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APSU football: Walker stepping up to replace Scholato

APSU Athletics Communications

By: Stefan Nolet

APSU Athletics Communications

Throughout fall camp, 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 dig deeper into the second line of defense: the linebackers, led by a redshirt senior who’s poised for breakout year.

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – For the first time in his career at Austin Peay, it’s Pat Walker’s turn to be “the guy” at linebacker.

A native of Hattiesburg, Mississippi, Walker made an impact as a full-time starter last year, but Gunnar Scholato drew the headlines. Scholato entered 2018 on three FCS preseason All-America teams and finished his Governor career in the top 10 all-time in tackles.

Now, Walker is the leader. He’s not the most vocal guy on the team, and he certainly doesn’t seek out attention. However, he’s always the first guy in the position group going through drills, showing his younger teammates proper technique and effort, always leading by example.

He has earned respect outside of his position group too, as the team voted him as a team captain in the spring.

“He has one speed and one speed only, and that’s fast,” defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Mark Powell said. “The kid plays hard every single down, no matter what. He’s quiet, but works nonstop, which is awesome. All you have to do is tell him what to do, and he leads by that example all the time, every time.

“He’s the most humble linebacker with that amount of talent I’ve ever been around, and he really brings the entire room up.”

Senior Chris Hopkins – known to his teammates as ‘Chop’ – is a player who saw immediate action early in his career, and looks to close out his time in Clarksville as a regular contributor once again. One of his greatest attributes is his ability to step in and play the Mike or Will linebacker spots, giving Powell versatility in his lineup.

“Chop is doing a great job,” Powell said. “He’s my reliable guy, so if anything happens at Mike or Will, I know I can put him in and he’ll know exactly what to do.”

An interesting addition to the linebacker group is redshirt sophomore Jack McDonald. Last season, McDonald held down a spot in the tight end group, but saw action mostly as a special teamer. He transitioned to linebacker in the spring and made an immediate impact, leading the team with seven tackles in the Red & White Spring Game.

Jack McDonald has really had a great camp so far,” Powell said. “He showed up in spring ball and has continued to work and continued to go. He’s done a great job and we’re really excited.”

The Govs also brought in a pair of veteran transfer students who have made an impact already. Junior Cameron Miller walked on at Mississippi State, where he previously was coached by Powell. Redshirt sophomore Spencer Katoanga is a junior college transfer who continues to get his feet wet in the Govs 4-2-5 defensive system.

“Cam Miller, the transfer in from Mississippi State, he is what I thought he was going to be,” Powell said. “He’s an older guy who’s played some ball and I love what he’s been doing.

“The other guy we brought in, Spencer Katoanga, has done a pretty good job as well. He’s still learning the scheme, but the best thing he ever did this summer was come up and work.”

Powell also highlighted redshirt freshman Brandon Lopes for giving his best efforts in practice over the past few days. Redshirt junior Ken Wilson adds quality depth after moving from safety to linebacker this fall.


2019 Returnees / 2018 Stats
Chris Hopkins (Sr.) / 9 tackles (3 solo); 0.5 TFL
Jack McDonald (R-So.) / 9 games (at tight end)
Pat Walker (R-Sr.) / 53 tackles (23 solo); 4 TFL; 1 PBU; 1 FR
Ken Wilson (R-Jr.) / 1 tackle (1 solo)
Brandon Lopes (R-Fr.)

2019 Newcomers
JaQuan Foote (Fr.)
Spencer Katoanga (R-So.)
Cameron Miller (Jr.)
Nathan Romero (Fr.)

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