2014 Appalachian State: What You Must Know

Posted May 20, 2014

Preview 2014 - What You Need To Know About Appalachian State

2014 Appalachian State Preview

What You Need To Know...

- 2014 Appalachian State Preview 
2014 Depth Chart & Unit Rankings To Come This Summer

What You Need To Know About The Offense: It was a disappointing season for a program known for its explosive offense, but there’s hope for a quick turnaround if some new receivers emerge. QB Kameron Bryant was ultra-efficient and effective, but there weren’t enough big plays down the field to make up for a mediocre ground game. Andrew Peacock and Tony Washington combined for 144 catches, and now it’s up to Malachi Jones and others to keep the passing game going to take the heat off of RB Marcus Cox. The sophomore back was the workhorse as a runner and a receiver, but he needs more help from the other backs so he doesn’t wear down with the schedule getting tougher late. The line should turn into a plus with five starters returning and promising depth ready to provide a few battles for starting jobs.

What You Need To Know About The Defense: The 3-4 defense has the potential to be far stronger after struggling against the run a bit too often, allowing 4.9 yards per carry and not doing nearly enough to get behind the line. There’s quickness at linebacker, and the front three could be more dangerous with end Ronald Blair back after missing most of last year. The combination of Deuce Robinson and Olawale Dada could potentially be solid if one of them can start hitting the quarterback. The lack of a pass rush hurt the secondary that needs to be better at coming up with stops after allowing opposing quarterbacks to connect on 64% of his tries. Three starters are back in the secondary, and as long as the front seven does its job a little bit better, and there’s more attacking and aggressiveness up front, the results should come.

Players You Need To Know

1. RB Marcus Cox, Soph.
It took about a game before Cox took over the offense, and by the end of the year he was unstoppable, rushing for a school-record 215 yards and scoring four times in the season-ender against Western Carolina. Extremely quick and versatile, the 5-10, 185-pound sophomore proved he could handle the workload, carrying the ball 245 times for 1,250 yards and 15 scores, and he was terrific out of the backfield on midrange pass plays with 43 grabs for 559 yards and six touchdowns. Bulked up a bit, he’s not going to get much bigger, but he doesn’t have to considering his game is about flash and quickness. Get him a little bit of space and he makes big things happen.

2. OT Kendall Lamm, Sr.
The team’s best offensive lineman, the veteran left tackle is the one the offense works around and relies on against top pass rushers. The leader and mainstay of the line, he doesn’t give up sacks with a good combination of size, savvy and quick feet to get the job done. At 6-6 and 292 pounds he’s not a huge mauler, but he’s tough to get around – put him on the All-Sun Belt team short list.

3. LB John Law, Soph.
The team got young in a hurry in key spots last season, but Law ended up looking and playing like a seasoned veteran, finishing third on the team with 71 tackles with a sack and a team-leading three picks. A good prospect and get for the program, the 6-0, 225-pounder might not be huge, but he can move with great quickness against the pass and uncanny instincts and smarts to always be around the play. Potentially, he has the upside and leadership ability to make the defensive front seven his. Consider it a shocker if he’s not one of the team’s top three tacklers again, if not the main man.

4. QB Kameron Bryant, Jr.
A rising playmaker, the 6-1, 210-pound junior ended up growing into the starting job last year completing 71% of his passes for 2,713 yards with 14 touchdowns and four picks, and he ran for 158 yards and three touchdowns. Ultra-efficient, he doesn’t make big mistakes, makes the right decisions, and doesn’t miss. While he’s not built to be a pro-style bomber, that’s what he is with the talent and ability to push the ball all over the field and with a passing maturity beyond his years. While he wasn’t wanted by the FBS schools, he could turn out to be the best quarterback in the Sun Belt.

5. DE Ronald Blair, Sr.
Just when it seemed like he was about to become a star, he suffered thumb problem, and had a few off-the-field issues, cutting his season short after coming up with 100 tackles, 6.5 sacks and 20 tackles for loss in his first two seasons. At 6-4 and 275 pounds he’s built for the 3-technique, and when he’s right, he’s great at using his combination of quickness and bulk to get behind the line. It’s all there to become one of the key parts of the team’s resurgence, and at the very least, he’ll help out the struggling pass rush in a big way.

6. P Bentlee Critcher, Soph.
The all-star kept up the recent tradition of terrific ASU punters, stepping in as a walk-on and cranking up a 45.9-yard average. The 6-1, 175-pounder has a good leg, but most importantly, he has a consistent one forcing 11 fair catches and putting 15 inside the 20. He has to hang it up a wee bit higher and work a little bit better with his coverage team, but that’s nitpicking – the 6.4 yards per return were hardly a problem.

7. DE Deuce Robinson, Sr.
The 6-5, 252-pound senior has been an okay playmaker in the backfield at times, but he has the experience and upside to come up with a breakthrough season. Tall and tough against the run, he made 45 tackles with two sacks and seven tackles for loss, but the tools are there to do far more. The team’s most experienced defender, he might not be used like a true pass rusher in the 3-4, but he has to work his way behind the line on a regular basis.

8. SS Kevin Walton, Jr.
Even though he only started half the season at strong safety, he still turned in a big season making 56 tackles with a pick. Can he step back up as the starter after working mostly as a backup over the last five games? At 6-0 and 190 pounds, he’s not huge, but he provides a decent pop. The key will be doing more to when the ball is in the air, and he has to come up with more big plays. He has the experience, but now the production has to come.

9. OG Shaq Counts, Jr.
A steady, sound blocker who got the starting gig from Day One, the 6-2, 295-pounder isn’t massive for a left guard, and he’ll have to battle a bit to hang on to the gig, but he has to stay healthy after having problems early on in his career with a back injury. However, he’s the team’s most physical run blocker and can control games at times by being the lead hitter on tough downs.

10. WR Malachi Jones, Jr.
Is he ready to rise up and become the main man? The team’s fourth-leading receiver made 31 grabs for 293 yards and no scores, averaging just 9.5 yards per grab, but he has the experience and the deep speed to start stretching the field at the X spot. At 6-1 and 180 pounds he has decent size, but he has to become dangerous.

- 2014 Appalachian State Preview