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App. State's Beasley, Charlotte's Mullen talk about things to come
One is a program looking to fly high again when it kicks off its season this Saturday.
The other is one just learning to flap its wings and still has two years before it leaves the nest into the college football world.
Representatives of both were on hand Tuesday afternoon to address the challenges and expectations facing each as another college football season starts Saturday.
Rick Beasley, assistant athletic director at Appalachian State University, and Jeff Mullen, offensive coordinator for a University of North Carolina at Charlotte program that begins its inaugural season in 2013, were the featured speakers at a lunch meeting of the Lake Hickory Rotary Club at Lake Hickory Country Club in Hickory.
Both spoke of an eagerness and excitement to hear the pads popping, but only Appalachian will be hearing the sounds when it travels to Virginia Tech this weekend to take on a Hokies team ranked 13th in the Associated Press preseason poll and pegged as a favorite for an Atlantic Coast Conference championship.
The Mountaineers, though, are no strangers to lofty rankings. They recently were ranked second in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) preseason coaches poll, and are aiming for a seventh straight Southern Conference title. Deep runs toward a national championship have become the norm in Boone, and battling high expectations is nothing new for a program that has worn three national crowns, said Beasley.
Last year we had a loss that hurt pretty bad,” Beasley told members during the luncheon. “We lost in the quarterfinals to Villanova, and after winning three national championships if we lose in the playoffs, we feel like we’ve had a bad season.
“But we ended up having three players for the first time in Appalachian history go to the (NFL) Combine… we think that says a lot for where our football program is and where (head) coach (Jerry) Moore has taken it.”
Quarterback DeAndre Presley— who finished third in the voting for last year’s Walter Payton Award given annually to the FCS’ most outstanding player— is back to lead a Mountaineers program hoping to add to a string of unprecedented success. Appalachian claimed three straight national titles from 2005 to 2007, and a seventh consecutive conference title would be a league record.
And there was that jaw-dropping win at Michigan to open the 2007 season. The streets have been paved in the gold that offsets the black they don on Saturdays. The recent run, however, has the Mountaineers faithful asking if a jump to the Football Bowl Subdivision might be the next step.
Beasley did not deny that possibility is in play, and a recent “repositioning” study conducted by the university recommended that any opportunities to make such a leap be explored.
“All they recommended is that some time in the future, there’s no time table, that we look at opportunities in FBS-type football,” said Beasley following the meeting. “I think they’re happy where they are, and it just depends on what kind of opportunities shake out in terms of the changing world of college athletics.
“We’re just trying to continue to get better in terms of all of our 20 sports and facilities, so that way if an opportunity presented itself we’d be in the right place to take advantage of it.”
Like its soon-to-be football neighbor to the north, the primary color sported by the 49ers will match the state of its program— green.
Appalachian is a program whose recent success now has it cloaked in tradition. Tradition is something Mullen and the other four members who currently make up the Charlotte staff will be simply attempting to establish.
“Many people in our profession have never gone through the start-up process, and currently I’m one of those (people),” said Mullen, who was an assistant coach at Wake Forest from 2001 to 2007 before spending the last three years as West Virginia’s offensive coordinator.
“We’re hitting the ground running and doing the best we can starting a program.”
Charlotte tabbed Brad Lambert, Wake’s defensive coordinator the last three years, as its head coach in February, and though Mullen said the two and the rest of the 49ers staff have experience in rebuilding a program, starting one from scratch requires an entirely different mindset.
“It’s a completely different thought process in that in a rebuilding situation you have to run off the bad guys, you have to change philosophy, you have to change attitude,” Mullen told the gathering. “We’re very fortunate in that at Charlotte we don’t have to do any of that.
“The thing that’s in the front of our minds is being forward enough thinkers that every thing we do is going to develop and start a policy of tradition. That’s the thing about Charlotte. Everything’s a first.”
Including an initial recruiting class the 49ers will sign in February 2012.
Mullen said Charlotte’s primary recruiting focus will be North Carolina, but ventures into South Carolina and Georgia also will be made.
“Everything’s a challenge simply because it hasn’t been done before,” Mullen said after the meeting. “But really the biggest challenge is recruiting because you can’t win unless you have good players.
“It’s kind of like which comes first, the good players and then the winning, or the winning and the good players? Clearly we don’t have any tradition and we don’t have any history to sell.
“But what we do have to sell is a wonderful city, a wonderful campus and what’s going to be a really good football staff. And an opportunity to play.”
Who they’ll be lining up against, though, is still an unknown. Mullen said the initial plans are for Charlotte to be an FCS member, and overtures to the Southern Conference and Big South were both spurned.
An avenue into the Colonial Athletic Association or operating as an independent could be an option, but Mullen said the 49ers initial roster will be able to achieve something most new recruits can’t.
“I joke with the offensive skill kids I’m recruiting that they’re going to set the rushing and passing record,” said Mullen “and then break it again the next week because there aren’t any records.”
By: Paul Fogleman, Hickory Daily Record