With Appalachian State’s recent victory as top adventure college in the south east, we’re looking to expand our territory and the opportunities for outdoor adventure in Montana seemed like the perfect place to start. In fact…I think we’ll start by hijacking eGriz.com as a preemptive strike on Washington-Grizzly Stadium on our march to take over Montana! Rumor has it that Missoula is a great warm up for the tougher fight we might expect just a smidge east….a little town by the name of Bozeman….maybe you’ve heard of it?
Kidding of course (or am I?). Yosef’s Cabin and eGriz.com have teamed up to help kick off the season right, leading up to one of the most anticipated FCS match ups of the season for the second year in a row. While we played only a year ago, Appalachian State has seen a lot of changes in the offseason, some of which you may be aware of while others may be news to all.
The biggest news out of Boone, NC this year is our move with Georgia Southern to the FBS ranks, joining the Sun Belt as full fledged football members in 2015. While our intentions have been clear for quite some time now, all of the recent conference shuffling provided a window of opportunity to make the jump with our fellow Southern Conference rival Georgia Southern, which should help maintain one of the solid rivalries that we are accustomed too. We expect to start playing Sun Belt teams in 2014 (though it may not be a full Sun Belt schedule) and fill most of the other holes in our schedule with FBS caliber opponents. It is safe to say that many in our fan base would love to see the Grizzlies move up to the FBS ranks as well so that we would be able to continue our rivalry that has built up despite the distance between our programs. We’ve truly enjoyed the classy fans and tough ‘punch them in the mouth’ style of football Montana is known for and it will be a shame knowing that there will not be an opportunity to play in the foreseeable future.
Other news that is almost as big as our move to the Sun Belt is our decision to not renew long time head coach Jerry Moore’s contract this year and opt to elevate long time assistant coach Scott Satterfield to head football coach. While Satterfield was gone for a few years (2009-2011) on the Mountaineer version of a work release program, he has been a staple at Appalachian for over two decades when he first enrolled in school and walked on to the football team. This head coaching change may have been mildly related to the Sun Belt move as it has been rumored that Jerry may not have been completely supportive of a move to the FBS. Many FCS fans outside of Appalachian State may not be aware, but Scott Satterfield was highly involved in the offensive production the Mountaineers enjoyed during their national title runs as well as their victory at Michigan. Both of the moves have divided the fan base into several factions, all with what’s best for Appalachian State in mind.
All of that, of course, has no bearing on the upcoming season and our matchup with the Griz. Returning as the leader of our offense is senior quarterback, Jamal Londry-Jackson. Jamal has already etched his name several times in the record books and should move to second all time on the career passing yards list provided he stays healthy, just behind Armanti Edwards. Several receivers are returning that have the capability of creating lots of headaches for opposing defenses. No one will cause more problems than Sean Price, who has an opportunity to build on his freshman campaign and further make a name for himself as a top tier receiver. The main area of concern on offense this year will be at the running back position where we have several capable but inexperienced options. As we return to a faster pace offense like we had back in our championship years, we will need to be able to execute on the ground in order to open up our spread attack and it remains to be seen if we’ll be able to accomplish that. Montana is going to be our first opportunity to see our revamped and re-energize offense under Satterfield.
Our defense has had a significant upgrade just by the hiring of Coach Nate Woody who has been a critical component of Wofford’s emergence as a Southern Conference power and perennial thorn in Appalachian’s side. His defensive prowess has been a staple for the Terrier teams and Appalachian was able to woo him away with our impending move up to the Sun Belt. He is in the process of transitioning our defense from a 4-3 to a 3-4, which has the potential to create opportunities for our opponents this year as we learn the new system. The major trouble spot we had to address in the offseason was at the linebacker position where we are moving from 3 linebackers to 4, and we are replacing 2 of our 3 starters from a season ago. We have an extremely athletic defense, but other than the defensive line, we will be fairly inexperienced and could see some growing pains with the youth as well as the transition to the 3-4.
I BOLDLY predict a sunny Saturday with a high temperature of 85 degrees with little chance of rain. That’s as far out on the limb as I am going to go. I leave the predictions to the pros (the Yosef’s Cabin and eGriz fan bases) so come on over and tell us where to hang out in Missoula, give us your prediction, and tell us where we can grab a good brew after the game. Our fans are friendly and enjoy some good-natured chiding from time to time and have massive amounts of respect for Grizzly nation.