We’re almost there — college football season is just around the corner! Since this time of year is always a time for hope — we’re looking at the arguments every team in the OVC can make that their team can win the conference.
1. Last-to-first has happened before
…and recently at that. Eastern Illinois finished 1-7 in conference in 2011, with their lone win coming against Austin Peay, before taking their first of two straight conference crowns in 2012. That 2011 team wasn’t just a one-year skid either…EIU won just two conference games the year before.
Of course, there were two big things credited for the Panthers quick turnaround, the explosiveness of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, and an overhaul by head coach Dino Babers.
Could Austin Peay pull off a similar feat? Just like EIU when they made their jump, the Governors have a new head coach in Will Healy, a (very) young former offensive assistant at UT Chattanooga that may be able to provide a much-needed infusion to the Governors offense. The team also returns 40 of the 44 players from their two-deep rotation a year ago.
A breakout year for a guy like Timarious Mitchell isn’t out of the question. While we all remember the greatness that were Garoppolo’s junior and senior years, he was also the QB during EIU’s 2011 team, where he led the league in interceptions.
[Healy] may be able to provide a much-needed infusion to the Governors offense.
2. Young coaches have found early successes at the FCS level in recent years
35-year old Willie Simmons took a perennial .500 team in Prairie View A&M to 8-2 in the SWAC in his first year in 2015. 33-year old Jerry Mack took North Carolina Central to a share of the MEAC title in 2014, and the school’s best record since making the jump to Division I. The next year, they finished 7-1 in the league.
Sometimes, schools need a fresh infusion and the excitement that a young coach brings. While it’s not always ‘happily ever after,’ there’s no reason to believe that Healy’s youth won’t be a positive as he looks to build the Governors program.
Healy also has the benefit of about $25 million in upgrades to the school’s Fortera Stadium, including a new weight room, hydraulic tubs, and a nutrition station. Excitement already appears high: about 3,100 turned out to the Governors Spring Game this year.
3. There’s no ‘money game’ until November
…and one thing that’s sometimes overlooked in these games is the possibility of injury. You’re going against guys that are often faster, and hit harder than what you’re used to — which can increase the risk of an injury.
Instead, Austin Peay’s season starts against Troy, and then it’s conference play time, with a home game at Tennessee Tech the second on the schedule. The Governors should be quite fresh for their first few OVC games.