Friday, August 31, 2007

HSR Preview: Appalachian State

Football is almost here. Football is almost here. Football is almost here. I used several sources in compiling this preview. The previews that had already been posted at Maize n Brew, Varsity Blue, and Maize and Blog were all helpful, and the Appalachian State Media Guide was enlightening. Stats for last year's team can be found here.

Appalachian State Offense vs. Michigan Defense

The Apps' offense revolves around senior running back Kevin Richardson and sophomore QB Armanti Edwards. Richardson rushed for 1600 yards and an incredible 30 (THIRTY) touchdowns last year, setting a D1-AA record in the process. Edwards himself accounted for another 30 TDs, split evenly between the ground and the air. Overall, he rushed for 1153 yards and passed for 2251, so he's another of those mobile quarterback guys.

Appalachian State also returns a veteran offensive line. Senior center Scott Suttle is a three-year starter and left guard Kerry Brown has been rated the #12 guard in the 2008 NFL draft. Left tackle Mario Acitelli started 14 of 15 games last year, pushed into that role due to injuries ahead of him. His sister is a cheerleader, and I'm sure he never hears about that from other guys on the team, or opposing fans, or opposing players. The right side of the line might be a little shakier, where two guys who've mostly spent time on special teams move into starting roles. Junior right tackle Jonathan Bieschke doesn't have the confidence of the media guide, which says "Should he keep the starting job..." Maybe some weakness there?

The wideouts aren't new, but they have to replace a lot of production lost last year after Willie Mayfield's graduation. Mayfield had twice as many catches as this year's #1 option, Dexter Jackson. Jackson is a burner who won the Southern Conference championship in the 200-meter dash, so I'd expect Trent to be keeping tabs on him. The other options are possession receiver Josh Johnson and TJ Courman, who is "penciled in" for the start, according to the media guide.

I like this matchup for our first game. We're replacing 3 of 4 starters on the defensive line and 2 of 3 linebackers and going up against a team whose offense ran the ball 66% of the time last year. This should give us the chance to really establish our run defense, which will serve us well in the Big Ten regular season (and if Oregon remembers what their best weapon really is. Hint: Not Dixon). Our pass defense will get be tested, and the receivers aren't green, but this isn't a team that makes its bones in the air. It's been an excellent Football Championship Subdivision team, but it shouldn't actually threaten us.

Appalachian State Defense vs. Michigan Offense

Mike Debord must have been salivating over this game all summer. Like Michigan, the Apps are replacing 3 of 4 defensive linemen. However, they'll be doing it with two sophomores and a freshman, with the lone returning starter (Gary Tharrington) also a sophomore. The freshman, tackle Bobby Bozzo, is 6'3", 265, typical of the undersized line. Expect Michigan's OL to move them around for Hart and Minor all day long and for Avery Horn to burn his redshirt.

The linebacking corps will be needed to back up the line (/John Madden). They have a lot more experience there. Pierre Banks is 6' flat and 210, so he's another undersized guy by Michigan standards, but he had 110 tackles playing WLB to lead the team. More impressive is the fact that he's the 16th of 17 kids in his family, needed only three years to earn his degree in electronic media/broadcasting, and is now pursuing his master's degree. He should finish it before he's done with football, as he has another two years left of eligibility. Jacques Roman is a bigger 6'1", 240, while Cam Speer's 6'0", 215-lb. Both are battling it out for the MLB spot. I'd expect Roman to get the nod, as he's less likely to get steamrolled quite as often by Hart.

Appalachian State's DBs come loaded with experience. The two senior corners combine for 81 career starts and safety Corey Lynch was a College Sporting News D1-AA All American last year.

Like I said, look for Michigan to run the ball, run the ball, and run the ball. Henne might air it out a few times, but this game will likely be a slog through the trenches. Look to last year's Vanderbilt and CMU games for guidance.

Special Teams

Julian Rauch was the Apps' placekicker last year. His 10/14 on field goals was serviceable at best, but he was a solid 70/71 on PATs. Punter Neil Young averaged 37.8 yards on 29 attempts and is reportedly searching for a heart of gold.

Very Special Teams

Appalachian State's mascot is named Yosef, a corruption of "yourself" in mountain dialect, from the idea that "if you are an Appalachian alumnus, fan or friend and have a heart filled with black and gold, you are Yosef." He was created for the 1942 annual with the full name of Dan’l Boone Yoseff. By 1949, Yosef had dropped a letter and was being portrayed by a student. It was more in line with the Notre Dame leprechaun than, say, Bucky Badger. But attitudes change:

In the early 1980s opinions began to sound that Yosef was too ugly and that his appearance needed to be altered. The need for a more dignified mascot, away from the slouchy, flea-bitten character, was evident.

Prior to the 1983-84 academic year, a committee comprised of university students, staff and faculty members modernized Yosef’s look through a cartoon-type head and body.

This is much more dignified than a guy in coveralls.

When all is said and done, Michigan should come out with an easy win. I'll guess a final score of 41-14 because I like the symmetry and because I can easily see the secondary getting burned a couple of times, especially if we're up big and the starters are gone.


Seth said...

This reads pretty funny now doesn't it.

Jeremy said...

That's a clever perspective, Seth. I never thought this could all look bad with the gift of 20/20 hindsight. Make sure you go to all the other blogs and point it out too.