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Originally published: 2014-07-03 17:30:49
Last modified: 2014-07-03 17:31:31

Mountaineers work to turn fortunes around

by Steve Behr Sports Editor

If there is one person in the Appalachian State athletic department who has a working idea of what the football is like in the Sun Belt Conference, it's head football coach Scott Satterfield.

Satterfield coached two years at Florida International when the program was in the Sun Belt. He helped FIU to a pair of bowl games while being the team's offensive coordinator.

After returning to Appalachian State as the Mountaineers' offensive coordinator in 2012, Satterfield took over the program in 2013. He was asked at the Wake Up Watauga chamber radio program Tuesday morning if there are any programs that were "bizarre" or might do something unusual.

"Louisiana Monroe is a team that is going to be a fun team to watch," Satterfield answered. "Offensively, half the time they run with no backs. They spread sideline to sideline and they throw all over the place. They do all kinds of crazy trick plays and all the kinds of things that fans like to see."

Appalachian State officially joined the Sun Belt Conference Tuesday. It's a day that did not sneak up on Satterfield, but instead, one that he's been working toward a long time.

"We've been gearing for this for a little over a year now trying to make this move," Satterfield said. "From a football standpoint, it's been a two-year transition period. We've gone from 63 scholarships to 85, so that's probably been the biggest change for us, roster management. That's what we've been doing for the past 14 months. Today is the official day, but we've been gearing for it for 14-15 months now."

Appalachian State was hoping to use the 2013 season as a way to go into the 2014 season with some momentum. Instead, the Mountaineers stumbled to a 4-8 record, although they went 3-2 during the final five weeks of the season.

Satterfield was encouraged with how the Mountaineers gelled toward the end of last season. That stretch started with a 38-14 win over a Georgia Southern team that not only joined the Sun Belt on July 1, but also ended its 2014 season with a 26-20 upset win over Florida.

Satterfield feels the Mountaineers have carried the momentum into the offseason workouts, and are ready to continue it into fall workouts in August.

"We've carried that momentum into the winter and into the spring program and now into summer," Satterfield said. "Our kids are really going hard right now. I really believe that we are much better off today than we were a year ago today when we started the season. Only time will tell how much better we've gotten until we start playing these teams."

Satterfield will be able to get a better look at the progress of his players because of a recently passed NCAA rule, which gives coaches two hours per week of personal time with the players.

He's pleased with the attendance. He said there were 75 players who stayed for the first summer session. They will be joined by 32 freshmen, 27 of whom were signed to scholarships, which gives the Mountaineers 107 players getting ready for fall workouts.

"We just did all of our testing last week and just about every player has set a personal record," Satterfield said. "They've done their best lifts, their best runs, their best vertical they've ever done here. It's been a very productive first session and we've had 32 freshmen come in this week. They'll start next week with the varsity team, so we'll have over 100 guys who are going to be here for the remainder of July, and we should see continued improvement. By the time Aug. 1 comes here, it will be engrained and they'll be ready to go."

Satterfield will use the newfound time to his advantage, but also likes the idea of the players working out on their own and with the strength staff. He feels the players can build some confidence in each other that can be helpful during the season.

 "For me, this is the time for our kids to build a comradery and take ownership of this team without the coaches around," Satterfield said. "They need to be there and they need to be doing everything they can to build (comradery) on the team. Sometimes when coaches get involved so much, they rely on the coaches more than they rely on themselves."

The Mountaineers will need any momentum they can get since their first game of the season is Aug. 30 at Michigan. App State has not beaten an FBS team since it beat Michigan in 2007.

Appalachian State gets plenty of chances to beat an FBS team this season. They play at Southern Mississippi on Sept. 20, and starts its Sun Belt schedule at Georgia Southern five days later.
Appalachian State hosts its first FBS opponent to play at Kidd Brewer Stadium on Oct. 4 when it plays South Alabama.