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App’s Statement

By Jim Johnson
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Jalin Moore's ability was on full display tonight, finishing with 125 yards and three touchdowns in the 34-0 rout of Toledo, in the Dollar General Bowl.

It’s safe to say that Appalachian State has had one if, if not the singular, most impressive transitions from FCS to FBS ever. The Mountaineers have posted a winning record every season since joining the Sun Belt, qualified for a bowl game in every year of their eligibility, earning a victory in all three of those postseason contests, and won a share of each of the last two contests.

While former SoCon foe Georgia Southern did win a conference title before App, after having moved into the FBS ranks, the Eagles have struggled to maintain consistency, something the squad from Boone has had no problem with. While there are a handful of senior contributors that are parting ways this year, the blossoming Sun Belt power shows no signs of slowing down.

Southern Pigskin’s Sun Belt Offensive Player of the Year, Taylor Lamb, will be sorely missed in the way of leadership, continuity, and winning mentality, behind center, however his impending replacement will have one of the game’s greatest luxuries, next season, in Jalin Moore. The latter’s ability was on full display tonight, finishing with 125 yards and three touchdowns in the 34-0 rout of Toledo, in the Dollar General Bowl.

Wideout Ike Lewis is on his way out, as well, but Thomas Hennigan was, unquestionably, the league’s best freshman pass catcher, not to mention Jalen Virgil, who showed flashes throughout the season, particularly against Coastal Carolina with one of the best performances of the year.

The loss of Colby Gossett and Beau Nunn, on the right side of the line, will be, arguably, the team’s most potentially devastating, as each has been, likely, the best in the conference at their respective positions. That said, the remaining returning starters certainly held up their end of the bargain to form one of the nation’s elite pass protection units. A host of rising redshirt sophomores backups should compete for the openings, and, ultimately, the machine should no miss a beat, up front.

Defensively, the most glaring hole to fill will be that of Tee Sims, who has a very serious case to make as the nation’s premier interior pass rusher, in 2017. He did miss time, though, this year, and the defense played admirably without him. Caleb Fuller, the other senior defensive line contributor finished out his college career with fireworks, notching 1.5 sacks and three tackles for loss, against Toledo.

While not Sims -- no one was -- Okon Godwin was still amongst the game’s best, as a pass rusher. Meanwhile, Myquon Stout will be back to spearhead the front seven, at nose tackle, after what seems to have been a tragically underappreciated season, at least relative to his not being selected to any of the three all-conference teams.

The linebacking corps is where there will be some work to do. The Mountaineers will be without Eric Boggs and Devan Stringer, both of whom were All-Sun Belt choices, as well as Rashaad Townes. Although, the new regime will be in good hands, led by Anthony Flory. In fact, Flory put up a sort of changing-of-the-guard performance, in the Dollar General Bowl, leading the team in tackles, with a QB hurry, and an interception.

The secondary, comparatively, will be largely untouched, aside from third team all-conference pick A.J. Howard. The safety’s versatility will be hard for any one player to replace, but reserve Austin Exford, albeit in a limited sample size, has shown that he may have what it takes. In any case, whoever steps into that role will benefit from playing alongside the Sun Belt’s best coverage man, Clifton Duck, who is half of the league’s best cornerback duo, opposite Tae Hayes.

Without any significant losses on special teams, Appalachian State, for a team that just wrapped a conference-winning campaign with, probably, its most dominant showing of the season, looks ahead to 2018 with seemingly boundless momentum, and relatively easily overcomable personnel attrition.

Sure, a handful of the faces of the program, in 2017, are departing, but App State will look, to a significant extent, very similar in the new year.

Having completed year four of their FBS existence, the Mountaineers are no longer the newcomer, exceeding expectations. Going forward, when they do what they’ve done the past few seasons, it’s meeting expectations. This is a team that has already established itself as a force to be reckoned with, in the conference, and, by the looks of it, that won’t be changing anytime soon.

Jim Johnson - Editor of Southern Pigskin, Producer of "Three & Out", and host of "Explosive Recruiting" on the Southern Pigskin Radio Network. E-mail: Twitter: @JimJohnsonSP