Some 85 players are expected to report to camp, Sunday, as Austin Peay State University’s opens football practice in preparation for the 2010 season.
The Governors will undergo physicals, Sunday, and then will meet most of Monday morning before finally hitting the practice field at 3:45pm.
“We are excited to get started,” said fourth-year APSU coach Rick Christophel. “We have had a long, productive summer. We still have a little bit of work to do—we have a couple of kids still in summer school and one or two freshmen that are still waiting to cleared by the (NCAA) Clearinghouse.“It is going to be interesting to see these guys together as a group. We believe we have the chemistry that will make this a pretty good football team.”
It will be an interesting mix. For instance, the Governors watched a school-record 26 seniors play their final snaps a year ago; they will welcome 24 freshmen signees this weekend. On offense, the Govs return nine starters, including All-Ohio Valley Conference running backs Ryan White and Terrence Holt. Defensively, the Governors will be seeking to replace eight starters, returning just strong safety Jeremy Ross, weak safety Amius Smith and defensive tackle Steve Johnson to the starting lineup.
“We will be starting a lot of new faces,” Christophel said, “but a lot of them have played a lot in the past. Our secondary, in particular at cornerback, we are going to have some fresh faces—freshmen are going to be starting. I am anxious to see these young kids and watch their progress, how it all plays out. ”
Ryan, the OVC’s only 1,000-yard rusher a year ago, and Holt, the OVC’s third-leading rusher, certainly will have large targets on their backs, much like last year. But Christophel expects sophomore quarterback Jake Ryan, who took over in midseason in 2009, to step up and take pressure off the running game.
“We expect Jake to take hold of the offense—he is in charge,” Christophel said. “Even though we have a great backup in Trent Caffee, Jake is the key in what we do. He certainly has a much better understanding of the offense and we also think we have surrounded him with some pretty good weapons.”
The kicking game is one area that returns almost intact. In fact, the Governors return every aspect, except the holder. That includes sophomore kicker Stephen Stansell, who made nine field goals a year ago, and punter Ryan Key. But it also includes Holt, the All-America kick/punt returner and Ricky Thomas, who has blocked seven kicks during his career.
“It all starts with our defense and kicking game,” Christophel said. “We spend a lot of time working on our kicking game. And when we say we have most of our kicking game back, we are not just talking about Stansell and Ryan Key and Terrence, we also are talking about the guys who blocked for Terrence and the guys who cover the kicks.”
The Governors will be in shorts both Monday and Tuesday before putting on just shoulder pads on Wednesday and Thursday. The Govs’ first full-pad practice will be Friday afternoon.