With a trip to Akron closing out Appalachian State’s nonconference schedule Saturday, coach Scott Satterfield has stressed the importance of moving forward from a 45-10 loss to Miami.
When facing the Zips, it’s impossible to completely separate from the Hurricanes. Or Ohio State. Or the nine other Power Five schools represented among the 35 transfers in Akron’s program.
Terry Bowden has relied heavily on transfers, first at Division II North Alabama, now as a Mid-American Conference coach, since returning to the profession in 2009. Coming off an 8-5 season in which Akron won its first bowl game, the Zips improved to 2-1 last weekend with a 65-38 road victory against Marshall.
“We’re early in our season, but we’re lining up probably a little better athletes than we have in the past,” Bowden said. “Each year we get a little better football players, it makes us better coaches. It’s a lot more about the Jimmys and Joes than about the Xs and Os.”
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Bowden, a son of the former Florida State head coach, left Auburn in 1998 and worked as a television analyst before resurfacing at North Alabama in 2009. His first team there included 25 FBS transfers, including seven from Florida State, and Akron hired Bowden after he went 29-9 in three seasons.
Bowden took over a program that had dropped 31 of its last 36 games and lost its singular bowl appearance in 25 seasons at the FBS level. After three difficult years, he posted his first winning season at Akron in 2015, when the Zips tied for second place in the MAC’s Eastern Division and beat Utah State in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.
A high transfer reliance leads to more roster turnover, as only three offensive starters and four defensive starters are back. Akron opened 2016 with a 47-24 win against VMI and bounced back from a 54-10 loss at Wisconsin to score 65 points in Marshall’s stadium.
Thomas Woodson, a 6-foot-1, 233-pound junior, has thrown for 894 yards with 10 touchdowns and only two interceptions through two games. His top targets have been local product Jerome Lane and Utah State transfer JoJo Natson, while the team’s leading rusher with 181 yards in two games is 232-pound Ohio State transfer Warren Ball. He missed the Marshall game with an injury, and Manny Morgan ran for 130 yards against the Thundering Herd.
Starting left tackle Logan Tuley-Tillman, a 6-7, 309-pound graduate transfer from Michigan, was dismissed from the Wolverines’ program last year before being charged with three felonies, according to published reports.
“We get probably more transfers and graduate transfers than other people get,” Bowden said. “I took over a program, we weren’t very good when we got here. We’ve really tried to improve the quality of our roster any way we can.”
Akron’s roster includes four ex-Miami players, including two who left following the coaching change to Mark Richt and must sit out this season. Starting cornerback Larry Hope is the team’s fourth-leading tackler, and Jelani Hamilton is a backup defensive lineman.
The program has 43 players from Ohio and 31 from Florida, another sign of the coaching staff’s roots. Chuck Amato, the defensive coordinator, spent 18 seasons at Florida State before serving as N.C. State’s coach from 2000-06.
“I’ve known him all my life,” Bowden said. “He’s still one of the best in the business. He’s only worked for two people before me, and that’s Lou Holtz and Bobby Bowden.”
The influences on Akron’s program are obvious, and the Zips are experiencing previously unreachable levels of success.
The Winston-Salem Journal is a news partner of the Observer. For more Appalachian State coverage go to http://www.journalnow.com/sports/asu/