While in years past, the Mountaineers have opened up with a tough Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) opponent such as Michigan, N.C. State, and East Carolina, things are a bit different this season.
This season, Mountaineer fans will have to get used to not seeing the legendary number 14 in the backfield. Instead, ASU will send junior QB DeAndre Presley on to the field to start the season against the Mocs. Presley has appeared in 21 games during his career, including two starts, which came two years ago at Western Carolina and last year against ECU. Behind Presley will be two freshmen hoping to make an impact this season as well. Jamal Jackson and Kalik Barnes fill out the rest of the quarterback depth chart this season for App State.
Familiar faces return at the running back positions for ASU, including seniors Devon Moore and Devin Radford. Joining those two in the backfield will be a host of other tailbacks, including junior Cedric Baker and junior Travaris Cadet. Cadet saw playing time last year as a quarterback, wide receiver, and kick returner. This year, Cadet expects to receive a lot of playing time out of the backfield, and will also continue to use his speed and explosiveness in the return game.
The Mountaineers also return a lot of experience in the other skill positions on offense. At wideout, ASU will have 6-foot 5 junior Brian Quick as well as senior playmaker CoCo Hillary. Hillary had his junior campaign cut short due to injury, and continues to recover and hopes to see plenty of playing time this season. Three other senior wideouts will be the target for the quarterbacks this season. Blake Elder, Matt Cline, and B.J. Frazier will all play key roles in the Mountaineer passing attack. At tight end, ASU has a senior and junior that have played well in the past. Senior Brad Hardee and junior Ben Jorden will give Presley and the rest of the quarterbacks a big target to hit over the middle of the field.
On the offensive line, App State brings back a lot of experience with the starters. Daniel Kilgore at left tackle, Pat Mills at left guard, Brett Irvin at center, Matt Ruff at right guard, and Orry Frye at right tackle have all started more than a season’s worth of games for the Mountaineers at some point in their careers. While their backups might be young and inexperienced, they will be learning on the fly behind this group of returning starters.
Defensively, ASU will have several new faces, especially in the front seven. Defensive playmakers D.J. Smith and Jabari Fletcher are the key players at the point of attack for the defense. After that, several sophomores and juniors will take the field earning their first starts of their careers. John Rizor, Gordy Witte, and Jordan Gary all could start according to the projected depth chart for the Chattanooga game. Those three athletes have a combined three starts between them. Returning defensive linemen Bobby Bozzo and Lanston Tanyi will also be key players in the rotation up front.
At the linebacker position, expect to see two sophomores line up on the field next to senior all-conference performer Smith. Justin Wray, Brandon Grier, and Jeremy Kimbrough are all expected to see playing time at the linebacking positions, another spot on the field that lacks game experience but does not lack in talent.
The secondary has three returning starters that will make opposing quarterbacks fear throwing the ball anywhere near them. The trio of Ed Gainey, Mark LeGree and Dominique McDuffie will be patrolling the secondary for the Mountaineers this season. Those three will be joined by sophomore Troy Sanders, who will be making his first career start Saturday.
The game this week is scheduled to kickoff at 3 p.m. and will be televised on SportSouth. The game can also be heard on any of the local ASU radio affiliates in and around the High Country.