Austin Peay bookends its 2022 season with FBS opponents, ending the season at No. 2 Alabama. But the Govs will start the season at Western Kentucky on Saturday (11 a.m., CBS Sports Network).
The Govs are coming off a 6-5 season and turned over the majority of their roster. Of the team’s 47 newcomers, 22 are transfers and 25 are freshman. Five of those newcomers will see significant playing time on offense as Austin Peay tries to beat WKU for the first time since 1996 and the first time ever in Bowling Green.
After the Draylen Ellis’ suspension and eventual transfer to Tennessee State the clock has been ticking on the 2022 debut of Sheldon Layman. He returns this season with the most significant playing time, having started two games in 2021.
Govs coach Scotty Walden kept his QB starting decision close to the vest, but Layman was named the starter when the team released its depth chart this week. Austin Peay will have to adjust to his style. He doesn’t have the deep-ball accuracy or the foot speed of Ellis but with protection he can have a high completion rate.
Drae McCray’s coming out party?
By the end of the 2021 season it became obvious that Drae McCray was Austin Peay’s No.1 option at receiver. He led the Govs with 53 receptions, 882 receiving yards, 1,030 all-purpose yards, and eight touchdowns and was named HERO Sports Freshman All-America and First Team All-OVC.
McCray has caught every opponents’ attention and his touches won’t come easy. But his speed could cause WKU problems and could come up huge in front of a national TV audience.
Josh Samuel’s revenge
Transfer Josh Samuels is expected to buffer the loss of running back Brian Snead who is now at Arkansas State. The Govs got a solid replacement with experience. They also have a player who should be motivated Saturday.
Samuel began his career at Western Kentucky, where he ran for 658 yards and a touchdown in 16 games. He transferred to Jacksonville State and in two seasons ran for another 1,487 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Govs to watch
RB C.J. Evans: A playmaker that can run out of the backfield and catch in the slot position, Evans needs touches for the Govs’ offense to go.
DB Shamari Simmons: Simmons was named preseason All-ASUN and is the top returner in tackles (50) and interceptions (4). He led the OVC with 10 pass breakups last year.
K Maddux Trujillo: The Govs haven’t had a reliable kicking game prior to Trujillo arriving last year. He ranked third among FCS freshman kickers in field-goal percentage.
Hilltoppers to watch
OL Quantavious Leslie: One of the top offensive linemen in the country, Leslie has been named to the Outland Trophy watch list.
QB Austin Reed. Reed steps in after the sudden departure Maxwell Award watch list member Jarrett Doege. Reed played two seasons at West Florida, throwing for more than 7,000 yards.
WR Daewood Davis: A former Oregon transfer, Davis played 14 games for WKU last season and finished with 43 receptions for 763 yards and eight touchdowns.
WKU 35, Austin Peay 17: Even with new quarterback Austin Reed, Western Kentucky’s firepower will be too much for the Govs in the second half as the Hilltoppers pull away in the fourth quarter.
How to watch
TV: CBS Sports Network. Radio: ESPN Clarksville (104.1 FM).
|Austin Peay||W. Kentucky|
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Reach sports writer George Robinson at firstname.lastname@example.org or (931) 245-0747 and on Twitter @Cville_Sports.