Appalachian State football provided a pretty interesting 2022 season. Its 6-6 record and no bowl game appearance weren't pleasing to fans, but the Mountaineers did have some head-turning games. Remember standing in front of the television with a gaping mouth as App State beat the SEC's Texas A&M? And ESPN Gameday in Boone, N.C.? There was also the win against Troy. If the Mountaineers can pull out some wins like these, but add more to it, they could have a strong 2023 season.
APPALACHIAN STATE FOOTBALL 2023 PREVIEW
THE CONF.: SBC Sun Belt Conference
2022 RECORD: 6-6 overall, 3-5 Sun Belt
CONF. FINISH: 4th in the East Division
HEAD COACH: Shawn Clark, 4th year, 26-13
FIVE ALL-STAR CANDIDATES: Nick Ross, Sr./S (73 TOT, 1 INT, 4 PD); Nate Noel, Jr./RB (604 rushing YDS, 145 receiving YDS, 6 rushing TD); Andrew Parker, Sr./LB (68 TOT, 3.5-16 TFL-YDS); Isaiah Helms, Sr./C (/); Christan Horn, Jr./WR (600 YDS, 4 TD)
THE NEWCOMER: Grant Tucker, Freshman/WR (Comes from Charlotte Christian School, highest-ranked player to be recruited by App State) (1,020 YDS, 18 TD, 73 receptions in career)
One of the most important things to consider is the number of key players that Appalachian State lost this season. 28 seniors graduated and 14 players went to the transfer portal. However, this allowed for 15 incoming transfers and 19 enrolled recruits. Among the recruits are WR Grant Tucker, DE A.J. Mebane, and LB Cahari Haynes.
Another thing to think about is the defensive line that needs more support. The transfer portal helped here somewhat, but there's going to have to be more defensive force all around. If S Ronald Clarke and S Jordan Favors can keep up the speed, which they can, it will make a big difference.
This leads to the offensive line. The top four wide receivers are returning, which is a positive. Between that and added depth, the wide receiver list is comforting. There is also some comfort in the quarterback situation. Since losing Chase Brice, Ryan Burger is the favorite to start. Joey Aguilar has impressed HC Clark as well. The Mountaineers should be able to show out with their running game with the use of these quarterbacks.
THE KEY GAME AND WHY
The game against Coastal Carolina (Oct. 10) could be the key game. If Appalachian State wins here, it could be the pivot them into a winning streak. The game will likely be close. In order to have a slight bit of wiggle room for the presumed losses against North Carolina, James Madison, and possibly Georgia State, they'll have to pull a win here.
THE TOUGHEST GAME AND WHY
The toughest game will be at James Madison (Nov. 18). It will be App's first trip to JMU since 2008 where they lost 35-32. Last year at home, App lost to James Madison at 32-28. The game will likely be a close call, but it's unlikely that Appalachian can push through for a win.
THE CHANCES OF CONF. TITLE GAME
It's possible. Appalachian State football is known to throw some surprises out there. Realistically, they won't make the conference title game unless a team or two unexpectedly does a poor job and they're at the right place at the right time. They should still have a rather successful season regardless.
Appalachian State will go 7-5. There will be some exciting and shocking close games; presumably one in each direction. They have the talent to have a successful season at the very least. It just needs to come together like good ol' Appalachian-style gravy and biscuits.
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