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Inside the OVC: Media Day Notes Pt. II
By James D. Horne, CSN Inside the OVC Columnist
Austin Peay stands on the doorstep of its third season in the OVC with hopes that it goes like its first campaign did in 2007.
In that first year back in the league, and first under head coach Rick Christophel, the Govs roared to a 7-4 overall and 5-3 third-place record in the OVC. Unfortunately, Austin Peay wasn’t able to match that last year with its 2-9 and 2-7 eighth-place OVC record and that undoubtedly led to it being picked tied for last entering this season.
The difference between the first two seasons and how the Govs fare in 2009 boils down to the key components of Christophel’s persistent philosophy.
“I don’t know if we surprised many people that first year, but our talent level rose, the kids played at that level, and we had some breaks in the first year we didn’t have in the second,” Christophel said on day two of the OVC’s Preseason Football Coaches Conference call, which replaced the annual Media Day. “We’re trying to get into the fourth quarter, but if you turn the ball over and don’t win the kicking game you’re not going to win.
“But if you do it, you win those games. Last year, we got into every game and may have lost some games by a bigger margin, but we’re at a place where the kids believe the philosophy, and we know we can play in the conference. I don’t think we’re to the point where we can win the championship, but this year with three years under our belt we feel pretty good.”
It also helps if you have a dominant defense, and the Govs believe their senior-laden unit can spur them to success.
“When you play the style of football we play there’s no doubt your defense has to be strong,” Christophel said. “There are two things you have to do well, play great defense and have a great kicking game. If you do that, you have a chance to win games.”
The Govs reported for preseason practice at 6 p.m. Sunday and held their first practice Monday afternoon at Governors Stadium.
Christophel also reiterated that Trent Caffee goes into preseason as the starting quarterback, a job the junior won in the spring.
“Trent Caffee came out of the spring as the starter,” he said. “We have a good situation where three of our four guys have started games. But we’re going to start Trent.”
Christophel also is happy with his running corps.
“That’s one place we’ve got depth with Ryan White and Terrence Holt,” he said. “We’ve got Otis Spivey and we’re excited about Wesley Kitts, who we redshirted last year. Plus, we’ve got three good fullbacks. We’re a two-back team that can do a lot of different things. But we’ve got to get the ball into their hands.”
Skyhawks confident, but not cocky
UT Martin believes it can be a team that competes for the conference title.
And the preseason-pegged second-place Skyhawks say 2009 OVC Preseason Player of the Year, quarterback Cade Thompson, will have a lot to do with that.But everything is not set in stone.
“Obviously, I’d rather have a fifth-year quarterback than a first- or second-year guy that gives you a chance every week,” UTM coach Jason Simpson said. “But we have a lot of unknowns outside of him. We’ll be better by game three or four, because we have 25 to 30 new faces who come in this week and a lot of unknowns on defense.”
Won’t play any different
Jacksonville State is the only team that won’t have a shot at the OVC championship or FCS playoffs this season because of NCAA APR penalties that preclude it from league competition. But that doesn’t mean the Gamecocks are going to shut down and roll over.
“We’re still going to be what we are and play to win,” JSU coach Jack Crowe said. “We do have a chance to be ranked in polls and that may be the only measuring stick we draw our eyes to. I’m playing to go and see how far we can go and start a debate. We can’t be No. 1, but we can make a mark. This has happened to teams before, but to our players credit you don’t see a whole lot of whining.”
On the verge again?
Tennessee State has been in the thick of the championship hunt the last three seasons and should be in 2009. Injuries derailed the Tigers last year, and the last two seasons they’ve been thrown off track by two, two-game OVC losing streaks at critical times.
“Winning is an attitude as much as losing is,” TSU coach James Webster said. “We’ve adopted a winning attitude and we started playing with a lot of confidence and attitude that we could do this. But we got hurt and had some doubt the replacement guys could get it done. But this year, we have the attitude that if we get hurt we can get it done. Now we just have to get guys the opportunity to figure out who the ones, two and threes are going to be. But all we have to have is the effort.”