Clarksville, TN – Head coach Kirby Cannon is hopeful his first Austin Peay State University recruiting class will be remembered as the one that helped turnaround the Governors football fortunes.
As of Wednesday, the Governors will enter the 2014 season with 29 new faces on an ever-changing roster. That class could expand in coming days.
“A lot of people asked me how do you recruit off (an) 0-12 (season),” APSU coach Kirby Cannon said. “I think the answer to that question is your current players have to sell the future to those recruits. I am very, very happy with our team effort in recruiting.”
“The campus visit is the No. 1 factor in why a player chooses to go to that school. Our players spend a lot of time with those recruits. It is a two-way information-gathering system. Our players sold the idea we are a program on the move—our future is very bright and that these young men could be a huge part of it.”
“Winning where you haven’t won before is a great experience. Our kids sold that.”
Despite being down two assistant coaches since December, Cannon and his staff crisscrossed the country to locate recruits that not only can help build for the future but next season as well. The newcomer class has just three players with junior college experience with the remainder will be freshmen.
Three freshmen, quarterback Mickey Macius and receivers Jermer Braswell and Wesley Thomas, already are on campus and will go through spring football. Local product Dallin Bridges, a running back who attended Alderson-Broaddus (Philippi, W.V.) College last fall, also is on campus.
“It just takes a three-month sprint effort by your staff,” Cannon said. “You have to be willing to put a few things to the side and our staff was able to that. When you are down a couple of coaches, it leaves you a little thin, but it means you have to really hustle and those guys did it.
“With a full year of screening, evaluation and recruitment, this is an outstanding class. We had a lot of people help us, who put us in position to find that many players of that quality. It was a very, very positive situation.
For instance, former APSU defensive lineman, Rocky Peeler, who now is the coach at Lancaster Christian Academy in Smyrna, helped the Govs with record-setting wide receiver Jered Beard, who caught 87 passes for 2,321 yards and 23 TDs this season.
Beard, Thomas and Braswell are part of a group of wide receiver newcomers. In 2013, the Govs’ receiving corps struggled gaining separation from defenders, all but eliminating any sort of vertical passing game. But it just wasn’t the receiving position addressed in the 2014 class.
“The strength of this recruiting class is the balance,” Cannon said. “Nearly every position was represented. We not only recruited for some immediate competition, but as well recruit for depth. Last year’s class lacked a quarterback and didn’t have enough offensive linemen. The balance of this one is very impressive to me.”
Cannon and his staff spent much of 2013 studying multiple game video of each potential recruit and assessed their respective abilities both on and off the field. One area of improvement particularly will be noticed when all players step onto the practice field next summer.
“From a general speed standpoint, it has a very athletic speed-oriented image in this class,” Cannon said. “The days of getting beat in the track meet won’t be for long.
“Like in any class, we wanted to concentrate on speed as a factor. However, at some other positions we wanted to get bigger and we have done that, particularly along the offensive line. “