BOONE Appalachian State’s starting quarterback is returning for the second straight year, just not the same one that opened last season.
A midseason change saw Kam Bryant take over for ailing incumbent Jamal Londry-Jackson in the fifth game last season. Bryant was the first player to hit the field Friday for the first day of preseason practice.
For Bryant, it’s a different beginning. He came into last season as an inexperienced backup, coming off a right-knee injury (torn ACL and meniscus) in 2012 that required surgery and cut his season short.
“It is very different,” Bryant, a junior from Cary, said Saturday during media day. “I’m healthy now. I know it’s my starting job now and along with that comes the leadership role. All that’s different.
“But the demands I put on myself haven’t changed. I’m glad to have the title of starter, and it’s something I want to keep.”
Although the Mountaineers (4-8) struggled through much of 2013, they found a capable quarterback in Bryant.
“Before last year, he had only taken about a dozen snaps, that was it,” Coach Scott Satterfield said. “It was like having zero experience, and for him to jump in there in the middle of the season, I thought he did very well. He completed 71 percent of his passes, threw (14) touchdown passes with just four picks. That’s a good season. And he should be even better with more experience.”
Bryant’s accuracy rate, buoyed by a preponderance of short passes, set a school record. And his 2,713 passing yards were the most by a sophomore in school history.
Statistics aside, Satterfield and Bryant said there is much room for improvement. Bryant has worked on his arm strength and delivering the ball quicker.
“He’s gotten better at that, to throw the ball when he needs to and not hold it until the last second,” Satterfield said. “When he held it too long, the pocket collapsed, and the ball was getting out late so defenders had an opportunity to make breaks. But he got better by the end of the season.”
Bryant has spent extra time in the weight room to improve his arm strength, and more deep passes and big plays are anticipated this season.
“Down-the-field throws, that was the biggest thing for him,” Satterfield said. “His intermediate throws and quick screens were all pretty good. He’s working hard on the other part.”
With an additional year removed from the 2012 knee injury and past a hamstring issue that bothered him during the second half of last season, Bryant hopes to be a more productive runner. He also has dropped to 200 pounds on his 6-foot-1 frame.
“He’s not going to be like some of the guys we’ve had in the past in terms of exceptional running ability, but if he can go get some first downs when we need them, that will be a critical thing,” Satterfield said.
Bryant wasn’t satisfied with last season, despite record numbers.
“There are a lot of things I still need to work on,” Bryant said. “I know Coach Satt, and Coach Ponce (co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach) and the entire team expect me to do more. I think last year was a good start, but it’s nowhere near where I need to be and what’s expected from me this year.”
Ponce says there’s no substitute for experience.
“He’s a lot more comfortable,” Ponce said. “You can see it now.
“He got better as last year went on, and he’ll keep getting better. He’s that type of kid. He’s a very coachable young man.”
Redshirt freshman Taylor Lamb and true freshman J.P. Caruso are vyring for the backup role.
“Taylor had a really good summer, and right now I’d say he’s the backup, but we’ll see,” Satterfield said. “We’ll really hone in on that over the next couple of weeks. They’ll both push Kam and challenge him.”
The Winston-Salem Journal is a news partner of the Observer. For more Appalachian State coverage, visit journalnow.com/sports/asu/.
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