Appalachian State Mountaineers
The Mountaineers appear to once again be the favorite to win the Sun Belt, but there should be some push from a couple of other teams like Troy and Arkansas State along the way. There is some explosive talent coming back on offense, and the defense was one of the best in the nation last fall, allowing just 17.8 points per game. Could another major title run be at stake for the Mountaineers this fall? Absolutely, it should.
What To Be Excited About: Offense
The two biggest stars on the team are back on offense in QB Taylor Lamb and RB Jalin Moore. Lamb is a very efficient dual threat passer who passed for 2281 yards and 15 TDs last season to eight picks. He completed 60.6% of his pass attempts, and also managed to rush for 505 yards and nine more scores, while averaging 5.67 yards per carry.
Moore is a beast at RB for the Mountaineers, and rushed for 1402 yards and 10 TDs last season. He averaged 5.92 yards per carry, while averaging over 107 yards rushing per game. He is one of the best returning backs in the nation this fall.
There is decent leadership coming back on the line in RT Beau Nunn and RG Colby Gossett, who are both seniors. Tobias Edge-Campbell is at LG, and will be a junior this fall.
Michael Rubino put in a solid effort at PK as a freshman, as he connected on 15/21 FG attempts.
Shaedon Meadors is back at WR after leading the team with 45 receptions last fall, but the Mountaineers lack big time play makers at the receiving positions overall, and if that issue does not get remedied in fall camp, Lamb could be limited by his target choices up field.
Depth is also a concern behind Moore at RB this fall, as they lose Marcus Cox and his 112.78 yards rushing per game.
There are some youth concerns on the line at a couple of spots. Victor Johnson starts at LT as a sophomore, while C Ryan Neuzil, the projected starter, is just a RS freshman.
What To Be Excited About: Defense
The three man front for the Mountaineers should be first rate once again this fall, as DEs Antonious Sims and Caleb Fuller both return along with NT Myquon Stout. Sims led the team with 12 TFLs last season, while Fuller and Stout combined to add four more up the middle. Okon Godwin had a decent sophomore campaign last season, and should rotate in and out at DE as well.
Eric Boggs returns at ILB this season after leading the team with 98 tackles last season, and will be joined by Devan Stronger on the outside, who finished with 71 tackles, which was good for third on the team.
Clifton Duck is quietly one of the better CBs in the nation, and returns after finishing with eight PBUs last fall. Duck led the team with five INTs, one of which went for a score. Duck also added 57 total tackles. AJ Howard also returns at SS after finishing with 54 tackles and four PBUs.
What To Be Concerned About: Defense
While Biggs and Stringer have the right side of the LB corps locked up, the two projected starters on the left side are not quite as concrete. Rashaad Townes and Anthony Flory are projected to win jobs there, but combined for just 24 tackles last fall. They have a ton of catching up to do in fall camp, and will also have Teh'Ron Fuller and Edward Davis looking for time at their heels.
The same situation exists in the secondary, as two spots are not nearly entirely locked up just yet. Brandon Pinckney is projected to start at LCB, and finished with just one PBU in 11 games last fall. Josh Thomas is projected to start at FS, and finished with just two PBUs, and 28 tackles. Depth is not great on the second unit in the secondary right now, so these two players need to step it up in camp.
The Punting situation is unresolved at this point, with Rylee Critcher projected to start after Bentlee Critcher moved on after last fall.
9/2 at Georgia, 9/9 Savannah State, 9/16 at Texas State, 9/23 Wake Forest, 10/7 New Mexico State, 10/14 at Idaho, 10/21 Coastal Carolina, 10/28 at U Mass, 11/4 at UL-Monroe, 11/9 Georgia Southern, 11/25 at Georgia State, 12/2 Louisiana-Lafayette
The Mountaineers, despite a couple of questions on defense and at the receiver positions, still have more than enough star power to move on and compete for a conference title in 2017. With a couple of breaks in the schedule, this team could potentially crack the top 25. A solid showing against Georgia in the opener would help, but a loss there does not really hurt the overall effort. This should be another rock solid season for this legacy program.