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View from the 'ville
Thursday, September 3, 2009

By Al Myatt

Apps loaded with offensive punch

By Al Myatt
All rights reserved.

Four weeks of speculation regarding Appalachian State's quarterback situation have apparently been resolved.

Mountaineers football coach Jerry Moore announced following Wednesday's practice in Boone that sophomore DeAndre Presley will start at quarterback when ASU visits Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium on Saturday for a 12:06 p.m. kickoff against East Carolina in the season opener for both clubs.

The announcement apparently defined the status of senior Armanti Edwards, whose right foot required 35 stitches for cuts sustained in an August 5 lawn mowing accident. Edwards won the Walter Payton Award as the top player in the NCAA's Football Championship Subdivision last season, but has practiced sparingly in preseason camp while recovering.

Moore said he doesn't expect Edwards to play. It's doubtful that Moore was ever counting on Edwards to be available, but Presley's performance as a freshman generates confidence in his potential in the Mountaineers' first matchup with the Pirates since 1979.

Presley was in a similar situation in 2008 when injuries Edwards suffered against Elon forced Presley into the starter's role in the regular-season finale against Western Carolina. Presley stepped in with 314 yards of offense in a 35-10 win over the Catamounts as he passed for 158 yards and ran for 156.

“As a staff and a team, we’re very comfortable with DeAndre Presley starting on Saturday and with our quarterback position as a whole with (sophomore) Travaris Cadet as well,” Moore said in a statement released by the ASU athletic media relations department.

Cadet began his college career as a receiver at Toledo before transferring to Pearl River Community College in Mississippi. He was rated as a three-star recruit out of Miami (FL) Central High School as a run-throw quarterback.

"They're doing pretty good right now," said Edwards via a teleconference regarding his backups. "Their concentration level seems to be up very high. They're taking care of the ball and they're doing everything the coaches are asking.

"(Presley) has the offense down. He played in a lot of games last year, so it's not like we're just throwing him in the fire."

Presley saw action at the outset of the 2008 season when the Mountaineers played at LSU. The Tampa product completed a 32-yard pass and had a 17-yard run in his first two plays on the collegiate level in ASU's 41-13 loss to the Tigers. He had his wind knocked out on his second play and didn't return to the game.

When a mild ankle injury put Edwards on the sideline against Presbyterian in the fourth game of the season, Presley came in and ran for two touchdowns in a 48-14 win. His freshman totals included 30 completions on 45 pass attempts for 379 yards. He ran 73 times for 415 yards and seven touchdowns.

ECU had been preparing as if Edwards would be available but Pirates coach Skip Holtz knows that ASU has the type of depth that would be expected of a program that has won the last four Southern Conference championships. Moore's program claimed the NCAA's football championship subdivision national title in 2005, 2006 and 2007.

The Mountaineers are the only school to ever win three straight national championships at the Division I FCS (formerly Division I-AA) level.

"They have other players on their team," Holtz said. "I know they have very capable backups and I know they are very excited about their new quarterback they have in camp. He's doing a lot of good things. Whoever they put back there, as long as they only put one back there at a time, I think we'll be OK. Whoever plays, we're preparing for an athletic quarterback who can run around, make things happen and beat you with his feet or his arm."

Backup quarterbacks have been a thorn in the Pirates' side at times.

Thomas Cox was pressed into action and guided UAB to a 36-17 win over ECU in 1999 after the Pirates had taken a 17-3 lead. Third stringer Scott Scherer, the son of then-Memphis coach Rip Scherer, came in to direct an improbable 17-10 upset of ECU at the Liberty Bowl in the 2000 season.

In 2001, Troy Nunes of Syracuse emerged from a reserve role to complete 17 of 27 passes for 296 yards and four touchdowns in a 44-30 win over the Pirates at the Carrier Dome.

Things didn't go as well for Memphis' reserve quarterbacks in Greenville last season after starter Arkelon Hall went out with a thumb injury and backup Will Hudgens was sidelined with a knee ailment. The Tigers' offensive package was severely limited in a 30-10 loss. Ironically, ECU back-up Rob Kass provided a spark as he completed nine of 17 passes for 167 yards and two touchdowns in a win that was pivotal to the Pirates Conference USA championship run.

The Mountaineers obviously have an abundance of talent in addition to Edwards with 18 starters back from an 11-3 team that lost to eventual champion Richmond in the FCS playoffs.

"This football team is much more than just Edwards," Holtz said on Monday. "He is a great player who has had great success. When you watch him on film, he has done some incredible things. But he didn't play against Western Carolina last year and his backup accounted for over 300 yards and three touchdowns.

"They have recruited very athletic quarterbacks. That is their mindset. I think we're going to see a very good quarterback, whoever that is. They have very good wide receivers. I've really been impressed with CoCo Hillary and Brian Quick. ...

"When we were at Connecticut, one of the biggest differences between us and some other programs was not at the skill position. When you look at NFL rosters, the skill position players come from all over the country and all different size schools. App State is no different. They have some great receivers. ...

"Devon Moore is an excellent tailback who we recruited here. I think (he) is a very talented player who runs hard and is physical.

"Their offensive line is all about the same size at 6-foot-2 or 6-foot-3 and between 275-285 pounds. They're quick, athletic and do a great job in their system.

"On offense, I think they are very similar to what West Virginia does. I think they do a really good job with it. I think Coach Moore has built a great program. Their offense is one of the best in their league. They're extremely explosive and can put up a lot of points."

The Mountaineers averaged 37.3 points per game in 2008. The Pirates are preparing for ASU's no-huddle attack.

"We are preparing for the fast pace, with it being one play after another coming at us," Holtz said. "It's a lot easier to adjust by having to slow down than to have to speed up. We're going in like it's going to be a two-minute tempo."

The ECU coach also wants his program to be ready for the underdog mindset that the Mountaineers will bring into the 30th renewal of a rivalry that dates back to 1932.

"I'm sure they look at it as an opportunity to make some waves," Holtz said. "This is a huge bragging rights game. I look at it as very similar to when we go to North Carolina and N.C. State with a little bit of a chip on our shoulder. We're trying to prove that we're on a competitive playing field with UNC or N.C. State and that makes your players dig a little bit deeper. I think App State is going to come in here with that very same mindset.

"We're trying to prepare our team for that and utilize that same analogy. We're trying to get our team to understand how hard Appalachian State is going to play. They've got a very good football team. They have won three out of four national championships for a reason. I think they're a very good football team. They know how to play.

"They're excellent, physical and can run. They have a bunch of guys who are used to winning. We're going to have to go into this game with a mindset that is 100 percent focused on the task at hand. They're certainly going to come in with that mindset."

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09/03/2009 04:41:01 AM


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