Earlier in the week we revisited college football bookworm Phil Steele and his tab of teams possessing the most experience heading into 2015.
His modus operandi is rather effortless: return starters and improve the likeliness of winning football games.
With UMass securing the top bid, we venture over to the the second-most experienced program, the Appalachian State Mountaineers.
2014 record: 7-4 (3rd Sun Belt)
9/12 @ Clemson
9/26 @ Old Dominion
10/10 @ Georgia State
10/17 @ UL-Monroe
10/22 Georgia State
11/5 Arkansas State
11/14 @ Idaho
12/5 @ South Alabama
Two programs hauling their submission into the Division I ring in Old Dominion and Appalachian State fit right in to their respective conferences in 2014.
For the Monarchs of ODU, they stationed themselves into the pass-happy C-USA with their top flight gunslinger in Taylor Heinecke, while Appalachian State followed suit and exhibited their rushing attack surrounded by a core (primarily Arkansas State, Georgia Southern and Texas State) of teams prone to handing the pigskin off.
In respects to returners, expect a similar dose of tailback Marcus Cox, the sophomore waltzing his way to 1,415 yards on the turf along with 19 total touchdowns. He rushed for 165 more yards on just ten additional carries from his freshman to sophomore year. The jump from Division II ball to the Sun Belt didn’t pose a single roadblock for Cox–he’ll be a substantial playmaker in the fall.
Under center for the Mountaineers is Taylor Lamb. An impressive freshman campaign saw him hoist a 61.4 completion percentage and 17-9 TD-INT ratio as the 6″2′ signal caller seemed all but fine heading the offense, and he displayed his cunning speed from out of the backfield with a respectable 483 yards and 4 scores on just 78 rushes.
Georgia Southern rose to the top as a prominent rushing offense in the Sun Belt while more of the Sun Belt reps transition to fast-paced, all-go clubs (ex: Texas State, Idaho). Fortunately for Appalachian State, they may swerve out of their comfort zone in 2015 given Cox should be highlighted in opposing defensive film rooms.
Enter the wide receiving regiment and some star-studded names to go along with it.
Malachi Jones (36 receptions, 583 yards and 3 scores), Simms McElfresh (42, 484 and 7) and Bobo Beathard (17, 202 and 3) all provide reliable targets for Lamb in what should balance the seesaw offense from 2014 as App State ranked 18th in the country in rushing and 75th through the air.
In regards to halting the rush amidst the Sun Belt, the Mountaineers plug up the gap with 345-pound nosetackle Tyson Fernandez, and pouncing off the edge will be Ronald Blair, a 6″4 senior with great athleticism.
Doug Middleton topped Appalachian State’s defense with four interceptions last season and will look to anchor a young secondary once more with the likes of Brian Pinckney, A.J Howard and Latrell Gibbs, three potential lockdown defenders in the secondary. The ‘Neers boasted swell numbers against the aerial attack in 2014 (195.2 YPG, 22nd nationally).
Satterfield sits in a cozy slot. A 7-4 opening year with a frenzy of players strolling back onto the gridiron. If you’re searching for a potential dark horse or Georgia Southern circa 2014, no need to venture out.