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Countdown to kickoff: Austin Peay’s quarterbacks

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 2020 season. With precisely one week until kickoff, we turn our attention to the signal callers, where the 2019 Media Preseason OVC Offensive Player of the Year is back for the Governors after missing almost the entirety of the 2019 season.

By Casey Crigger

APSU Athletics Communications

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – First things first: Jeremiah Oatsvall is back.

After throwing for 232 yards and three touchdowns in the season opener against NC Central last season, Oatsvall went down with a season-ending injury on the ninth play from scrimmage in the Govs Week Two contest against Central Arkansas. JaVaughn Craig stepped in and had a record-setting season while leading the Governors to the Ohio Valley Conference Championship and the FCS Playoff Quarterfinals, and if you may have forgotten what Mr. Oatsvall can do – no worries, we are here to remind you.

After just 25 career games, Oatsvall has ascended to the Govs all-time top-10 in pass efficiency (first, 137.6), quarterback rushing touchdowns (third, 12), quarterback rushing yards (third, 970), passing touchdowns (fourth, 30), touchdown’s responsible for (fourth, 43), total offense per game (fourth, 160.5 yards), total offense (sixth, 4,013 yards), passing yards per game (sixth, 120.6 yards), passing yards (seventh, 3,016 yards), and pass completions (tenth, 210). Now, Oatsvall is set to retake the reins with nearly all of the offensive line and skill position players returning to the offense following the best season in program history.

“It is really good for us to have Jeremiah back, we are blessed to have such a good quarterback returning and we were really blessed to have JaVaughn [Craig] last year,” said offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Tim Zetts. “But we are really excited to have JO; last year he was slated as the starter, so to have him back and to have another year with him in the system is just a whole lot of fun. We are able to get a little bit of some next-level type things, and he allows us to do some things that I think puts us in good positons.”

A veteran offensive line, combined with an abundance of uber-talented wide receivers bodes well for the Brentwood native, who ranked in the OVC’s top-10 in both rushing and passing during his last complete season (2018). After a year of observing and learning from the sideline, the cerebral dual-threat quarterback is set to once again lead the Governors offense from under center.

Behind Oatsvall, Kam Williams returns for his redshirt junior campaign. Williams has been a reliable option for the Governors off the bench and has now been in Zetts’ system for two full seasons. In 2019, the Memphis native tossed for 35 yards on a pair of completions and in 2018 he rushed for 27 yards on just two carries. Able to do it both through the air and on the ground, Williams provides Zetts another offensive weapon that can be used in a multitude of ways.

Rhode Island transfer Vito Priore is the newest face in the Governors quarterback room.  In 2019, Priore threw for 3,252 yards and 22 touchdowns – both the third-best single-season marks in Rhode Island history – while playing in 12 games and starting ten of them for the Rams. The Atlanta native threw for 29 touchdowns in 18 games during his time at Rhode Island and will bring a wealth of experience to the Govs offense for his redshirt senior season.   

Kam and Vito are coming along,” said Zetts. “They are understanding the system and they are able to operate the offense, so they are right there. I think our whole room is a really healthy environment. They want to come in, they are ready to learn and they are really eager. So from the top down we have really good guys that are able to operate the offense at a high level.”

Bryce Robinson, a local standout from Clarksville Academy, and Collier Pecht, a three-year starter at Sequoyah High School in Woodstock, Georgia, each redshirted in their first seasons at Austin Peay. Along with true freshman Draylen Ellis, who was rated a three-star prospect by 247Sports, the trio will provide much need depth, skill, and promise for the Govs offense both now and in the future.

“Starting with the newcomer Draylen Ellis, he is really coming along and I am really proud of his development,” Zetts said. “He has a live arm and he is as talented as you will see. He has a lot of ability throwing the football and he is getting it now mentally, it has been a lot of fun seeing his development just over these few weeks. So I think he is really a player that we are excited about for the future and he is developing at a fast enough pace that he is in the mix with those other guys.

“Collier and Bryce both are phenomenal guys to have in the room. Collier spent a lot of time last year down with the scout team and they cannot say enough good things about him. Bryce is one of our team leaders, especially in that class, but overall he is just an unbelievable leader. So when you add all six of those guys and put them in the same room together, like I said it’s a lot of fun for me.”

Zetts Perception: “I think that our quarterbacks have control of the offense. I am really proud of their development, I think we have been making strides every single day and we are building off of last season. We are able to be multiple because they give us the ability to really do some things at the line of scrimmage and see the defense. They are doing a lot of stuff defensive recognition wise that I think is a little bit next level. It is a luxury for us to be able to have guys that have that ability and the intelligence that they have.”

2020 Returnees / 2019 Stats

Jeremiah Oatsvall (R-Jr.) / 26-of-42, 237 yards, 3 touchdowns, 3 interceptions, 61.9 completion percentage; 8 carries, 27 yards, 3.4 yards per carry, 0 touchdowns

Collier Pecht (R-Fr.)

Bryce Robinson (R-Fr.)

Kam Williams (R-Jr.) / 2-of-3, 35 yards, 0 touchdowns, 0 interceptions, 66.7 completion percentage; 3 carries, 5 yards, 1.7 yards per carry, 0 touchdowns

2020 Newcomers

Draylen Ellis (Fr.)

Vito Priore (R-Sr.) / 271-of-455, 3,268 yards, 22 touchdowns, 12 interceptions, 59.6 completion percentage; 1 rushing touchdown (at Rhode Island)

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