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Countdown to kickoff: Austin Peay’s special teams

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 2020 season. As we turn our focus to the specialists, we highlight a group that will look to replace nearly the entirety of the kicking unit from the 2019 OVC Championship squad.

By Casey Crigger

APSU Athletics Communications

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – Logan Birchfield did the place kicking, Devin Stuart did the punting, and Cole Phillips handled kickoffs, that triumvirate handled nearly all of the kicking duties for the Govs a year ago and they all must be replaced for the 2020 season. Returning are Corey Petersen, who punted 11 times in 2019, and Ashon Dodd, who redshirted; they will be joined by Mississippi State transfer Cole Deeds and Louisiana-Lafayette transfer Grant Paulette on the Govs new-look special teams unit.

“We brought in Cole Deeds and Grant Paulette, I actually recruited Grant when I was at the University of Louisiana Lafayette,” said first-year Special Teams Coordinator Jordan Frazier. “Both of those guys are longer kickers that have long levers and both have really good legs.

“Cole is a super accurate field goal kicker and Grant has a dominant kick off leg, but they are not just a place-kicker and a kickoff guy. Both can punt, place kick, and kick off, so right now it is exciting to see the leg talent we have on the roster.”

Petersen averaged 30.8 yards on 11 punts, with zero touchbacks, while also downing eight kicks inside the 20-yard line a season ago. Dodd, a native of Hendersonville, redshirted during his first year in Clarksville. With four kickers contending for the three utility kicking positions, Frazier likes the competition and intensity he has seen during fall camp.

“No one can take a day off; it is almost like every kick is a pressure kick,” said Frazier. “You want to be able to compete and perform under pressure, especially in place kicking spot; because it is all eyes on you. It is so technically based and you only get one shot, so you have got to make sure that one shot counts. Every single rep we take in practice has got some pressure to it, because these guys want to see time on the field and for them to do that they have got to win a spot and be the most dependable and most consistent. The competition and battles for spots have heightened everything, and that has helped increase performance.”

The most experienced player among the Governors specialists is redshirt-junior long-snapper Nick Screnock. The Flowery Branch, Georgia product, appeared in all 15 games and handled the majority of the special teams snaps a year ago. Screnock also made a pair of tackles in 2019, recording stops as a part of the punt coverage team against Tennessee State and Eastern Kentucky.

“Screnock is super, super dependable,” said Frazier. “He is good in coverage and has seen a lot of football. I am really excited with what he has done, especially with his body; he is running really well and looks great. He has been snapping the ball really well, and I am super excited to have him back as the guy to rely on to lead the specialist group.”

Joining Screnock in the long-snapping core are redshirt senior Lucas Betten and freshman Ethan Myers. Betten snapped for the Govs in a trio of games in 2019 and Myers joins the squad by way of Blackman High School in Murfreesboro.

Lucas Betten is snapping the ball really well right now,” Frazier said. “I am super excited with the progress that he has made and I want him to continue to be right there to push Screnock. The young buck, Ethan Myers, is a lefty who arrived in really good shape. His body looks really good and he has got a super-bright future in front of him. He has got a lot of velocity on the football and his snaps have got good rotation. He is pretty advanced for a true freshman snapper, and I really like what he is going to be able to do for the Govs in the future.

“We are excited for what we did last year, but that was last year. I am excited to bring in this new group of guys and watch them perform and put their foot on the ball when we tee it up this season in Montgomery, Alabama, on August 29. Hopefully we go out there and get a couple of wins; but I am really just excited to see how the specialist group, as well as all the special teams unit, performs this year.”

2020 Returnees / 2019 Stats

Lucas Betten (R-Sr.) / 3 games

Ashton Dodd (R-Fr.)

Corey Petersen (Jr.) / 11 punts, 30.8 average, long of 46 yards, 0 touchbacks, 8 downed inside the 20-yard line

Nic Screnock (R-Jr.) / 15 games, 2 tackles

2020 Newcomers

Cole Deeds (R-So.)

Grant Paulette (So.)

Ethan Myers (Fr.)

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