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Mountaineers working to peak again
Feelings of disappointment and a need for redemption aren’t typical of most college football teams coming off a 10-win season, but at Appalachian State, the Mountaineers have proven to be anything but ordinary.
At a program that seeks its unprecedented seventh straight Southern Conference championship this season and looks to extend its run of seasons with double-digit victories to seven straight, there’s a sense of urgency that seems misplaced.
But coach Jerry Moore likes it.
“Our team, our staff feel that all of us are on a mission,” Moore said.
Moore addressed media on Saturday during the opening weekend of practice for a 2011 season that begins Sept. 3 at Virginia Tech. He spoke of enormous potential on the team, despite losing key players, including three who were drafted by NFL teams in April.
He spoke about some of the key areas of concern for a team that went 10-3 in 2010, but was stunned in a second-round Football Championship Subdivision playoff game by Villanova, falling 42-24.
Maximizing the potential of players like Travaris Cadet, finding the right combination of offensive linemen, fine-tuning the shift to a 3-4 defense and replacing some graduated star players were among the biggest questions Moore tackled on Saturday.
1. How seamless can the Mountaineers make the switch to a 3-4 defense?
The move shouldn’t involve too many hitches.
The shift to a 3-4 defense has been in the works for a few years now, according to Mountaineers players and coaches. Simply put, the personnel the team has includes front seven players who are perfectly suited for the defense, led by three athletic linemen who all weigh 300 pounds or more - freshman William Corbin (6-foot-6, 300) and seniors Dan Wylie (6-1, 305) and Gordy Witte (6-6, 315).
Added to that imposing line is a group of junior linebackers with great size and athleticism, including West Charlotte graduate Brandon Grier and Shelby High product Lanston Tanyi, who missed last season with a toe injury.
2. How will ASU handle not being a clear-cut SoCon favorite?
Despite six straight conference titles, a recent poll had the Mountaineers finishing second to Georgia Southern this season.
Moore says he saw things this summer that encouraged him and led him to believe the team won’t be taking anyone for granted. The veteran coach said more players than ever stayed on campus during the summer to work out.
3. Can DeAndre Presley turn in a repeat performance?
Following Armanti Edwards, who’d won the previous two Walter Payton Awards as FCS national player of the year, Presley surprised many en route to being named the Southern Conference Offensive Player of the Year.
He became the fourth player in FCS history to top 2,000 passing yards and 1,000 rushing yards in a season (2,631 passing; 1,039 rushing) .
4. What pass-catcher will emerge to take pressure off All-American Brian Quick?
The graduation of starting receivers CoCo Hillary and Matt Cline leaves opportunities for others to step in and make plays. Three players - Tony Washington, Jamil Lott and Andrew Peacock - are all penciled in as starters along with Quick on the team’s depth chart.
Some new wrinkles in the team’s offense might lead to senior tight end Jorden, a Charlotte Latin grad, or the all-purpose Cadet being the primary beneficiaries of extra attention on Quick, an NFL prospect.
Cadet had 671 rushing yards and 218 receiving yards a season ago. Jorden is being mentioned as an NFL prospect as an H-Back and will line up at receiver more this season. He had 27 catches a year ago, including six for touchdowns.
5. Who will step up to replace three graduated offensive linemen, including fifth-round NFL draft pick Daniel Kilgore?
A pair of former Providence High teammates, Orry Frye and Matt Ruff, return as starters on the offensive line. The rest is a work in progress, according to offensive line coach Bob McClain.
Kendall Lamm, a redshirt freshman from Butler High, is competing at left tackle. Senior Sherman Holt and freshman Graham Fisher are competing at center, while Xan Thomas, a senior, and sophomore Ian Barnard are tops on the depth chart at left guard.
By Denny Seitz, The Charlotte Observer