Five questions about Appalachian State football
by Steve Behr Sports Editor
1. Who will run the football?
So far, it looks like Ricky Fergerson is the leading candidate to carry the load. Fergerson had five carries for a net gain of one yard last season when Steven Miller, who is trying to earn a roster spot with the Detroit Lions, dominated the position the past two years with the Mountaineers. Paul Magloire, a converted quarterback, could give the Mountaineers an interesting option should App State want to use the running back option pass play.
2. Will there be enough passes to keep the receivers happy?
This group of receivers may be the best the Mountaineers have ever had. Sean Price (81 catches, 1,196 yards, eight touchdowns) is listed on every FCS All-American team, while Tony Washington (39 catches, 472 yards) is also receiving All-American recognition as a receiver and return man.
That's only scratching the surface. Malachi Jones, Simms McElfresh and Bobo Beathard, all sophomores like Price, give the Mountaineers depth at the position for the next three years. Andrew Peacock, a senior like Tony Washington, caught 79 passes for 795 yards and four touchdowns in 2012.
3. Who will be the backup quarterback?
App State has been fortunate to only have two preseason battles for the starting quarterback since 2003. Since then, Joe Burchette (2003-04), Richie Williams (2005-06), Armanti Edwards (2007-09), DeAndre Presley (2011) and current starter Londry-Jackson (2012-13) have been secure in knowing they will be the starter.
The backup situations have not always been so stable. This year, Kameron Bryant returns from a knee injury to be listed second on the depth chart. Logan Hallock, who completed his first 20 passes while replacing Jackson in a win over Western Carolina in 2012, is third.
Incoming freshman Taylor Lamb could move up the depth chart once fall practices begin.
4. Can injured freshman make an impact on defense?
Dante Blackmon, a redshirt freshman, is listed second on the App State depth chart at cornerback. As a first-year freshman, he was a starter three days into the 2012 fall practice schedule before a knee injury ended his season.
Linebacker John Law also showed promise last season before an injury put him on the shelf. Both should be healthy for 2013. Law takes over for Jeremy Kimbrough, who is trying to win a spot on the Washington Redskins' roster.
Speaking of comebacks in the secondary, redshirt sophomore Doug Middleton returns after being lost for the season with an ankle injury suffered in the 2012 opener at East Carolina. He is listed second on the depth chart at strong safety behind fellow sophomore Kevin Walton.
5. Can the defense improve?
Last season, the Mountaineers had several freshmen and sophomores on their two-deep defensively. The result was a defense that was eighth in the Southern Conference by giving up 413.2 yards per game. The Mountaineers also allowed nearly 30 points per game -- 29.3 to be exact -- which was sixth in the league.
This year, many of those players return a year older and wiser. Defensive ends Ronald Blair and Deuce Robinson, both juniors, will be a handful for opposing offensive lines.
App State also has new defensive coordinator Nate Woody, whose Wofford defense gave up 305.5 yards 16.6 points per season. Both were tops in the SoCon.