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Appalachian State Preview

Appalachian State has won the past two Division I-AA (take that, NCAA!) National Championships, and is ranked #1 in the preseason poll for the division again this year. Last year, they played a I-A opponent in NC State, and lost 23-10.

Quarterback – Armanti Edwards didn’t start until game 3 last year, but still managed to lead his team to a national championship. He is a run-pass threat, throwing for 2,251 yards (left-handed) and running for 1,153 more. He was the national freshman of the year, so it’s surprising that he’s not on more all-american watch lists. His backup, Trey Elder, is a senior who has performed admirably when called upon (national championship game 2005), Like Edwards, he ran for about half the number of yards as he threw. He ranked 21st in I-AA in passing efficiency, at 140.7.
Running back – Senior Kevin Richardson will enter the year as a candidate for the Walter Payton Award (1-AA Heisman). He holds most of ASU’s scoring records, and has 3,455 career rushing yards (for comparison, Mike Hart has 3,770). He was a third-team all American last year. QB Armanti Edwards also carries a big part of the load running the rock. Backup Devon Moore, a sophomore, was the third leading rusher last year.
Receivers - Fast Fast Fast Wideout Dexter Jackson will step in as the team’s leading receiver (for the departed William Mayfield), and he is a deep threat, despite only being 5-10. 14 yards per reception last year, with a long of 79. RB Kevin Richardson was the team’s third-leading receiver last year, and Junior TJ Courman will also haul in his share of balls. The team lost their best tight end in Daniel Betts. App State lists about 100 Wideouts in their two-deep, and no fullnack, so a lot of players will get their time to catch a couple, including 6-3 Josh Johnson, the tallest wideout on the team.
Line - First team All-american Kerry Brown returns at the guard position, though he did miss some fall camp with a neck injury. It’s not serious enough that he won’t play, but missing practice, especially in the offensive line, can hurt cohesion. The middle three linemen are all seniors, with Brown joined by C Scott Suttle and G John Holt. The tackles are Mario Acitelli, a true sophomore who had to start most of last year because of injuries, and Jonathan Bieschke, a junior who was mostly a special teams player last year.

Corner - Jerome Touchstone “One of the fastest players in the nation,” is a true cover corner, though he won’t match up well against the Wolverines, what with being tiny and all. The 5-7 Senior was second-team all-conference last year, though he’ll be matched up againt 6-0 Mario Manningham, or one of the 6-3 options in Arrington and Mathews. His counterpart, Justin Waozeah, is not a particularly huge guy himself, measuring in at 5-10. He started every game last year, and 40 in his career.
Safety - Corey Lynch is a likely all-american candidate. The 5th-year senior has accumulated all-american honors in two previous seasons, and is the school’s all time interception leader, with 18. Titus Howard is the starter at Nickel in App State’s 4-2-5 alignment, with awesomely-named Chase Laws manning the Bandit position. All the safeties are seniors, bringing experience to the defensive backfield. Howard played in almost every game last year, though it was primarily as a special teams contributor. He had his best game against N.C. State, tallying 8 tackles and a fumble recovery. Laws was a 2006 special-teamer as well.
Linebackers - The linebackers for the Mountaineers are a French-name affair, as Pierre Banks plays on the weakside, with Jacque Roman in the middle. Both players are sophomores in their first year as starters. Banks is pretty small, measuring in at only 210 pounds. He probably won’t be a force against the run. Roman, actually engaged in a battle with incumbent Cam Speer, on the other hand, is a stout 6-1 240. Despite being a little guy at only 6-0 215, Speer will be more likely to play on passing downs. He was injured through much of 2006, but still started at the beginning of the year, before Roman beat him out.
Line - Defensive Tackle Tim Washington is the key player along the line for App. State. The junior (a high school teammate of Wolverines Brandon Herron and Troy Woolfolk) used to attend LSU, but left the team after a knee injury during his redshirt freshman year kept him off the field his first two seasons playing. He isn’t listed on the ASU two-deep yet, but there’s a reason this guy was recruited by LSU. The projected starters are all sophomores. Tackles Daniel Finnerty and Anthony Williams will be first year starters, though Williams played in short-yardage situations last year as a true freshman. End Tony Robertson played last year as a true freshman, and racked up 3.5 TFL and 2.5 sacks. The other end is Gary Tharrington, who was a high-level performer last year as a redshirt freshman starter. He recorded seven tackles against N.C. State.

Special Teams
Kicker - Julian Rauch punted part-time in ’06, while serving as App. State’s kicker. He was a steady 70-71 on extra points, and a less great 10-14 on field goals, with a long of 46. The senior was first-team all-conference, and will become the Mountaineers’ all-time leading kicker this year, barring injury (he is only four points short). He went to East Carolina before transferring to App. State after a freshman year in which he did not play.
Punter - Neil Young was the starter last year, until he became too busy releasing classic rock albums (or getting injured: YOU DECIDE!), and averaged 37.6 yards on 29 punts (Rauch punted 22 times). Young will rock, roll, and serve as starting Appalachian State punter this year. Backup Adam Kassouf punted 5 times in 2006, for a crappy average of 32.4.
Returns - Senior Wide Receiver Dexter Jackson will handle returns, and ASU’s website touts him as “One of the fastest players in all of college football.” He was all-conference at the position last year.

App. State is a very good I-AA team, but a I-AA team nonetheless. They gave N.C. State a hard time last year, but N.C. State is not Michigan (they went 3-9 last year). An experience-heavy team won't be as intimidated as you might expect, so this one should be a little closer than you'd think.

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“Appalachian State Preview”

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