Location: Boone, North Carolina
Enrollment: 18,811 (undergraduates and post graduates)
Mountaineers Football Facts
Home Stadium: Kidd Brewer Stadium (Capacity 30,000)
Head Coach: Scott Satterfield, sixth season, 40-22 (.645)
Conference: Sun Belt Conference (East Division)
Bowl Record 3-0
Conference Titles: 19 (15 outright, 4 shared)
National Championships: 3
Believe it or not, Penn State and Appalachian State have never met on the football field.
Last Season (9-4 overall, 7-1 Sun Belt)
In 2017, the Appalachian State Mountaineers lost their season opener against then No. 15 Georgia, but bounced back to win the next two against Savannah State and Texas State, before then losing to Wake Forest.
The Mountaineers ultimately lost four games overall, but went on to a blowout 34-0 win over Toledo in the Dollar General Bowl, ending the season with a 7-1 Sun Belt record and earning a share (for the second consecutive year) of the Sun Belt conference championship with Troy.
Recruiting and Offseason
The Appalachian State Mountaineers’ 2018 class ranks as the ranks as the nation’s 111th recruiting class (sixth in the Sun Belt Conference) as compared to Penn State’s 2018 class, ranked at sixth in the nation and second in the Big10 (per 247 Sports).
In the offseason, highly successful defensive coordinator Nate Woody left the Mountaineers for the same position at Georgia State, replaced by Bryan Brown who was promoted into the position after several years as the cornerbacks coach for Appalachian State.
The recent 2018 Sun Belt coaches poll predicts that the Mountaineers will reign as Sun Belt East division champs for 2018.
In 2017, Appalachian State was 31st in total offense and 22nd in rushing offense. Those numbers could be close in 2018, especially with the return of leading rusher Jalin Moore, who had over 1,000 rushing yards in 2016 and again in 2017, and was first in rushing yards in the Sun Belt Conference in 2017. Moore is on the early watchlist for both the Maxwell Award and the Doak Walker Award. Look for Marcus Williams, Jr (500 yards, 2 touchdowns) to touch the ball a few times, too.
Sophomore quarterback Zac Thomas didn’t play too much behind starter Taylor Lamb last year, but is now the Mountaineers’ guy. In high school, Thomas finished his high school career with over 6,000 yards of total offense in 31 games. Look for him to run the ball quite a bit too – in high school he ran for 829 yards and 5 touchdowns in 9 games as a senior.
In a talented receiver and tight end corps, receiver Thomas Hennigan returns after a 2017 season with 45 receptions for 585 yards and 7 touchdowns. Keep an eye on receivers Corey Sutton (a Kansas State transfer), Darrynton Evans, Malik Williams and Jalen Virgil plus tight end Colin Reed (on the watch list for the John Mackey Award).
The Mountaineers return a few experienced offensive linemen with left tackle Victor Johnson, left guard Ryan Neuizl and center Noah Hannon on a line that only allowed 8 sacks last season. However, head Coach Satterfield has stated that the depth and experience of the offensive line was his biggest concern, with more than half the linemen sophomores or younger.
Read more on Appalachian State’s offense in this BSD film room breakdown.
Last year the Mountaineers were 29th in total defense, 36th in rushing defense, 39th in passing yards allowed and 21st in scoring defense in FBS. They had an incredible defensive performance in the 2017 Doller General Bowl, shutting out Toledo completely. What could spell bad news for their defense was the departure of many starters along with defensive coordinator Nate Woody, but they’ll have continuity with the promotion of former cornerbacks coach Bryan Brown into the DC role.
The Mountaineers return starting nose tackle Myquon Stout on the defensive line (on the watch list for the Wuerffel Trophy), who had 41 tackles and 3.5 TFLs last year, but have a young group of players (even though they have good size and speed). Okon Godwin is also back after making six starts at defensive end as a junior, when he totaled 5.5 tackles for loss.
Linebacker is a position that’s just returning one starter in Anthony Flory, but this is the guy who was second on the team in 2017 in tackles with 87. Also keep an eye on junior Akeem Davis-Gaither who finished last year as a backup with 33 tackles and stood out in the spring.
The corners and safeties are the most talented defensive group for the Mountaineers. Two cornerbacks return: Clifton Duck (watchlist for the Jim Thorpe Award) and Tae Hayes (watchlist for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy). Duck, the team interception leader last year with 6, also had 50 tackles, 3 TFLs and 1 sack (which makes it easy to see why he’s also an All-American candidate). Hayes had 53 tackles, 4 TFLs, 4 interceptions, 1.5 sacks along with an impressive 12 passes defended last year.
Safety Desmond Franklin also returns (49 tackles, 2 TFL, 3 interceptions last year).
Check out more on Appalachian State’s defense and how they may match up against Penn State’s offense in this BSD film room breakdown.
The Mountaineers’ special teams had some struggles last year, mainly with kicker Michael Rubino, who was 9 of 15 on field goals, and was later replaced by freshman kicker Chandler Staton, who did a little better, going 8 for 9 in 2017.
Punter Xavier Subotsch (55 punts, 2193 yards, avg. 39.8 in 2017) also comes back this year.
With the departure of kick returner Ike Lewis (22 returns, 575 yards in 2017), there are big shoes to fill in that spot, but it looks to be Darrynton Evans and Thomas Hennigan (15 returns, 102 yards last year). Clifton Duck (9 returns for 85 yards in 2017) will handle punt return duties.
Check out more Appalachian State football news at the SB Nation blog Underdog Dynasty.