In Shawn Clark’s first season as a head football coach, the Appalachian State Mountaineers finished the 2020 season with a 9-3 record (6-2 in the Sun Belt). Clark’s first season after taking over for Eliah Drinkwitz was a success, especially considering the COVID-19 issues throughout college football.
Clark, a former App State offensive lineman, has been in Boone since the 2016 season where he was hired to coach the offensive line and serve as co-OC. Clark quickly moved up the ranks after Scott Satterfield and then Drinkwitz left for greener pastures in the ACC and SEC, respectively.
Info: App State @ Miami Hurricanes in Miami Gardens, FL.
Day/Time/Channel: September 11, 2021 / 7:00pm / ESPN2 or ESPNU.
App State’s three losses last season were to Marshall and a pair of ranked opponents in Coastal Carolina and Louisiana. Costal and Louisiana will make for formidable opponents once again for ASU, and of course the ‘Canes are quite a roadblock for the Mountaineers as well.
2020 Record/Ranking: 9-3/Unranked.
2020 Data: 33.8PPG scored (28th in FBS), 20PPG allowed (16th in FBS).
Bowl Game: Won the Myrtle Beach Bowl over North Texas 56-28.
Key losses: Zac Thomas, QB; Shemar Jean-Charles, DB; Noah Hannon, OL.
App State has a league leading 16 players on the Athlon All-Sun Belt preseason team, and 17 returning starters from the 2020 season. However, the Mountaineers lose quarterback Zac Thomas who threw 69 touchdowns and ran in 19 more in his 41 games for ASU, and NFL Draft pick Jean-Charles at cornerback.
On the Athlon first team, ASU has RB Camerun Peoples, and center Baer Hunter on the offense, and DE Demetrius Taylor, LB D’Marco Jackson, and DB Shaun Jolly on the defense. In ‘20, Peoples ran for over 1100 yards on 6.7 yards per carry and 12 TD’s. Hunter moves from guard to center to anchor the offensive line.
Taylor logged 13 tackles for loss and six sacks with four PBU’s last season. Jackson had 87 tackles and two interceptions, while Jolly had five PBU’s a year ago.
ASU finds WR Corey Sutton and OL Cooper Hodges on the 2nd team offense, and KR Jalen Virgil on the 2nd team specialists. Sutton returns from injury and sitting out the 2020 season. Sutton had 17 combined TD receptions in 2018 and 2019. Virgil averaged 30.7 yards per kick return with a TD in 2020.
App State has WR Thomas Hennigan on the 3rd team offense with TE Henry Pearson. LB Brendan Harrington and DB Kaiden Smith are on the 3rd team defense, while PR Malik Williams is a 3rd team specialist. Hennigan had 616 receiving yards and three TD’s last season, while Pearson caught four TD’s in 2020.
On defense, Harrington logged 48 tackles, four interceptions and six PBU’s in ‘20, and Smith made 74 tackles with seven PBU’s last year. Williams averaged 10 yards per punt return last season.
App Scheme on O
App State ran a much more conventional offense under Tony Petersen during is lone season as the OC in Boone. Frank Ponce returns to ASU to serve as Clark’s OC. Ponce, a Miami native, served as the FIU WR coach from 2007-2012, the App State co-OC from 2013-2018, the Louisville QB coach from 2019-2020, and now will head back to Boone as OC and QB Coach.
Clark and Ponce have worked together before and Ponce knows the Satterfield offense and its multiple motions and option plays. Will ASU return to that style of offense after a year of running a more under center and pistol approach? The front runner to be the starting QB is Chase Brice. Brice spent time as a Clemson back up before being the Duke Blue Devils starting QB in 2020. Brice flopped in Durham as he turned the ball over nearly two dozen times in 11 games.
How do you lose to the App offense? You let Camerun Peoples dominate the game. Peoples absolutely tore through the Mean Green offense for five TD’s in the Myrtle Beach Bowl. If the Hurricanes struggle to align, assign, and finish Miami will be in for a long night. App likes to use a TE and even a fullback (gasp) sometimes in their offense. However, you’re mostly going to see 11 personnel (one RB, one TE) from ASU.
How do you beat the App offense?
Stop the run and force Chase Brice to beat you. Miami is going to have to load the box against ASU to stop Peoples, et al. App State returns three starters at WR plus their TE, but Brice was a complete dud at Duke. Put pressure on Brice (like the GIF below) and he’ll fold again and again.
App Scheme on D
App State DC Dale Jones runs a 3-4 defense that returns nine of 11 starters. ASU will miss now Green Bay Packer cornerback Shemar Jean-Charles and his ball hawking ability, but he wasn’t the Mountaineers only playmaker on D. Nine of ASU’s starting 11 will be seniors which gives App a battle tested feel heading into 2021.
How do you lose to the App defense? One way is to allow their offense to stay on the field and have App’s defenders fresh. ASU has ran a ‘ball control’ style of offense for years and I can’t see that changing with Brice at QB and Peoples at RB. The other way is to succumb to their pressure packages. Traditional 3-4 teams love to bring pressure from all over.
How do you beat the App defense? Pick up the blitzes and pick apart the space they leave behind those linebackers. OC Rhett Lashlee has to get comfortable with using backs in for protection and hitting TE’s and slots over the middle 8-12 yards off the line of scrimmage.
What concept can Miami use against ASU? Stick. Miami needs to utilize TE Will Mallory in the middle of the field more. The Stick concept allows Mallory to use his height advantage on inside linebackers and safeties and his ability to box out and use his body to shield against defenders. He can also use precise route running to break off the hitch and get into the flat if he’s covered.
Unlike the diagram above, I like using Glance-Arrow on the back side of Stick in 3x1. Glance is a 5-yard slant instead of a 3-yard slant. An Arrow is a flat route by the RB where he attacks the line of scrimmage before hitting the flat.
If the MLB (M) blitzes, the Stick concept is wide open, especially with the SAM (S) being put in conflict with the slot running a speed out. Below, watch how Coach Coltharp uses the Stick concept in his offense.
Canyonero keys to victory
1- Come out motivated. Miami’s motivation has been shaky under both Mark Richt and Manny Diaz. The Hurricanes are by far the more talented team, but will Miami come out flat for a night home game at Hard Rock after a tough game against Alabama? Coach Diaz the motivator has left a lot to be desired as a head coach so far in Coral Gables.
2- Tackle. If Miami wants to beat ASU they’re going to have to tackle in the run game. UNC dominated Miami on the ground and teams are going to learn from that game how to beat up on the Miami defensive ends and linebackers. Miami has to tackle better than they have under Diaz so far.
3- Protect King. The ‘Canes haven’t had a good O-Line in what feels like a decade. Miami’s line has a ton of experience but are they improved? The ‘Canes might need to leave the back in or chip with a TE in order to give King time against the ASU 3-4 defense.
Way too early prediction: Miami by 14.