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Victory Yosef

Appalachian State Football Holds Media Day, Camp Begins Friday

Assistant coaches David Lockwood and Rod West used an unbeaten, dominant run through the Media Day Cornhole Challenge bracket to win a title Thursday in Kidd Brewer Stadium.

The serious competition begins Friday with the first App State football practice of preseason training camp. Once practice No. 24 is completed on Sept. 2, the Mountaineers will be less than 18 hours away from opening the 2022 season with a highly anticipated home game against North Carolina.

“We’re not looking toward the first game right now; we’re trying to get through the first day,” App State head coach Shawn Clark said. “We’ll work on us for the first two or two and a half weeks, and then we’ll get to North Carolina. I know our fans and their fans are excited about it, and it’s going to be great for college football, but the next two and half or three weeks, it’s about App State and our style of football.”

Thursday was Report Day for any Mountaineers who weren’t already in Boone, with a 2 p.m. team meeting officially kicking off the camp schedule.

Eighteen total players who started at least one game in 2021 return from a team that enjoyed a 10-win regular season and captured a Sun Belt East Division title during Clark’s second full season as head coach. Clark’s 2022 staff includes three new assistants in Kevin Barbay (offensive coordinator/quarterbacks), Lawrence Dawsey (receivers) and Geep Wade (offensive line).

While the 2021 roster included 14 players who returned to Boone to take advantage of the extra year of eligibility granted by the NCAA following a COVID-interrupted 2020, the 2022 roster has just eight returners who have one season of eligibility remaining: LB Trey Cobb, LB Logan Doublin, LB Tyler Bird, TE Henry Pearson, RB Daetrich Harrington, CB Steven Jones Jr., P Clayton Howell and QB Chase Brice, who was an App State newcomer in 2021.

“I can’t wait for camp to start,” Jones said. “Ever since the last game of last season, I’ve been waiting for this, so I’m definitely excited and can’t wait for the first day.”

While App State brings back Brice at quarterback, the Mountaineers’ three most experienced running backs have totaled 5,298 career rushing yards, six offensive linemen possess valuable college experience and there are tested veterans in the tight end room, there are a lot of questions and excitement about the potential of a younger receiving corps with the departure of four “super seniors” who signed with NFL teams after the draft.

Defensively, App State returns only four full-time starters in Cobb, Jones, OLB Nick Hampton and DT Jordon Earle — although OLB Brendan Harrington, SS Nick Ross and FS Ronald Clarke did start multiple games in 2021. Hansky Paillant is the most experienced defensive end, a spot with a lot of young talent that developed behind two other departed “super seniors,” and Jones is the only returning cornerback with substantial game experience at the FBS level. Young players, newcomers and veterans who have contributed more on special teams will compete for playing time at inside linebacker, as D’Marco Jackson has moved on to the NFL after being a fifth-round pick of the New Orleans Saints.

App State must also fill holes at punter and kicker, although Howell was the starting punter in 2018 and Michael Hughes kicked off last year as a true freshman who had been recruited to be part of the December 2020 signing class.

“I think the biggest thing we have to find out early is who are the playmakers are going to be,” Clark said. “Both coordinators, Coach Jones and Coach Barbay, and you add Coach Haines in as the special teams coordinator, you can work with your players a few hours a week during the summertime and meet with the players. We have to find out who’s going to give us the best chance to win.”