#36 Appalachian State Football 2020 Preview

Appalachian State Mountaineers
Overall Rank: #36
#1 Sun Belt
 Appalachian State Logo
Appalachian State was just three points away from a perfect 2019 campaign. The Mountaineers comeback attempt on Halloween night against Georgia Southern fell just short. That loss ended up costing the Mountaineers a trip to a New Year’s Six Bowl. Instead, they have to settle for beating UAB in the New Orleans Bowl. Shawn Clark was in charge for that game after Eliah Drinkwitz left for Missouri and he is will look to continue Appalachian State’s success into 2020.
2019 Record: 13-1, 7-1
2019 Bowl: New Orleans Bowl vs. UAB (W 31-17)
Coach: Shawn Clark (1-0 at Appalachian State, 1-0 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Tony Petersen
Defensive Coordinator: Dale Jones
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Marcus Williams Jr, RB, 652 yards
Passing: Zac Thomas, QB, 2,718 yards
Receiving: Thomas Hennigan, WR, 773 yards
Tackles: D’Marco Jackson, LB, 60
Sacks: Demetrius Taylor, DL, 7.0
Interceptions: Shaun Jolly, DB, 5
Other Key Returnees: WR Malik Williams, WR Corey Sutton, WR Jalen Virgil, OL Noah Hannon, OL Cooper Hodges, OL Baer Hunter, DB Shemar Jean-Charles, LB Nick Hampton
Key Losses: RB Darrynton Evans, OL Victor Johnson, LB Jordan Fehr, LB Akeem Davis-Gaither, LB Noel Cook, DB Josh Thomas, DB Desmond Franklin, DL E.J. Scott
The Mountaineers scored 38.8 points per game, ranking ninth in the nation. That should continue with much of the offense returning. Zac Thomas will start under center for the third straight year after throwing for 2,718 yards and 28 touchdowns with just six interceptions in 2019. He also rushed for 440 yards and seven scores. App State also has four great senior receivers on the roster. Thomas Hennigan was the top receiver last season and Corey Sutton was the top receiver in 2018. The loss of Darrynton Evans may hurt the run game, but Marcus Williams, Datrich Harrington and Raykwon Anderson all have some experience and success and are more than ready to take over.
The defense has more work to do with quite a few key players moving on, most notably Akeem Davis-Gaither and Desmond Franklin. Demetrius Taylor will lead the line after tallying 7.0 sacks last season and linebacker D’Marco Jackson is the team’s top returning tackler with 60. Fellow linebacker Nick Hampton is a fine pass rushing threat and he should be in for a good sophomore season. Both safeties need to be replaced, but Appalachian State has the best pair of corners in the Sun Belt with Shemar Jean-Charles and Shaun Jolly.
The Bottom Line:
This is a team that can go 13-1 again. There will not be much time to get any kinks sorted out though. After facing Morgan State, Appalachian State travels to Wake Forest and Wisconsin. Winning in Madison may be a bit too much to ask from this group. Sun Belt play also starts with possibly the two toughest games as well. The Mountaineers host Louisiana on October 7th and travel to Georgia Southern a week later. If things go bad, a 2-4 start is not out of the realm of possibility and that would be a tough way to start out the Coach Clark era.
Projected Bowl: New Orleans Bowl
2019 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 231.4 (16th in nation, 4th in conference)
Passing Offense: 201.7 (93, 6)
Total Offense: 433.1 (39, 6)
Scoring Offense: 38.8 (9, 1)
Rushing Defense: 129.4 (29, 1)
Pass Defense: 206.7 (35, 3)
Total Defense: 336.1 (26, 1)
Scoring Defense: 20.0 (21, 2)
Turnover Margin: 1.07 (7, 1)
Sacks: 2.57 (34, 1)
Sacks Allowed: 1.29 (13, 2)