Appalachian State football coach Scott Satterfield knows a natural when he sees one, and the Mountaineers’ road game Sept. 8 at Charlotte qualifies.
“If you’re anywhere near Charlotte speaking, either before or after (an event), everybody is saying, ‘We don’t care what else you do, but we better beat Charlotte,’” Satterfield said at football media day Saturday.
“I know people who work in that area want to win that game bad.”
Satterfield says an Appalachian State-Charlotte rivalry makes so much sense he’d like to schedule the 49ers every year. The challenge is Charlotte building up to a level similar to the Mountaineers, who have become a perennial bowl team since moving up to FBS status in 2014.
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The 49ers are coming off a 1-11 season and have gone 7-29 over the past three seasons. The school announced this week the game against the Mountaineers is a sellout. Satterfield said he’ll be surprised if at least half the crowd at Richardson Stadium isn’t Appalachian State fans.
“We’re a couple of hours apart and the alumni bases are interacting. The footprint of where we’re located, it should be a rivalry game,” Satterfield said.
“Now, what makes a rivalry game is the fact that both teams are good and they play each other every year. I’m very excited about them being on the schedule now, and hopefully that’s something we can have on the schedule for a long time. That would be a perfect game to play every year.”
Observations from the opening of Appalachian State football preseason:
▪ Sophomore Zac Thomas will get the first shot at replacing Taylor Lamb as quarterback, but it doesn’t sound like he has the job secured. Lamb, by Satterfield’s description, was an average athlete with an average arm, but he was a superb decision-maker. Thomas is a much better athlete with an arm so strong his nickname is “Bam-bam,” but when he showed up in Boone he didn’t have the refinement to appreciate every throw shouldn’t be launched from a bazooka.
▪ Shelby’s Jalin Moore, the senior running back, would be huge regardless of what else the Mountaineers had offensively, but all the more so with the uncertainty at quarterback. Keeping Moore healthy is key, particularly since his running style is so physical. That means developing depth at the position. Keep an eye on freshman Camerun Peoples for down the road: At 6-foot-2 and 205 pounds, he has the size to be a featured back.
▪ The offensive line is a work-in-progress after a lot of stability in that unit the previous two seasons. The bright side is offensive line coach Shawn Clark says there is depth that hasn’t always existed This coaching staff values speed and quickness over pure size; they’d rather have a 270-pound lineman of athletic ability over a hulk with slow feet.
▪ Speaking of speed, Satterfield said overall it’s by far the best he’s had. That’s worked for cornerback Clifton Duck (Butler High), for instance, who excels at 5-10 and 170 pounds, and it’s representative of a broader philosophy.
▪ Satterfield tweaked the off-season by creating a 10-player leadership council, with one representative from each position unit. He’s looking to make the players feel more part of - and therefore responsible for - the entire team’s direction.
▪ Moore has gone from a lightly recruited player out of Crest High to the second-leading career active rusher in FBS, with 3.170 yards. Much of that has been about Moore’s physical strength. It’s also been about a dramatic change in self-confidence since he arrived in 2016. Satterfield said half the battle when Moore was a freshman was convincing him how good he could be.
▪ The area around Kidd Brewer Stadium is changing with some construction on land now used for parking. That will change the tailgating scene, but the athletic department has plans to add a beer garden (featuring local craft breweries) and food trucks to update the gameday experience.
▪ The Mountaineers return nine players with 11 or more career starts, but Satterfield said that doesn’t fully reflect the overall experience of this group. The counter-factor in that is quarterback and offensive line are particularly difficult positions to make over. Synergy matters more among the starters along an offensive line than probably any other position.
▪ With the Sun Belt going to a championship game (now that a conference no longer needs 12 football members to hold one), Appalachian State is evaluating Kidd Brewer with the potential of hosting that event. The participating Sun Belt team with the top college football playoff rating would serve as host.
▪ A couple of position changes to note: D’Andre Hicks is switching from defensive back to running back. Satterfield said Hicks has breakaway speed, but the preseason will tell how he handles being tackled. ...Baer Hunter has gone from the defensive line to tight end to the offensive line. The intent with Hunter is to raise the athleticism of that group.
▪ Satterfield sounds excited about the NCAA’s rule change regarding redshirts, allowing a player to participate in up to four games without losing a season of eligibility. That should lead to some experimentation all around college football, testing how ready freshmen are to contribute.
Rick Bonnell: 704-358-5129, @rick_bonnell