2017 Opponents Preview: Appalachian State

Anthony Dasher, Editor
GA Varsity

2017 RECORD: 10-3 (beat Toledo 31-28 in the Raycom Media Camilla Bowl)

KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: QB Taylor Lamb, RB Jalin Moore, CB Clifton Duck, DE Antonious Sims, NT Myquon Stout, LB Eric Boggs

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Appalachian State Sports Communications

It’s time once again, time to break down Georgia’s 2017 opponents with help from some of our friends in the media whose job it is to cover those respective teams.

Today, we’ll focus on the season-opener against Appalachian State.

The Mountaineers have built quite the reputation for being that team others hate to play, a trend that started in 2007 when App State shocked Michigan in Ann Arbor, and almost happened again last fall when head coach Scott Satterfield’s squad took Tennessee into overtime before losing, 20-13.

One can be certain Appalachian State will have Georgia’s full attention when the two teams square off Sept. 2 at Sanford Stadium. And if the Bulldogs aren’t totally prepared, it could prove to be a long afternoon.

To help us get to know the Mountaineers better, we reached out to Bret Strelow of the Winston-Salem Journal.

A veteran reporter, Stelow is the go-to expert when it comes Appalachian State athletics, and he helps us break down the Mountaineers below:

UGASports.com: What’s your current overall outlook on Appalachian State for this upcoming season, just based off of what you saw and heard this spring?

Strelow: "App State earned a share of the Sun Belt Conference title in 2016 and will be favored to go unbeaten in league play this year, especially with a schedule that steers clear of Arkansas State, Troy and South Alabama. Wake Forest travels to Boone, so the Mountaineers have two chances to beat a Power Five program. As much hype as the Michigan upset generated in 2007, Appalachian hasn't managed to pull another upset, although the near-miss at Tennessee last year was notable progress following a string of one-sided losses.

"If App State somehow goes 2-0 or even 1-1 against the Georgia/Wake Forest part of its schedule, it could emerge as a leading candidate to represent the Group of Five in a New Year's Six bowl."

UGASports.com: After the spring, which positions do you think Appalachian State feels best about on the roster heading into the 2017, and why? On the flip side, what positions do you see as the Mountaineers' biggest concerns?

Strelow: "On the plus side, I think it begins at quarterback and running back. Taylor Lamb (son of Mercer coach Bobby Lamb) returns to start for the fourth straight year at quarterback, and Jalin Moore is back after rushing for 1,402 yards as a sophomore, when he was named the Sun Belt Conference's offensive player of the year despite sharing the workload with senior Marcus Cox, the school's career rushing leader.

"App State intercepted 20 passes last season, and it should feel good about its secondary even through one starting cornerback and one starting safety are gone. Freshman All-America cornerback Clifton Duck could potentially be joined by Latrell Gibbs, who intercepted seven passes in 2015 and was academically ineligible last season.

"As far as question marks, four of the six offensive linemen who accounted for most of the snaps in 2016 are back, but searching for depth on the line was a spring priority. The Mountaineers had four standout linebackers in their 3-4 scheme last season, but the losses of outside linebacker Kennan Gilchrist (signed with the Dallas Cowboys) and middle linebacker John Law (has been working out for NFL teams) leaves middle linebacker Eric Boggs and outside linebacker Devan Stringer as the two returning starters."

UGASports.com: Although there’s only so much one can learn from spring practices, based on how the team looked in the spring game, what can you draw as far as how an opponent like Georgia should scout Appalachian State and then game-plan for the Mountaineers on each side of the ball?

Strelow: "The Mountaineers are a ground-based program that can chew up time of possession. With Lamb handing the ball to Moore behind a relatively experienced offensive line, that identity won't change.

"App State and Tennessee both had 43 rushing attempts in last year's opener, and the Mountaineers gained 184 yards, 57 more than the Volunteers, who trailed 13-3 in the third quarter before tying the game with a fourth-quarter touchdown and winning 20-13 in overtime. App State finished with a seven-minute advantage in possession time.

"Defensively, Miami used its quickness and size to create mismatches on the perimeter in a 45-10 rout, but App State allowed an average of only 15.6 points across its other 12 games. Teams often move the ball on the Mountaineers, but they try to limit big plays and buckle down in the red zone. Along the line, they rotate in and out frequently."

UGASports.com: Which position battles were some of the ones to watch this spring?

Strelow: "At linebacker, Anthony Flory and Jordan Fehr are among the top candidates to fill the other inside spot, and Rashaad Townes is versatile enough to play both spots. Outside linebacker Akeem Davis, Ed Davis and Teh'Ron Fuller (who is recovering from a recent stab wound) are other players in the mix.

"Offensively, it will be interesting to see what happens at center. Tobias Edge-Campbell contributed frequently as a center and guard last season, so he could fill the snapping need, but there are also high expectations for incoming freshman Noah Hannon."

UGASports.com: With spring practices in the books, who do you see as Appalachian State's top players on each side of the ball and why?

Strelow: "Defensively, it's probably Boggs over Duck, or nose tackle Myquon Stout. Boggs has led the team in tackles for each of the past two seasons, recording 104 in 2015 and 98 last year. He's also intercepted six passes in the last two years.

"Offensively, give the nod to Lamb over Moore, who assumed a bigger role when an injury sidelined Cox for nearly five full games. Lamb's arm strength and accuracy on deep throws are often critiqued, but he makes good decisions with the ball and is a running threat, as he showed by rushing for 126 yards in App State's bowl victory. The battle for the backup quarterback job was closely watched during the spring because the time has arrived to finally consider who will replace the steady Lamb after the 2017 season."

UGASports.com: Which players who entered the spring maybe under-the-radar really turned heads during practices and in the spring game?

Strelow: "App State didn't hold a traditional spring game, but some players with a chance to emerge are athlete Darrynton Evans, defensive end Okon Godwin and defensive back Shemar Jean-Charles.

"As a true freshman, Evans scored on a 94-yard kickoff return in the bowl victory and filled in as the second-string running back when Cox was injured. Evans opened last season as a receiver and could have a significant impact at that spot in 2017."

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AppStateSports.com

Appalachian State 2017 Football Schedule

Date

Opponent

September 2

at Georgia

September 9

Savannah State

September 16

at Texas State*

September 23

Wake Forest

October 7

New Mexico State*

October 14

at Idaho*

October 21

Coastal Carolina*

October 28

at UMass

November 4

at UL-Monroe*

November 9

Georgia Southern*

November 25

at Georgia State*

December 2

Louisiana*

* = Sun Belt Conference games

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