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David Coulson interview, Part II

Here’s the concluding questions to my Q&A with David Coulson. If you missed Part I, click here. Enjoy!

GFWA: Give me your diagnosis on the health/state of FCS right now.

DC: I think FCS has never been healthier. You have new teams coming into the subdivision every year and a number of programs making significant upgrades to facilities and others adding scholarship dollars. You have more exposure than ever before on television. It has been truly amazing to see how the attention that FCS receives has grown in the past 15 years. TV games, particularly in other regions of the country, were hard to find in the past. I love it that you can see almost any important game in FCS you want to see televised on a given weekend.

GFWA: Are dynasties such as Appalachian bad for the competitiveness of the division?

DC: You have had dynasties throughout the history of FCS. This is just the latest one. Eastern Kentucky, Georgia Southern, Youngstown State, Marshall and Montana have all had their time at the top. I think when you have a team vault its program above other programs that it forces the other programs to improve to keep pace. ASU’s success has also helped FCS gain more exposure than ever before and it has helped turn the championship game in Chattanooga into a special event.

GFWA: Who are the biggest challengers to App’s throne?

DC: I think someone from the Colonial Athletic Association will emerge over the course of the year. Richmond and James Madison have tremendous talent coming back and Massachusetts is hungry to return to the championship game after getting there in 2006. Villanova is a young team that should emerge as a special team this year. Eastern Washington is very talented and could be dangerous after last year’s playoff run. I’m not sure who will win the Missouri Valley Football Conference (formerly the Gateway), but one of those teams (Northern Iowa, Youngstown State, Western Illinois, Southern Illinois, North Dakota State or South Dakota State) will be in the mix when the playoffs roll around. McNeese State and Cal Poly are outside threats, though Cal Poly must survive a brutal schedule. Northern Arizona is another potential dark horse.

GFWA: What are key FCS games that will shape this year’s playoff picture?

DC: Some of the ones I have my eyes on are Richmond at Elon (the game I’ll be at the first weekend), Montana at Cal Poly, Cal Poly at McNeese State, Montana at Eastern Washington, North Dakota State at Northern Iowa, all of the games involving Richmond, JMU, Villanova and Delaware in the competitive South Division of the CAA and UMass at James Madison and at home against Richmond. The game everyone wants to see, of course, is Appalachian State at James Madison on Sept. 20. I can’t wait for that one.

GFWA: FCS playoff expansion: good or bad?

DC: I am a bit of a traditionalist and I thought the 16-team playoff was perfect for FCS. However, with the growth of the subdivision, change was inevitable. You have to make room for conferences like the Big South and the Northeast. I think it will be expanded within four or five years to 24 teams. I hope that expansion includes the Ivy League deciding to accept an automatic bid. That would be great for FCS and would increase the exposure and prestige of the subdivision in ways that people would be shocked by. Can you imagine a playoff game being played at the Yale Bowl, Harvard Stadium or Penn’s historic Franklin Field. It would make for great television and would get tons of attention from the major press.


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David Coulson interview, Part I

David Coulson, FCS Executive Director for The Sports Network, took some time out of his extremely busy schedule to answer a few question about the Mountaineers and FCS in general.  He wrote Magic on the Mountain, a book about the Apps’ first national title in 2005. I consider him an expert on all things FCS.

Here’s Part I of the interview:

GFWApps: Is a 4Peat possible? What’s going to be the biggest obstacle to another national title?

David Coulson: Appalachian State is the clear favorite for another championship, and in my opinion, this team has a chance to be even better than any of the previous three championship teams. The biggest obstacle is health. The Mountaineers were really challenged in terms of health last year after getting through the 2006 season with very few health concerns. You also must have an element of luck. In 2005, ASU had some breaks fall their way and the same thing happened last season.

GFWA: What do you expect from the offense without K. Richardson and D. Jackson?

DC: Kevin Richardson had a great career at Appalachian State and will always be one of my favorite players. He was such a classy, genuinely nice kid. But at the same time, ASU has a lot of depth at running back. Devon Moore has proven to be a capable player in his first two years and may even be a bit faster than K-Rich. It will also be interesting to see how ASU uses Devin Radford this season. He could be a real game-breaker. The other backs are also solid.

Dexter Jackson was quite a talent and was, in my opinion, under-utilized at ASU. But ASU probably has more talent at wide receiver than any other position on the field. They can go three deep at any of the receiver positions right now and hardly miss a beat. If James Hill can improve his hands and cut down on mistakes, he has the talent and speed to give ASU the same type of deep threat as Jackson did. CoCo Hillary and T.J. Courman are excellent play-makers in the slot and Brian Quick is going to be a great target with his size and ability. He is a future star. Also, don’t overlook Josh Johnson as an excellent possession receiver.

I actually think that the toughest player to replace of the seniors is guard Kerry Brown. He is the most dominant offensive lineman the Mountaineers have ever had and a player of his talent and size doesn’t find its way to a place like ASU very often.
GFWA: Is it possible for Armanti to get better?
DC: There are still a lot of things that Armanti can improve on and I would expect this to be a year where we really see him develop some of his less-polished skills. He is still learning how to read defenses and his decision making can get a lot better. He gets himself in trouble sometimes by forcing throws into coverage (something most young quarterbacks do) and he has a tendency to keep the ball sometimes on the read option when he should hand the ball off. The biggest thing is for him to cut down on his turnovers. When he does that, the ASU offense is going to be close to unstoppable. The great thing about Armanti is he is such a teachable kid. He doesn’t have a huge ego. He works hard and he listens. Having Trey Elder, who has been like a personal quarterback coach the past two years, back as a graduate assistant is also great for Armanti.
GFWA: How will the losses of Lynch and Tharrington affect the defense?
DC: You are not going to replace Lynch. He probably has the best football instincts of any player I have covered in 32 years of working around college football. Lynch has a God-given talent for being in the right place at the right time. I think that ASU has recruited some talented kids in the secondary and will be okay back there, though replacing Lynch and Jerome Touchstone will be hard. It’s not easy to replace the experience of four-year starters. What helps the youngsters is the fact that ASU has really improved on the defensive line and that will help them take some pressure off the youngsters in the secondary. Fortunately, too, Cortez Gilbert and Leonard Love earned some good experience last year to help the others.
GFWA: What do you see the facility improvements at App doing for the program?
DC: It will help with recruiting and it will make the game-day environment even better. These are things that have been talked about and planned in one way or another since the 1970s. The new locker rooms and support facilities will help everyone in the program do their jobs better. Eventually, I see Kidd Brewer Stadium increasing to 30,000 seats and that might help draw more quality programs into Boone for games.
GFWA: Do you think these titles and wins have built a solid foundation of fan support that could survive a sub-par season or do you think attendance and support would revert back to pre-championship levels?

DC: I don’t see ASU having a sub-par season any time soon with the recruiting that is in place. ASU is going to be quite strong at the FCS level as long as the recruiting continues. Montana, Georgia Southern and Delaware are really the only other programs at this level with the type of resources to match ASU right now. North Dakota State might get there in the future. We’ve seen some of those teams have continued success, so there is no reason to think ASU can’t continue its success, even after Jerry Moore retires in a couple of years. There are plenty former ASU assistants that have the backgrounds to come in and keep things going.

If for some reason ASU had a bad year, I think the fans would still support them. But if the Mountaineers started missing the playoffs, you would probably see some of the new fans get disenchanted.

GFWA: Is it possible for App to beat LSU?

DC: I was at the ASU-LSU game in 2005 when a less-talented Mountaineer team played a much-more-talented Tiger team virtually even for three quarters. Those of us who regularly covered ASU knew right then that ASU was going to win the 2005 national championship. LSU will be much better prepared for ASU than Michigan was, but the Tigers are still beatable. ASU’s defensive line must find a way to keep the LSU running game in check. The Tigers will try to pound the ball, something that Michigan should have done more last year. With LSU’s inexperience at quarterback, ASU can be successful defensively if it can force LSU to pass. It is also important for Armanti and the offense to get off to a quick start and build confidence. I don’t see any reason why ASU can’t put some points on the scoreboard, if Armanti can stay on the field.

I’ll post Part II of the interview later which includes questions about the general health and state of FCS as well as who the top challengers are to the Apps’ throne.

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Sporting News profile on GSU coach

Spencer Hall, (also known as Orson Swindle on the college FB site Every Day Should Be Saturday) has an interesting profile on Georgia Southern coach Chris Hatcher.  View it here.

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GFWApps Book Club: King of the Mountain

After hearing about the upcoming release of Dick Brown’s book King of the Mountain: the Jerry Moore Story, I knew it was one I had to read. Obviously, the Appalachian connection makes it appealing. But even more enticing was the chance to read about a truly inspiring man – Jerry Moore. Author Dick Brown was gracious enough to send me a copy to review and I can say without reservation that it’s a must-read.

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Season Guide to Go!Fight!WinApps!

So once we kick-off the season, what can you expect from this corner of the World Wide Web? Here’s a look at what you’ll get during football season on Go!Fight!WinApps!:

Monday: Weekend WrApp-Up will be a review of the previous game with links to game stories and other media of note relating to the Apps’ game.

Wednesday: The 411 will be a preview of Appalachian’s upcoming opponent with a look at stats, expectations and their season performance so far.

Thursday: FBS Picks. I work in athletics for an FBS school so I also have an interest (as I’m sure many of you do) in the FBS. I’ll highlight a few games of note and throw down some predictions.

Friday: App Thoughts will take a look at the upcoming game and I’ll offer some thoughts, opinions and possibly predictions.

As always, the standing rule around here is that suggestions are more than welcome. I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments to make this site as interactive as possible.


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Q&A with “And The Valley Shook”

Richard Pittman, from the LSU blog And The Valley Shook, took some time with me to answer a few questions about the showdown in the Bayou:

Go!Fight!WinApps!:  What is your honest opinion of this match-up? Good or bad for LSU?

And The Valley Shook:  My honest opinion of this matchup is that it is good for LSU.  I am not a trash talker or anything like that by any means, but I genuinely think your chances of pulling an upset in this game are very slim.  I respect the program, and you may quite honestly be the best OOC team we play this season (the FBS teams we play outside of the SEC are wretched).  However, I think the Michigan game means you aren’t going to sneak up on a power team again for another 10 years.  

As for what it gets us, it gets us a game on television on opening weekend, probably the last one we will have until Week 4 at Auburn.  It will get the fans’ minds on football.
GFWA:  What kind of impact will the quarterback situation have on LSU’s offense? 
ATVS:  The QB situation is definitely worrisome.  For your fans who don’t know, the situation we have is that we lost our senior quarterback to the NFL draft.  Then we lost our sky-is-the-limit younger quarterback, a guy with genuine Heisman potential, with a great arm, a quick release, and very good wheels, a Bayou Vince Young with a better release and not quite as electrifying running skills, was kicked off the team for repeated violations of team rules and other assorted trouble.  He never did anything awful, like stick a gun in someone’s face or something, but every couple of months he would find himself in the news for some penny ante crap.  It got to be a big distraction and the coach eventually showed him the door.  I wish him luck, because he does not seem at all like a genuinely bad kid.  He just has some bad habits, and maybe some difficulty handling the stress of being under the microscope.
Anyway, we enter the season with a redshirt freshman, and a former walk-on we plucked off of a Mormon mission and convinced to transfer from Harvard.  It looks like we will at least start with Andrew Hatch, the Harvard guy.  It means our QB play won’t be very dynamic, but then again, it wasn’t all that dynamic last year, and we won it all.  In fact, in many ways, our QB play was the most inconsistent part of our team last year, and when our QB struggled, we struggled.
We don’t really know what to expect from Hatch, and if he lays an egg, we could be in real trouble.  The good news is that the talent around Hatch is absolutely outstanding.  We have 3 running backs who can take it to the house on any touch, and another running back who can get the tough yards.  We have maybe the best wide receiver corps in the conference.  Brandon Lafell in particular is grossly underrated.  He’s got all the tools to be the next great LSU receiver in the Dwayne Bowe mold.  Demetrius Byrd is a very productive speed receiver, and Terrance Toliver is another of those sky-is-the-limit young players, a sophomore, who is a threat every time to get the ball into the end zone.  The offensive line is a veteran group that was one of the better in the conference last year and looks to be even better this year.
So we may not have a proven quarterback, but we have a great lineup in which to incubate a young QB.  It remains to be seen if the QB play holds us back or not.
GFWA:  What do you expect from Appalachian State?
ATVS:  I expect Appalachian State to play with a lot of heart and enthusiasm.  I expect them to be overmatched in size and athleticism, but not as much as you’d expect from an FCS team playing a national power.  I expect App to absolutely wither and die in the August afternoon heat.  August 30 is usually a day in which I avoid going outside between the hours of noon and 6:00pm.  Really, you guys could not have picked a worse time of the year to come to Louisiana to play a football game, or a worse time of the day in which to play it.  This will be a substantial disadvantage for you in the game, as our guys will be accustomed to playing in the 95 degree, 80% humidity weather while you guys will be used to playing in the cool mountains.  If we went to Appalachian State in late November, you’d have a big advantage, but I do not envy you guys coming to Baton Rouge to play an afternoon game in August.
But I digress.  I expect Armanti Edwards to be a player.  He’s exactly the kind of QB we struggled most with last year, the QB who can run a lot.  Actually, it was genius scheduling App State because we get to practice for the kind of quarterback we see a lot.  We’ll see a runner against Auburn (always our biggest and most important game of the year) and against Florida.  We will need to get used to those kinds of guys.  Edwards, in fact, will in all likelihood be better than the guy Auburn throws at us, and will probably be faster than Tim Tebow, though not as hard to bring down once you catch him.
Where you guys will really have trouble is in the trenches.  Michigan did not have anywhere near the line play that LSU will show you.  Every one of our starting defensive linemen will be drafted into the NFL, with probably 2 of them being first round picks, and they’re all veterans.  Many of the backups will probably be drafted as well when their time comes.  We will throw wave after wave of defensive linemen who are better than probably anyone your offensive line has ever faced.  Probably 3 of our 5 starting OL will eventually be drafted, and the other two will get a look.  It’s probably the best offensive line in the SEC, and therefore one of the best in the country.  This will be very very difficult for your lines to handle, especially as the day wears on.
GFWA:  What makes a gameday experience at Death Valley so unique?
ATVS:  It’s been a while since I’ve been to an LSU game, but for all you Mountaineers looking to go, I have some advice.  Get there early and walk around.  You may get “Tigerbait!’d”, but don’t take it personally.  It is not actually a threat of violence, and is meant to be all in good fun.  Stop by at the tailgates.  At least half of the tailgates will share some food and/or beer with you.  We like sharing our food with fans of opposing teams, particularly teams that aren’t here often.  And the food is absolutely wonderful.  You won’t find tailgating food quite like jambalaya, gumbo, beans and rice, and other cajun/creole creations anywhere else in the country.  It would be a shame if you went all the way to Louisiana and didn’t have any of it.
Aside from the food, the fans are as passionate as you’ll find anywhere, and they will treat you decently as long as you aren’t obnoxious.  If an LSU fan gets obnoxious with you unprovoked, be assured that the other LSU fans will side with you.
GFWA:  What are your expectations for LSU this season?
ATVS:  I don’t really know what to EXPECT exactly.  I do think we are more than capable of making a run for the SEC championship again.  We just have to a) beat Auburn, and b) avoid getting upset by S. Carolina, Bama, Ole Miss, MSU, or Arkansas.  If we beat Auburn, we can afford to lose to both Florida and Georgia, though I think we can certainly win one of those two.  We just need the QB situation to turn our alright and we’re as good as anyone.  We’re as talented a team as there is in the country, we’re just inexperienced in some key areas (corner, linebacker, quarterback).
GFWA:  Anything else you’d like to add?
ATVS:  Thanks for having me.  If you have any questions, come on over to www.andthevalleyshook.com, we’d love to have you.


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