»Joshua Stephenson, Staff Writer
APSU’s new head football coach Kirby Cannon understands what kind of program he signed with when APSU hired him back in mid-March. He understands that the team he is now in charge of had a 2-9 season last year and lost their two best offensive players to graduation. With all that being said he also knows that there is still a lot of untapped potential here at APSU.
“You’re inheriting a 2-9 team and the seniors are gone,” Cannon said. “But in football you can win with one or two superstars or when you have eleven solid football players that play well as a group ,and I’d say we have more of those type of players.” Despite saying that, Cannon understands that you need difference makers on your football team to win games; one of the things that people are wondering is if Cannon can recruit to APSU.
“Recruits base their decision on four factors: economics, the social world, academics and football environment,” said Cannon, who believes APSU has all of that and doesn’t believe their past woes will really hamper recruiting. “I don’t think everyone grows up saying they have to go somewhere that has won a lot. For an eighteen year old, two years ago is ancient history.”
As for where the players are going to come from, it is set up for most players to come from in-state because of how scholarships are handed out.
“You’re structured in the scholarship pool to put a premium on in-state recruiting,” Cannon said. “We should be a Tennessee team.Everything says recruit Tennessee, but I think your difference makers will come from out of state.”
Some of the difference makers that Cannon will try to bring in will definitely be on the offensive side of the ball. His approach to the offense will be to turn the Governors into a passing team but he knows it will take time.
“We have to be very turnover-conscious on offense; we probably aren’t good enough to give up a bunch of turnovers,” Cannon said. He understands that if you aren’t good on offense you need to set up the offense by forcing turnovers to improve your chances. “If you’re not very good on offense, you have to get the ball in positions were you can be good on offense.”
His strategy behind being a team that can throw the ball effectively is very simple; it can help you win games that you might not win otherwise.
“If you’re better than a team you play, and you can throw it, you’re going to win,” Cannon said. “If you’re equal and you can throw it well you’re going to win; and throwing the ball well gives you an opportunity to beat a team that you may not be quite as good as physically.”
Cannon’s plan for the defensive side of the ball is the opposite of his plans for the offensive side: he wants a quick decision, run-stopping defense.
“You build a defensive team with the idea that you can stop the run first,” said Cannon, who believes it’s more of a mental game than lining up with eight men in the box. “If you can’t stop the run, even a throwing offense will run the ball all day because there is very little risk with it.”
Cannon’s plan is built on whether his defense can stop the run and force the opposing team to throw, which increases the chances for turnovers, which then feeds back into his plans for offense.
“If you can force people to throw the ball, that’s where you’re going to get your turnovers, generally,” Cannon said.
Special teams will also be a very big key on Cannon’s makeover of the APSU football program. Coaching special teams was one of his earliest jobs and he feels that it determines the outcomes of games.
“That’s [special teams] where average teams can be good teams, by making a play or two on special teams,” said Cannon, who wants Governors faithful to be ready for an aggressive style on special teams. “We play Tennessee next year, and when you go into those environments, if you can outplay them on special teams you’re going to be in that ball game.”
Coach Cannon knows that it is easy to say all the right things now in the offseason but that the true test comes next fall when his team steps out on the field.
He believes that this program can be turned around and he is confident he can do it.
“I wouldn’t have taken the job if I didn’t think I could win here,” Cannon said. “I want to recruit guys that are winners, guys that expect to win. It will turn here, I wanted it to turn yesterday and the players do, too. So let’s go; let’s do something about it today.”