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Defensive line could help move Austin Peay Governors Football to front of class

 

Written by Brad Kirtley
APSU Sports Information Director

Austin Peay State University GovernorsClarksville, TN – Two years ago you could find Earnest Smith at the end of sprint line but also at the front of the food line.

Always a football talent, he gained playing time in 2010 as a reserve defensive tackle. He also was always easy to spot. Wearing jersey No. 99, Smith was the guy whose stomach protruded over his belt.

Austin Peay Football. (Courtesy: Lois Jones/Austin Peay)

Austin Peay Football. (Courtesy: Lois Jones/Austin Peay)

Speed the clock forward two years…football practice ends…the players are put at the goal line to run sprints. Each sprint Smith runs away from his fellow defensive linemen. In fact, Smith usually crosses the goal line at least 10 yards ahead of any other lineman.

A once overweight defensive tackle has now become a svelte defensive end at 6-2, 235 pounds.  He also has become one of the Governors best defensive players, the former walk-on beginning his second season as a starter for first-year assistant coach Pat Donohoe, who has more than 25 seasons coaching defensive fronts.

“Earnest Smith had a really, really good two-a-days,” Rick Christophel said. “He’s a self-made football player. He has worked really, really hard to get himself where he is and I think that is important that our players see and understand that.

“He has put himself into a being a good football player. He is still 235 to 240 pounds, but you wouldn’t realize that by looking at him. It (weight loss) has helped his speed and helped his quickness.”

Smith will start on one side. He finished with 33 tackles last season, the most by a lineman. Behind him is expected to converted linebacker Zach Lane, a converted linebacker who began the transition late last season after coming back from a foot injury.  Lane is expected to combine with Smith to provide the Govs a much-needed edge rush.

Also at that position is redshirt freshman John Houston Jr. and freshman Trey Salisbury, a potential redshirt candidate.

On the other side, junior college transfer Malcolm Goines, who just recently was cleared to play, is expected to provide a strong impact. Freshman Corey Teague has leapfrogged to the No. 2 while fifth-year senior Zac Burkhart, shifted from linebacker in the spring, has played multiple seasons of snaps. Also in the mix is redshirt freshman Trevar Frizell, another who enjoyed an eye-opening fall campaign.

Inside the Governors are expected to start two Capital One Academic All-District selections in Iosua Siliva and Reese Bulmash. Siliva (four tackles for loss) started at defensive end a year ago, but more than a year removed from shoulder surgery he is expected to provide impact from the interior.

Behind Siliva is another former defensive end Preston Gilbreath and senior Anthony Marion (24 tackles), who has started at the position in the past and is the Govs swingman at end and tackle.

“Iosua is athletic,” Christophel said. “We would like him to be another 10 pounds or so. But he has adapted to Coach Donohoe and he has done everything he can to make himself better. He is going to be a pretty good football player when he is done.”

A former competitive weight lifter, Bulmash (21 tackles) will hold down the nose position for a second straight season. Sophomore DeAndre Carroll has improved immensely inside to move ahead of junior Rob Bryant to provide significant depth at that position.

“(Reese) didn’t practice the first few days because of a hamstring injury,” Christophel said. “Coach Donohoe didn’t know much about when about him but when he got out there he understood why we are excited about him.”

Donohoe replaced Ryan Taylor after spring practice. It has taken little time for the veteran coach to leave his stamp on the Govs front line of defense.

“He is challenging his guys every single day,” Christophel said. “He is going to play the best eight, nine or 10 kids up front-we want to get our best players on the field.

“We have to get better pressure (on the quarterback) from our front and he has worked those guys where they think they can rush the passer with four people. That is what excites me.”


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