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Consistency a focus for Govs

Jimmy Trodglen/Tnsports360.com

By Jimmy Trodglen

Sports Editor

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – There is reason to believe Austin Peay will improve on last season’s 1-11 finish.

The Govs return 15 starters, eight back on an offense that returns 80 percent of its production.

Austin Peay enters its third season under coach Kirby Cannon, who has assembled consecutive strong recruiting classes.

Austin Peay should profit from the bulk of its defensive front six returning, plus the addition of three starters from its secondary.

So there is hope the Govs could take the next step in the evolution toward being a championship tier team.

But there is also reason for concern with the Govs forced to rebuild their offensive line, while contending with an early season schedule that includes nonconference games with Vanderbilt and Southern Miss, along with games against the OVC’s preseason favorites.

The unknown once again landed Austin Peay in the bottom of the OVC in a vote of league coaches and sports information directors, announced Monday during OVC football media day.

Austin Peay was picked to finish last among the nine OVC schools that play FCS football.

Once again Jacksonville State – the defending OVC champions – was the overwhelming favorite to win consecutive titles, receiving 16 of the 18 first-place votes. It was the fourth time in the past six years the Gamecocks were selected as preseason favorites.

Jacksonville State is coming off a 10-2 season and an unblemished 8-0 conference record.

Eastern Illinois was picked to finish second in the conference, followed by Eastern Kentucky, which picked up the two remaining first-place votes.

Eastern Kentucky running back Dy’Shawn Mobley was the preseason Offensive Player of the Year selection, while Jacksonville State defensive lineman Devaunte Sigler was preseason Defensive Player of the Year.

Jacksonville State had six players named to the preseason all-conference team on offense, another five on defense and one special teams.

Eastern Illinois had one player selected for the preseason offensive team and three on defense.

Even with its large contingent of starters returning, the Govs didn’t have a player named to the preseason teams.

While Austin Peay will trust inexperience to rebuild its offensive line, it will have the luxury of Bernard Gauldin to build around. Gauldin joined the Govs last season after a stint at College of Dupage.

Gauldin, along with defensive tackle Gino Roberson represented Austin Peay during media day. Austin Peay believes Roberson is developing into a productive tool in its 4-2-5 defensive look.

“We pride ourselves on adapting,” Gauldin said. “Adapting to the situation, adapting to the plays that went wrong. We’re trying to see what freshmen are going to come in ready to adapt, ready to be on their toes and see what will happen.”

Adapting to a new offensive line will be indispensable if the Govs continue to build on the foundation it fashioned last season.

“This is the season of change (for Austin Peay),” Gauldin said. “Last year was my first year at the school and really my first year playing in the OVC. … I see the change we have put in, the adapting to changes from last season to how we are training now.”

Roberson has played extensively in his first two season and the Govs will need his consistency to highlight an experienced front.

“It’s going to be everywhere,” said Roberson, referring to the Govs’ focus on consistency. “It’s going to be in the weight room to just doing conditioning. We are going to practice that. That way when it comes game time it’s there.”

Jimmy Trodglen, sports editor, Twitter@Tnsports360.com.

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