Turns out Appalachian State had bigger plans than just pulling off one of the biggest upsets in sports history. Ten years after shocking Michigan at The Big House, the Mountaineers have completed an FBS transition, won a Sun Belt title, and recorded back-to-back double-digit-win seasons.
And with head coach Scott Satterfield at the helm, they don't appear to be slowing down anytime soon.
Appalachian State shared the Sun Belt title with Arkansas State, their first conference title in the FBS. They went 2-2 in non-conference, losing at Tennessee (in overtime) and vs. Miami (FL), 7-1 in the conference and beat Toledo in the Camellia Bowl.
It was their second-straight season with at least 10 wins, after going 11-2 in 2015.
Head Coach: Scott Satterfield Name (6th year, 32-18 overall)
Scott Satterfield has flawlessly navigated the FBS transition at his alma mater, going 21-5 in their two seasons as full members.
The 44-year-old former Mountaineers' quarterback has lost just two conference games and has two six-game winning streaks in the last two years. If he wasn't an App State alum who continually expressed his love for the school and city of Boone, Satterfield would be included on many more speculative Power Five head coaching lists.
Key Returning Offensive Players
QB Taylor Lamb, RB Jalin Moore, RB Terrence Upshaw, WR Shaedon Meadors, OT Beau Nunn, OT Victor Johnson, G Colby Gossett
Don't let Taylor Lamb's pedestrian passing numbers fool you (15 touchdowns in 325 attempts, seven yards per attempt); he's one of the better dual-threat quarterbacks in the nation.
The senior — and son of Mercer head coach Bobby Lamb — ran for 505 yards and nine scores, including 286 yards and five scores in their last three games, all wins. Why was it 286 and not 275? Because Lamb won't slide.
“I don’t like sliding,” he said after rushing for 126 yards in their bowl win. “You can get more yards when you’re going forward. Sliding, you’re kind of going backwards.”
Lamb has nearly 8,500 total yards and 81 total touchdowns in his career. He's a candidate for Offensive Player of the Year — if teammate Jalin Moore doesn't win the award again.
The 5-foot-11, 205-pound running back ran wild as a sophomore, racking up 1,402 yards and 10 scores. It was hardly a surprise; he averaged 7.4 yards on 99 carries as a freshman in 2015. He and senior Terrance Upshaw will ensure no drop-off for the Sun Belt's best running game despite the loss three-time 1,000-yard rusher Marcus Cox to graduation.
Three starters are back on the offensive line, led by senior guard Beau Nunn, one of App State's five All-Sun Belt First-Teamers. And senior Shaedon Meadors will once again be Lamb's top receiver. He was the only player with more than 25 catches or 300 yards (45 catches for 716 yards) last year.
Key Returning Defensive Players
DT Myquon Stout, DE Tee Sims, DE Cakeb Fuller, LB Eric Boggs, LB Devan Stringer, CB Clifton Duck, S A.J. Howard
App State ranked 18th nationally in turnover margin (plus-eight), largely due to an advantageous defense. Five players had at least two interceptions and three had three or more, including freshman Clifton Duck with five — tied for second in the conference.
A two-star member of their 2016 class from nearby Matthews, Duck thrived during a season he said he spent most of time adjusting to the game.
“Getting the feel for college football, I haven’t played as good as I’ve wanted to from a confidence standpoint, playing as tight of coverage as I’ve wanted to,” Duck said in late October. “I’ve made a couple plays here and there, but I’m more focused on building the consistency where I want it to be.”
Also back on the nation's ninth-ranked scoring defense (17.8 points per game) are senior defensive ends Tee Sims and Caleb Fuller and senior linebackers Eric Boggs and Devan Stringer. Both Sims — team-high 12 tackles for loss and seven sacks — and Boggs — team-high 98 tackles — were all-conference selections.
Safety A.J. Howard will join Duck in the secondary after making 55 tackles and forcing two fumbles.
Notable Player Losses
RB Marcus Cox, TE Barrett Burns, G Parker Collins, DE Dezmin Reed, LB Kennan Gilchrist, CB Mondo Williams
You know a program is rolling when they lose eight starters and nearly a dozen other contributors but are expecting no decline in their on-field performance or win-loss total.
That being said, the Mountaineers still lost some elite talent on both sides of the ball. Marcus Cox and Barrett Burns are gone on offense, as is all-conference guard Parker Collins, who spearheaded a rushing attack that averaged 250 yards per game.
Defensively, the biggest losses are linebacker Kenna Gilchrist — 89 tackles and 11 tackles for loss — and cornerback Mondo WIlliams — four interceptions and eight passes defended. Dezmin Reed also graduated after a disruptive senior year on the edge.
Notable Player Additions
WR Mailk Williams, WR Jalen Virgil, DE Chris Willis, CB Shemar Jean-Charles
Freshmen receivers Malik Williams (true) and Jalen Virgil (redshirt) should break into the rotation. Williams, a three-star high school quarterback, passed on a Duke offer.
Two other redshirt freshmen, defensive end Chris Willis (from bearby Shelby, N.C.) and corner Shemar Jean-Charles should also break fall camp with a two-deep spot.
Appalachian State nearly knocked off Tennessee on the road in their 2016 opener. They'll get another shot against a different SEC East foe in their 2017 opener. The Mountaineers face Georgia in one of two non-conference Power Five games.
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