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HomeSportsAPSU Football Coach Kirby Cannon Era set to begin as players report...

APSU Football Coach Kirby Cannon Era set to begin as players report to camp

Austin Peay State University Governors Sports - APSUClarksville, TN – The first preseason camp of the Kirby Cannon Era will begin Sunday when Austin Peay State University’s football team reports to campus.

Actually, the Governors veterans are expected on campus during the weekend with the freshmen checking into Castle Heights, Sunday, before the team undergoes physicals and meets for the first time en mass that night. The Govs will undergo conditioning tests Monday before they practice for the first time, Tuesday.

Austin Peay Football Coach Kirby Cannon. (Courtesy: Brittney Sparn/APSU Sports Information)
Austin Peay Football Coach Kirby Cannon. (Courtesy: Brittney Sparn/APSU Sports Information)

Cannon, who was hired in March and jumped into practice a week later in a whirlwind spring, is now more grounded and is excited to have his first Governors edition back on campus.

“Knowing the players to some extent and knowing where the team is at this point and time should allow us to start off at a nice platform,” said Cannon, who came to APSU after three seasons as a Central Michigan assistant following 11 seasons as a Division II head coach. “We instituted some concepts of discipline and some concepts of effort requirements in the spring.

“Our offense and defense systems won’t change drastically in the fall so it gives us a chance to start where we left off. We will have to indoctrinate a lot of the new players as quickly as possible and evaluate them for playing time, but all of that is positive.”

With spring practice and late recruiting behind him, Cannon was able to concentrate filling open staff positions. After handling the linebackers in the spring, Cannon reached back to his Missouri S&T head-coaching days to hire Kyran Weaver to coach that position in Clarksville.

He later added another former S&T cohort, Josh Richards, as wide receivers coach, with offensive coordinator Marcus Gildersleeve moving to running backs. He also brought in former S&T offensive lineman Brandon Jordan as a graduate assistant.

“I won’t be the linebacker coach (this fall),” said a laughing Cannon. “Having coach Weaver and coach Richards along with Brandon Jordan it has us in position to be better coached. It allows me to do the head-coaching thing, representing both sides of the ball and concentrate on special teams. Those are guys I have coached with in the past so it should be a smooth transition.”

Not only did Cannon add staff members but after evaluating the roster found some much-needed recruits to supplement the club. As a result, the Governors need to gel as a team in a hurry. The Govs season opener is less than one month away when they travel to Knoxville to play Tennessee in a 5:00pm, kickoff, Saturday, August 31st.

“When we get on the field we have game pressure now,” Cannon said. “That means you are not going to be as patient with some players. At some point you are going to have to decide your first team, who your second-team players are, who is going to redshirt, those who are not. You accelerate all evaluations—players have to be better faster to get on the field.

“In the spring it is equal reps…you are doing the right fundamental things but you are doing things with no pressure of a game at the end of that.

“The acceleration of everything—all your teaching has to be faster. All your game situations have to be covered. Your special teams situations have to be ready to go. You have a finite number of practices to get it all done.”

On paper the Governors return a veteran club with nearly 60 lettermen back, including 17 starters. The first week will reveal the conditioning level of the Govs, many of whom were able to remain in the Clarksville area during the summer to gain weight-room work. In addition, the APSU coaches will concentrate on fundamental teachings while also indoctrinating the newest Governors to the system.

“I still think the biggest thing we need to with this team is build its maturity level by practice so we are a more mature team on game day,” Cannon said. “What that means is doing a lot of situational decision- making drills. That was our biggest problem in the spring—poor decisions that led to panic in some situations.

“I think if we are well coached and recognize the importance of decision making and poise in certain points of the games we have a chance to be an improving football team.”

The team already has faced adversity, losing two key seniors to injury. Earlier in the summer starting defensive end Earnest Smith, who led team in tackles for loss last season, tore an Achilles tendon during a conditioning drill. A few weeks later, guard Chris Hartman, the Govs’ most veteran offensive lineman—two seasons as a starter—suffered a ruptured disc.

“Finding replacements for what we thought were two solid starting spots certainly will be important early,” Cannon said. “Football is always challenged in that injuries are part of the game and other players have to be ready. It is always interesting to see how a team suffers from those losses as opposed how long it takes for someone to step and take the reins of those positions.

“It is so disappointing for those players—there is nothing worse than missing your senior year when you expected to be at your best—but it is a great opportunity for some other young to get on the field before perhaps they thought they would. What I have seen over the years is someone will step into those two spots and do a good job.”

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