Even after one week of fall practice, there are some positives already showing for APSU Football.

Last season, head coach Kirby Cannon came into camp with a group of guys he had no knowledge of. But this year, Cannon has a large freshmen class where all 42 newcomers were recruited by him, and has had a year under his belt to build close ties with veteran players.

There are still over two weeks remaining until the season opener at Memphis, and the Govs haven’t spent a significant amount of time in full pads. But even with a small sample size, here are my impressions so far.

Taylor looks sharp at quarterback

It all starts at the quarterback position, and with Trey Taylor already set to start the opener, he has been able to focus on himself rather than try and beat someone out for the job. Even though I haven’t seen Taylor go live in full pads against the defense, just from watching him in drills leads me to believe he will be reliable. The southpaw has some zip on the ball, while also having the speed to run read option plays that the offense has been working on.

But the most impressive thing I’ve seen out of Taylor is the fact he appears to be a student of the game. As practice ended, Taylor stayed after to throw with a couple of receivers. I stood and watched for a couple minutes, and Taylor began talking to a young quarterback about how he learns to read defensive packages. I overheard him say he has notebooks where he will draw up different plays to fit different opposing sets, and studies them. For a guy who is coming into the program in his first year, this is a positive sign that Taylor is committed.

The receiver group is loaded with talent

Certainly, losing the top receiver from last season in senior Darryl Clack was a blow, but there are plenty of guys to make up for his departure. It all starts with the seniors — Jamaar Embry, Javier Booker, and Hunter Branch — who anchor the young guys. From what I’ve seen, Embry appears to be the number one target as the offense will be high-tempo this season.

“We’re just trying to work on technique, being mentally ready, knowing the plays, and knowing where to go,” he said. “It’s a little slower, but no matter what we’re doing, we still have a high intensity.”

Embry referred to practices being slower in regard to teaching freshmen along the way. Coach Cannon said on the opening day of camp there are three receivers in particular — LaRon Golden, Jared Beard, and Malik Boynton — who have impressed the most. All three have been inserted into the top groups, and have some wheels to make big plays, if they get the ball.

“I think we’re going to be quick,” Cannon said. “I know we’re conditioned and are going to have good speed at positions where you need it. We just have to do our best at utilizing that speed. It doesn’t do anything when you have a fast receiver and can’t get the ball to him.”

Defensively, it’s a work in progress

When it comes to putting in the defensive system, the Govs are slowly working towards getting it down. Cannon, who will also serve as defensive coordinator this season, wants to take it step-by-step, and it all starts with understanding the basics.

“I’m a guy that says until you master the fundamentals, we won’t even think about going to step two,” Cannon said. “We want to be multiple and have all the bells and whistles of a modern defense, but if we’re not fundamentally sound in everything, then we won’t be very good and won’t progress.”

At one point in the first practice, Cannon shouted,”Get it right!” when running through a blitz package. It’s clear improving the defense, especially the front seven, is a huge priority for the Govs. Senior defensive end Adam Noble said there will be plenty of practices to get things set, and expects everything to mesh out well. I’ll definitely be focusing a lot on the defense as this week of practice rolls along.

Other notes

  • On the first day of practice, a scout from the Arizona Cardinals was on hand, and spoke to senior defensive back Johnathan Shuler.
  • Coach Cannon pointed out three freshmen defensive backs who are off to a good start: David Wall, DeKeivis Perry, and Kryan Moore.
  • Another player Cannon really likes on the defensive side: Nic Matiere-Bey. He’s a guy who can provide pursuit to the ball on either the right or left end. I have a full story on him you can read here
  • To read my story from the first practice, go here

Photo: The Govs take part in Day 1 of training camp (Corey Adams/The All State)