On Saturday the Tennessee Volunteers will kick off the Butch Jones era, when Tennessee takes the field at Neyland Stadium to take on the Austin Peay Governors.
However, the Vols won’t be the only team on the field kicking off a new era on Saturday.
Kirby Cannon will be coaching his first game as the head coach at Austin Peay. Cannon, as a defensive backs coach, was part of the staff that replaced Butch Jones at Central Michigan.
We recently caught up with Brad Kirtley, the Sports Information Director at Austin Peay, to see how the Governors viewed their game against the Vols, how they’re preparing and what this game means for a team with a new coach, coming off a 2-9 record in 2012.
How does the Austin Peay football team view their game against the Tennessee Volunteers?
Austin Peay is playing perhaps the toughest schedule of all FCS team this season, with two SEC teams (Tennessee and Vanderbilt) among three FBS opponents this season. It is the first time in school history APSU not only is playing Tennessee but an SEC opponent as well. It is the first Gov’s game for head coach Kirby Cannon, who was a member of the staff that replaced Butch Jones at Central Michigan. Two former Butch Jones Central Michigan recruits who followed Cannon to APSU, running back Tim Phillips and defensive back Leron Eaddy, certainly are looking forward to the challenge. Challenge is the key word for a team in transition to a new coach and new system.
Has the team done anything different or special to prepare for Tennessee?
The focus has been on the team being the best it can be at season’s start, especially with the early schedule it faces. But with so many new faces added since spring along with a new system for returnees, it is difficult to say the team is doing anything different in preparation for Tennessee.
What does this mean to the team to be able to play in a place like Neyland?
Obviously APSU has many Tennessee kids, many whom grew up UT fans. Those young people certainly are excited about the opportunity of playing in Neyland, especially those who grew up in East Tennessee. We have several kids who were members of the 2010 club that traveled to Camp Randall for that contest so they at least have experience playing in a major college stadium atmosphere.
What’s the biggest thing the team is hoping to take away from this game?
Austin Peay is hoping to build on each pre-conference game to prepare for the Ohio Valley Conference season. The UT will be the first of four such tests—all on the road. It certainly will be the most difficult season opener in University history but APSU hopes to use it to help begin forging an identity for the Kirby Cannon Era.
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