defensive Tyler Schneider, is expected to start. Two freshmen wide receivers, Jared Beard and Malik Boynton, also are expected to start alongside senior Javier Booker.
Junior Trey Taylor, who played at Houston High School just outside of Memphis, will be at the offensive helm for a team that averaged just 7.5 points per game a year. Taylor not only will be making his first career start but will be taking his first college offensive snaps as well. Taylor won the Govs’ starting quarterback job in the spring and then held off a pair of freshmen challengers, Darrien Boone and Mickey Macius, in preseason camp.
Taylor will hand off to receiver-turned-running back Rashaan Coleman, who ran for more than 100 yards in his only game as a back last year. In addition, Justin Roberson, who played defensive back a year ago, also will gain his share of carries.
The key for Taylor and the offense will be a rebuilt offensive line with seniors Nathan Sanders and Isaiah Tuisasosopo.
APSU would love nothing better than slice a large number off record-setting punter Ben Campbell’s fourth-down appearances. He punted 87 times a year ago. Campbell’s first game as a Gov happened to be four years ago at Memphis.
Defensively, the Govs permitted nearly 40 points per game a year ago, a season that saw defensive ends forced to play inside at tackle and outside linebackers moved to defensive ends. But tackle Malcolm Goines is back to anchor the interior after missing most of 2013. Antonio Turner, the Govs’ second-leading tackler a year ago, will team with redshirt junior Adam Noble.
“The defensive line has a chance to be our strength if we can stay healthy,” Cannon said. “Winning first down will be key defensively, forcing them into second and long.”
A veteran secondary led by senior safety Johnathan Shuler, who led the Govs in tackles (76) a year ago and cornerbacks Buddy Mitchell and Montez Carlton.
The Govs secondary will need to be sharp going against Memphis sophomore quarterback Paxton Lynch, who completed 203-of-349 passes for 2,056 yards and nine touchdowns. Memphis ranks seventh nationally in highest percentage of receptions returning. The Tigers return its top seven receivers in terms of both receptions and receiving yards.
Senior Joe Craig led the Tigers with 37 receptions for 338 yards. Sophomore Sam Craft caught 31 passes for 337 yards. Senior Keiwone Malone had 25 receptions for 311 yards while Mose Frazier had 18 receptions for a team-leading 16.4 yards per reception average.
The most experience within the Memphis program lays in the defensive front seven. Entering 2014, all seven expected starters at the defensive line and linebacker positions played in every game in 2013 and accounted for 64 starts.
Senior linebacker Charles Harris has been the Tigers’ leading tackler each of the last two seasons, with 74 total tackles a year ago.
However, it is senior defensive end Martin Ifedi who has turned heads during his career. He is on the Chuck Bednarik Watch List (annually presented to college football’s Defensive Football Player of the Year); the Bronco Nagurski Trophy Watch List (presented annually to the best defensive player in America by the Charlotte Touchdown Club); and the Rotary Lombardi Award Watch List (presented annually to college football’s best lineman or linebacker).
Ifedi enters his senior season with 20 career sacks. He led Memphis’ defensive linemen in tackles in 2013 with 52 stops including 14.5 for loss (11.5 quarterback sacks).
About APSU Sports Information
Austin Peay State University Sports Information provides the latest news and updates on the Athletic endeavors of the student-athletes at APSU. Under the direction of Brad Kirtley, the APSU SID’s office consists of Cody Bush, and Colby Wilson. To contact the APSU Sports Information office, contact, 931.221.7561.