This is the inaugural season for the Appalachian State Mountaineers in the FBS subdivision of Division 1 football. There is a lot of excitement behind this season as Appalachian State takes its first step into the Sun Belt Conference and begins a new mess of rivalries.
Coach: Scott Satterfield (2nd year, 4-8)
Stadium: Kidd-Brewer Stadium (Capacity- 24,000)
Last Season: 4-8, 4-4 (Southern Conference)
Last year was rough on the Mountaineers as they transitioned from legendary coach Jerry Moore to first year coach Scott Satterfield. The team got off to a slow start early, losing to Montana and North Carolina A&T, but finished strong with wins over ranked teams Georgia Southern and Wofford. They ended the year by winning the last Battle for the Old Mountain Jug over Western Carolina for the near future.
Offense: RichRod spread variant
The Appalachian State Mountaineers installed the RichRod spread when West Virginia began storming teams with it. The offensive change helped lead to three consecutive national titles and made Jerry Moore’s career.
The Rich Rod spread relies on spreading the field to thin out the defense and then using the read option with a mobile quarterback and a good running back. Once the run threat is established, you can go play action. Because it requires the defense to adjust, speed is of the essence.
The heyday of this scheme was the Armanti Edwards years, when the elusive Edwards torched opposing defenses, like that of Michigan in 2007.
Junior quarterback Kameron Bryant was efficient last year with 14 touchdowns and only four interceptions at a 71% completion rate. Hopefully a senior-laden offensive line can adjust to FBS pass rushers to allow him to work.
Bryant will be missing one key component, experienced receivers. His leading returning receiver is actually Marcus Cox, the running back.
The 3-4 defense relies on two things, big defensive linemen capable of going 3 on 5 and rangy outside linebackers capable of bringing the pass rush. Appalachian State had run a 4-3 until last year and the transition was rough, as it often is trying to rebalance your defense with parts that don’t exactly fit. One example of the difficulty was the complete lack of pass rush that the Mountaineers had against Georgia.
Another year into the transition should mean improvement, even if quality of opponent has also risen. The inside backers are supposed to be sideline-to-sideline machines in the 3-4, and there is some experience there with returning backer sophomore John Law. The linebackers are a young group, but they have the advantage of having been picked to play this system.
Bentlee Critcher returns as the punter, and he has been a great punter. He was able to pin the ball inside the 20 at a 51% rate last year. Zach Matics returns as the kickoff kicker. Tony Washington returns to improve on a 4.1 / punt return average.
As a whole, the Mountaineers return 17 starters. That is a good thing.
Player to Watch: Marcus Cox, Sophomore, Running Back, 5’10’ 200 lbs.
How many running backs from North Carolina were named on the Doak Walker Award Watch List? Only one and it was Marcus. The Georgian had a statement year last year with 1,250 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns. These are two freshman Appalachian State records. He scored 128 points last year, which is good for 3rd All-Time at Appalachian State. He also made the 247Sports Freshman All-America team. That was quite a haul for Count Dacula.
Running backs are always instrumental to the success of the RichRod spread, and Cox played that part well last year as a young offense had to grow up around him. He had 43 catches for 558 receiving yards last year and could play an even bigger role in the passing game this year if the wide receivers are not quite ready to emerge. He should be a stat stuffer again this year, and as he goes so goes the offense for Appalachian State.
8/30 – at Michigan
9/20- at Southern Miss
9/25- at Georgia Southern
10/4- South Alabama
10/18- at Troy
11/1- Georgia State
11/8- LA Monroe
11/15- at Arkansas State
11/22- at LA Lafayette
I don’t expect Appalachian State to win any of their road games. The only one that they might pull off is the one against Georgia Southern. On the other hand, I do think Appalachian State will win its home games, losing to either LA Monroe or South Alabama, but not both. So no repeat against Michigan, but a good showing for a team that just stepped into FBS.
Where does that put them in the Sun Belt tower of power? Guess we’ll wait till tomorrow.