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APSU football: Experience an asset for secondary

APSU Athletics Communications

By Colby Wilson

APSU Athletics Communications

Throughout fall camp, LetsGoPeay.com will take a look at each of the position groups as the Austin Peay State University football team goes through preparations for the 2019 season. Today, we’ll take stock of a spot that should be a huge strength—the secondary. Nineteen players could see time in the secondary in 2019, with many of those players blessed with big-game experience and the skill to go head-to-head with the league’s top talents.

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – When you take a peek at the Austin Peay roster by position, you’ll notice how stocked the secondary is with veterans. Seven juniors and another four seniors offer the backbone to a deep stable of talent that can take some of the pressure off a front seven replacing key figures in 2019.

A swollen upper-class means veterans are jockeying for playing time across the secondary. Erskine FrancisRashon DavisKordell JacksonJames TobinJoseph Newberry and Coreon Jackson—all juniors—along with senior Rodney Saulsberry Jr. have seen extended action over the years, with Davis and Kordell Jackson earning multiple starts in 2018. All are fast, capable and—above all else—experienced from years in the Ohio Valley Conference.

“We’ve got a bunch of guys who played a lot of snaps last year,” said Dominique Bowman, co-defensive coordinator and secondary coach. “Erskine FrancisRashon DavisJames Tobin… we’ve got a lot of good competition in camp. Those guys have been battling all through camp.”

The silent assassin of the bunch is the walk-on turned All-OVC standout Juantarius Bryant. Austin Peay’s leading returning tackler, Bryant is the capable veteran leader overseeing the secondary. But he’s hardly alone—Trent Taylor and Isaiah Norman are take-down artists of the highest order, accruing 34 and 27 tackles, respectively, in 2018 with Norman bulling his way into the safety rotation as a sophomore. Big (6-2, 180 pounds) and physical, senior Johnathon Edwards has a chance to crack the safety rotation as well as the Govs replace departed playmakers Malik Davis and James Bond, while Bowman is also high on Tyriq Arties, a redshirt sophomore. Elijah Sheppard, a converted linebacker, is also seeing action in the secondary this year.

Isaiah Norman is a great athlete,” Bowman said. “Johnathon Edwards is a very good player. We’re a veteran group. Our corner and safety spots are very deep. I’m excited about how much depth we’ve got.”

With the Govs often deploying multiple defensive backs at multiple spots, this depth has been important. But it’s backed by players pushing the upperclassmen in practice every day, hoping to show the coaches they can compete for playing time. With no true freshmen on the roster, even redshirts such as JJ MercerLennon Harris III, Lorenzo FrazierDeMilton Rocker (a transfer), Travion Woodard and Aquantis Sanders have a year in the program under their belts and have been able to adjust to what their new coaches expect from them beginning in spring ball, giving this unit a leg up in cohesion.

2019 Returnees / 2018 Stats
Tyriq Arties (R-So.) / No appearances in 2018
Juantarius Bryant (R-Sr.) / 11 games, 65 tackles (35 solo), 2.5 TFL, 1 PBU, 1 FR
Rashon Davis (R-Jr.) / 10 games, 20 tackles (16 solo), 0.5 TFL, 1 INT, 2 PBU, 1 FF
Johnathon Edwards (Sr.) / No appearances in 2018
Erskine Francis (R-Jr.) / 5 games, 7 tackles (four solo), 1 INT
Coreon Jackson (Jr.) /   5 games
Kordell Jackson (Jr.) / 10 games, 32 tackles (29 solo), 2.0 TFL, 2 INT, 5 PBU, 1 FF
Joseph Newberry (Jr.) / 9 games, 7 tackles (four solo), 0.5 TFL, 0.5 sacks, 1 PBU
Isaiah Norman (R-So.) / 10 games, 27 tackles (15 solo), 2 PBU
Rodney Saulsberry Jr. (Sr.) / 2 games, 2 tackles (one solo)
Elijah Shepard (R-Jr.) / 9 games, 9 tackles (two solo), 1 PBU (converting from linebacker)
Trent Taylor (Sr.) / 11 games, 34 tackles (27 solo), 0.5 TFL, 2 INT, 7 PBU
James Tobin (Jr.) / 8 games, 8 tackles (five solo)
Lorenzo Frazier (R-Fr.)
Lennon Harris III (R-Fr.)
JJ Mercer (R-Fr.)
DeMilton Rocker (R-Fr.)
Aquantis Sanders (R-Fr.) / 2 games, 1 tackle (solo)
Travion Woodard (R-Fr.)

2019 Newcomers
None