Appalachian State Mountaineers
Head Coach: Scott Satterfield
2014 record: 7-5 overall, 6-2 Sun Belt
2014 Postseason results: None
2015 returning starters: 10 offense, 10 defense
Odds to win 2016 College Football Championship game: 8000/1
Odds to win 2015 Sun Belt Title: +150
Regular season wins: over 8 -185 /under 8 +160
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Last season, the Appalachian State Mountaineers moved up to FBS from FCS. The Mountaineers were an FCS powerhouse winning 3 national titles. Appalachian State had a roster filled with mainly freshmen and sophomores last year, and the results were not pretty in the first half of the season. The Mountaineers went 1-5 with the only win coming over Campbell. However, ASU ended the season with 6 straight wins to finish 7-5 and 6-2 in the Sun Belt. The Mountaineers were not eligible for a bowl being their first year at FBS.
This year though, ASU is favored to win the Sun Belt with 20 starters back for third year coach Scott Satterfield. The Mountaineers are eligible for a bowl this year.
Last year, the Mountaineers averaged 462 yards per game on offense including 242 rushing and 220 passing. ASU was #26 in total offense and #17 in rushing nationally. The Mountaineers were in the top 25 nationally in scoring at 36 points per game. Ten starters are back for co-coordinators Dwayne Ledford and Frank Ponce.
Sophomore quarterback Taylor Lamb is back. Last year, he completed 61.4% of his passes for 2,381 yards with 17 touchdowns and 9 interceptions, along with 78 carries for 483 yards and 4 rushing touchdowns. Back-up Kameron Bryant has transferred after throwing for 254 yards with 4 touchdowns and 2 interceptions, and adding a rushing touchdown. Freshman J.P. Caruso is the back-up behind Lamb.
Junior running back Marcus Cox had 255 carries for 1,415 yards with 19 touchdowns, along with 16 catches for 180 yards. Sophomore Terrence Upshaw had 112 carries for 573 yards and 4 touchdowns, plus 8 catches. Senior Ricky Fergerson is also back after rushing for 292 yards on 38 carries with 3 touchdowns.
Most of the top targets for Lamb are back at receiver. Malachi Jones had 36 catches for 585 yards and 3 touchdowns. Simms McElfresh had 42 catches for 484 yards and 4 touchdowns, and also added 2 rushing touchdowns. Montez McGuire had 25 catches for 386 yards and 2 touchdowns. Shaedon Meadors had 15 catches for 287 yards and 3 touchdowns. Bobo Beathard had 17 catches for 202 yards and 2 touchdowns. Tight end Barrett Burns and receiver Isaiah Lewis will also get some targets.
Four starters are back on the offensive line for a unit that allowed only 11 sacks in 12 games last year. Senior center Jesse Chapman, guards Parker Collins & Colby Gossett, and right tackle Beau Nunn are back. Even left tackle Davonte Harris started the first five games before an injury sidelined him.
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Last year, Appalachian State allowed 348 total yards per game on defense, including 195 passing and 152 rushing yards. The Mountaineers were in the top 40 in all three categories nationally. ASU allowed 27 points a game last season. Ten starters are back for coordinator Nate Woody.
Three starters are back on the defensive line including end Ronald Blair who had 13 tackles for loss and 6 sacks. He has NFL potential. Tyson Fernandez returns at nose tackle. Olawale Dada started at end last year, but could lose his starting spot to Nathaniel Norwood.
All four linebackers are back for the Mountaineers. John Law led the team in tackles with 91. He will be joined in the middle by Eric Boggs. Kennan Gilchrist and Devan Stringer will start on the outside.
Three starters are back in the secondary. Doug Middleton had 4 interceptions last year at safety. A.J. Howard could lose his starting safety spot to Alex Grey. Returning starter Latrell Gibbs will be joined by new starter Brandon Pinckney at the corners.
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Senior Zach Matics will handle the kicking duties full time despite making only 1 of 5 field goals last year. Punter Bentlee Critcher averaged 40.7 yards per punt last year. Beathard, McElfresh and Lewis will split the return duties. Beathard had a punt return for a touchdown.
In September, ASU hosts Howard before they play road games at Clemson and Old Dominion. October brings home games against Wyoming, Georgia Southern, and Troy, and road games against Georgia State and UL-Monroe. In November, the Mountaineers have home games against Arkansas State and UL-Lafayette, and road games at Idaho and South Alabama.
Appalachian State had to play numerous freshmen and sophomores last year. That will pay dividends this season. Besides a road game at Clemson, every other game on the schedule is winnable. The other three Sun Belt contenders, Georgia Southern, UL-Lafayette and Arkansas State all come to Appalachian State. I am not saying they will win 11 games but they have a chance to do so. Let’s be conservative and say 9 wins. I like the Mountaineers to finish near the top of the Sun Belt if not win it.
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I think Scott Satterfield’s performance in his first seasons as head coach at App State has been remarkable. If following the very popular and legendary Jerry Moore and moving up to the FBS wasn’t enough, he inherited a very talented, yet very young and inexperienced team. He made tough, yet very strategic decisions like benching Kameron Bryant to start Taylor Lamb, and take his lumps from fans who’d been spoiled by a decade of championships, all the while keeping his team’s morale high, and bringing in more talented coaches and maintaining an outstanding recruiting program. I just hope we can keep him a few seasons.
Yes, it was impressive for both Appalachian State and Georgia Southern to have winning records in their first season at FBS. I know they were both established FCS powers but usually teams moving up win only a couple of games. For instance, Charlotte should be awful this year as the program has only been around for three years total.
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