HERO Sports welcomes you to "Three-a-Days", where we will preview every single one of the 126 FCS programs, with three teams being released each day from June 17 to July 28. Then, we'll preview all 13 conferences from August 1-4. Today, we present … Austin Peay.
We'll leave no stone left unturned when it comes to giving the FCS diehards all they could ask for this offseason. Learn about every program in the country, with HERO Sports.
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AUSTIN PEAY (5-6 IN 2018)
The OVC (APSU was Tied for 6th in 2018)
COACH: Mark Hudspeth – At School: 1st year (0-0 record), Overall: 15th year (95-59)
LAST FCS POSTSEASON: None
2018 OFFENSE: 30.9 ppg. (33rd in FCS)
2018 DEFENSE: 30.6 ppg. (79th in FCS)
KEY GAME: Sept. 7 – vs. Central Arkansas: Truly, there are several games that fit this description. The non-conference schedule is daunting, even without an FBS opponent like in years past. Playing UCA at home will be a good indicator of this Austin Peay team. The Bears haven't had a losing season in a long time and are one of the Southland Conference's top teams. They'll make for a good early litmus test to tell us what we want to know about the Governors.
SUM IT UP: My, how far has this Austin Peay program come. Two summers ago, there were zero expectations. The program had lost 27 straight games coming into 2017 and there was nowhere to go but up. Then the Govs won eight games in a schedule possessing three FBS opponents, nearly made the FCS playoffs for the first time and won the Sgt. York Trophy — a four-team competition in Tennessee between Tennessee State, UT Martin, Tennessee Tech and the Govs. Imagine this … the Govs were disappointed with a five-win 2018 season, even though they captured a second consecutive Sgt. York Trophy. The team played the best SEMO team in a decade down to the wire, battled OVC powerhouse Jacksonville State into the fourth quarter and were within a hair of a seven-win season. Just two years removed from being one of the most downtrodden FCS programs in the nation, the Govs have a swagger … and the guys on this roster are dealing with expectations.
Now that's a story.
This year's Govs team has some serious skill talent back. Quarterback Jeremiah Oatsvall is as good as they come for a dual-threat quarterback, and his fellow signal-caller JaVaughn Craig would be a star QB at most schools. They have a lot to work with, skill wise, but they'll also need some new names to become household names when it comes to the guys up front. Having former Vanderbilt lineman Kyle Anderton back with an extra year of eligibility is big-time news, but most of the line has moved on. If Anderton and sophomore stud Seth Johnson are joined by some new stars on the OL? This could get very interesting and this offense could do some serious damage.
The defense is a bit of a tougher situation, even though there are some stars back. First-team All OVC defensive lineman Jaison Williams decided to not do his final year at APSU, and that hurts. The secondary will be a bright spot for the Govs, but some new names need to emerge on the D-line and in the linebacking corps. The good news is, former coach Will Healy and new head coach Mark Hudspeth and their staffs knew/know how to recruit, and there is talent on this roster.
The other good news? We repeat these two words … Mark Hudspeth. The man is a proven winner, turning North Alabama into a monster from 2002-08 and getting Louisiana-Lafayette to five bowl games. He is rebuilding his career after issues with the NCAA while at Lafayette, and this is the perfect place to show you still have what it takes. Book it … he does.
OUR TAKE: Here's the good news: Austin Peay has won 13 games in two seasons after breaking a 29-game losing streak. The culture has changed. The players who are in the program have become accustomed to winning and get ticked off when they lose. Also, recruiting has been a big deal here for several years now. The tough news? The non-conference schedule features four games that honestly could go either way. Austin Peay, if it finds answers at several positions, can play with North Carolina Central, Central Arkansas, Mercer and ETSU — but those programs are all solid, too.
The other problem? The OVC was Jacksonville State and "who is No. 2" for several years before last year, but the overall vibe with the OVC this fall is there is going to be some serious balance and JSU may not easily cruise to the top (it didn't last year). When you look at APSU's 2019 schedule, you don't see a whole lot of obvious losses, but you don't see all that many "gimme" wins either. If the Govs find help up front on both sides of the ball? Watch out. This will be a challenging season — not because APSU is down, but because its schedule is up. If the Govs hit six wins or more this year, that's a testament to how this program is building. We think that's possible.
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COUNTDOWN: The Best Player in FCS Who Wears Each Number, 1-99
TOP RETURNEE: Jr./QB Jeremiah Oatsvall (Third year as starter – 1,631 yards passing 20 TDs; 517 yds rushing, 6 TDs).
THE FOUNDATION: Sr./RB-KR Kentel Williams (First Team All-OVC – 831 yds rushing, 7 TDs); Sr./DB Juantarius Bryant (Second Team All-OVC – 65 tackles); Sr./OL Kyle Anderton (received an extra year after injury limited him to 4 games – big returnee, former Vanderbilt player); Sr./DB Trent Taylor (34 tackles, 7 PBUs); Jr./RB Kordell Jackson (32 tackles, 5 PBUs); Soph./OL Seth Johnson (started as a freshman in 2018 on senior-laden line); Jr./RB Ahmaad Tanner (368 yds rushing, 1 TD); Jr./WR DeAngelo Wilson (leading returning receiver – 28 receptions, 478 yards receiving, 7 TDs); Sr./P Devin Stuart (41.0 yds per punt).
TOP NEWCOMER: Jr./OL Blake Mitchell (Mississippi State transfer will be big help on O-line).
THE QUOTE: "We're getting better, we're making progress, but we're still a work in progress. We have a lot of guys that didn't practice today, and I think once we get all the injured guys back, our team dynamic will change a little. But the guys that are working are getting much better and we're creating a little more depth then we might have been if all the starters were out here." — Head Coach Mark Hudspeth said during spring ball
WERE WE RIGHT?: Last Year's Austin Peay Preview
FCS 2020 NFL PROSPECTS: The List
BEST FCS TRADITIONS: The List
PREVIEWS: The Rest Of The OVC
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