2022 Appalachian St. Mountaineers Preview

by Matt Fargo

Appalachian St. Mountaineers

2021-22 Season Record 10-4 (7-1 SBC East) - 8-5-0 ATS - 5-8-0 O/U

Returning Starters

Offense - 7
Defense - 6

Overview

It was another successful season for the Mountaineers which have made it to seven straight bowl games although they did have their six-game bowl winning streak snapped with a 59-38 loss to Western Kentucky. Appalachian St. won the SBC East again but has not won the conference championship since 2019 and that is the goal this season. Head coach Shawn Clark is in his third season after posting a 20-7 record in his first two years but that overall conference championship has eluded him after losing to Louisiana in the SBC Championship last year. The offense has some holes to fill at the wide receiver position and defensively, the Mountaineers lost five of their top seven tacklers but there is still plenty in the cupboard to make another run. The conference is better and the schedule is tougher and notching double-digit wins for the fourth time in five years will be difficult.

Offense

Appalachian St. finished No. 30 in total offense last season, exceptional for a team from a non-Power Five conference, and it was No. 2 in the Sun Belt with its 441.3 ypg average. Quarterback Chase Brice returns following a very successful campaign where threw for 3,020 yards, 23 touchdowns and 10 interceptions while completing 61.9 percent of his passes but there will be work to do. His top three receivers, who combined for 2,463 yards, are gone and of the returning wideouts, none caught more than 12 passes or gained more than 112 yards last season. He has the best offensive line in the conference in front of him with four starters back and because of the pro style offense, the running game is a vital part and both Nate Noel and Camerun Peoples return along with their 2,463 rushing yards but the duo combined for just 10 receptions last year.

Defense

The defense was right up there as well, finishing No. 33 in the country overall while finishing No. 22 in third down percentage defense. The rushing defense, which led the Sun Belt last season, is the key to success on this side of the ball as Appalachian St. is undersized and inexperienced along the defensive line so the linebacking strength will have to keep this unit stout. They are facing some strong rushing offenses so this is imperative and linebackers Trey Cobb and Nick Hampton provide proven ability on the second level to stop the run while also helping out in the passing game. The Mountaineers were No. 58 in passing yards allowed but were a much better No. 27 in passing efficiency defense. Three of four starters in the secondary return although they do have to replace their best corner in Shaun Jolly. Bend but do not break could be the mantra of the defense in 2022.

2022 Season Outlook

Both offense and defense have the ability to be at the top of the conference once again but the competition takes a step up. The Mountaineers open with games against North Carolina and Texas A&M and then head to Troy for their conference opener but then it gets pretty easy after that with four of their next five games at home with the lone road game over that stretch at Texas St. The final quarter of the slate could decide where they finish with three challenging road games, one at Marshall and a home game against Old Dominion, two winning teams from last year coming over from C-USA. They are again among the top teams in the Sun Belt Conference and not playing Louisiana is a big edge. Their 8.5 win total O/U is intriguing as five of six road games will be difficult so they will likely have to win four of those along side an estimated 5-1 home record to cash the over. 

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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