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King of The Carolinas

By Jim Johnson
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App State, now 4-0 against opponents from the states of North and South Carolina, is officially the states' college football nobility.

App State, now 4-0 against opponents from the states of North and South Carolina, is officially the states' college football nobility.

Sure, someone could ignorantly argue that Clemson holds that title. However, as Clemson is the defending National Champion, the Tigers are the rulers of the entire country, at least until they’re dethroned. As such, in their stead, the Mountaineers must hold those lands in the meantime. That’s just feudalism 101.

It really shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. Entering the week, OAYP ranked the Carolina schools as follows:

1. Clemson
2. App State
3. North Carolina
4. Wake Forest
5. South Carolina
6. Duke
7. Coastal Carolina
8. Charlotte
9. NC State
10. East Carolina

North Carolina and South Carolina, for example, are certainly up and coming programs with plenty of promise, but they just don’t have the guns to hang with the likes of Appalachian State right now.

It’s understandable. Perhaps one day they could get there, but the odds are stacked against them. UNC simply playing both Clemson and App to within a score is a signals an exciting upward trajectory, and the Gamecocks should be proud of their comeback bid -- even if it did feel like the Mountaineers were more or less playing with their food late in that game.

At a certain point, it’s a matter of resources. South Carolina has to pay Will Muschamp $4.4 million per year to convince him to coach there, and it took the Tar Heels $3.5 million, annually, to lure Mack Brown out of retirement. For merely $750,000, Eliah Drinkwitz jumped at the opportunity to be at App State. The sheer privilege and honor is priceless.

That extends to recruiting, as well. For instance, linebacker D’Marco Jackson, who had a key pass breakup on South Carolina’s final possession, was being pretty heavily recruited by the Gamecocks, before they pulled out late in the process. Publicly, the reason was cited as an injury Jackson sustained in high school. Realistically, everyone knows that South Carolina realized there was no point in competing for players with App State.

Elsewhere on the roster, App State stars like Darrynton Evans, Zac Thomas, Akeem Davis-Gaither, Josh Thomas, and Desmond Franklin weren’t even offered by North Carolina or South Carolina. Davis-Gaither, at least, did reportedly draw interest from UNC… just not enough for them to pull the trigger. Then again, once the Mountaineers come calling, why waste the energy to try to pull those kids away?

Jordan Fehr, who led the team with 12 tackles, including a sack and two tackles for loss against the Gamecocks, is perhaps the best example of this phenomenon. Once App State offered him, the entirety of the rest of the FBS backed off. No one else even tried.

Some people may think of it as indicative of a larger parity issue across the sport, but that’s simply the reality of the situation. There will always be the have’s and the have-not’s.

Just like the social structure in medieval Europe, it’s a difficult ladder to climb. With hard work, dedication, and a little bit of luck, maybe those other schools can get to where App State is one day.

But, for now, it’s Clemson, App State, and then everyone else in the Carolinas.

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