KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Scott Satterfield understands the anatomy of an upset having served as Appalachian State’s quarterbacks coach in 2007, when the Mountaineers stunned No. 5 Michigan in Ann Arbor, 34-32.
The fourth-year Appalachian State head coach is realistic about the comparisons, however, using his team’s trip to Clemson last year as a reference point for his current players.
“As we go into this game, I really do compare it to the Clemson game last year, (and) we think Tennessee will be equally as good if not better,” Satterfield said on his teleconference this week.
“That environment we played at Clemson is one of the better environments you could play in, and we know this environment will be the same if not better,” he said. “Our players that played last year, and we have quite a few, they’ll be used to it.”
Appalachian State has been blasting so much noise into its practices to prepare for the anticipated crowd of 102,455 at Neyland Stadium, that it could be heard all over campus.
SEC Country talked with journalists David Rogers (Blowing Rock News Editor) and Dave Coulson of the College Sports Journal about Thursday’s 7:30 p.m game at Neyland Stadium (TV: SEC Network):
Q: Can Appalachian State pull off the upset over Tennessee?
DC: “I think they have enough experience from over the years, so they know how to prepare for games like this. The staff that’s been put together over the course of years, Scott Satterfield was around for the Michigan upset. One of the things they’ve been doing, the last week or so of practice they have been pumping in so much crowd noise you can hear it on other parts of campus.
They have enough talented players in this mix … that if they avoid turnovers and stay on solid ground, they probably feel like they have a pretty good chance of winning.
DR: “Last year I think they were a little bit intimidated when they went to Death Valley at Clemson, had a lot of young guys. They aren’t going be all that intimidated by Knoxville, I don’t think. I don’t think that will be as big of an issue. App State still is in transition and isn’t getting the 4- and 5-star athletes like Tennessee, Florida or Florida State, but what App State does as well as anyone is develop the talent they’ve got. They find underrated and overlooked talent and develop it really well, and that was proven back in 2007 with the Michigan upset.
Q: What’s the most important thing to note about the Appalachian State offense?
DC: “I would say that they have one of the deepest stables of running backs. Marcus Cox has a chance to become App State’s all-time leading running back. They have depth that’s remarkable for a team of that level. That’s the one position of anywhere they are on par with bigger schools.”
DR: “To reinforce what (Coulson) said, they have a sophomore named Jalin Moore, and if we were picking sandlot, I’d pick him over Cox. App State is a run-first offense, but (quarterback) Taylor Lamb set the season record of 31 TD passes last year, so they can pass, too. I think they lost five wide receivers to graduation from last season, but the guys coming up to replace them are even better.”
Q: What do we need to know about Appalachian State quarterback Taylor Lamb?
DC: “Real smart kid, real good leadership skills, had a little bit of a meltdown in second quarter at Clemson last year. In the second quarter they just got a meltdown with turnovers and it got away from them. They played (Clemson) even the rest of the game.”
DR: “He’s average size, 6-foot-1, his father was the long-time coach at Furman, Bobby Lamb, and is now the head coach at Mercer. His dad was a quarterback who played in an FCS championship at Furman. I call him ‘Mr. Efficiency,’ he completes a high percentage of his passes, and he can run.”
Q: What’s the most important thing to note about the Mountaineers defense?
DC: “They are pretty solid all the way around … real solid at all three levels. They do a nice job getting pressure and denying the run. (Linebacker) John Law is the preseason Defensive Player of Year in the Sun Belt, (ILB) Eric Bogg is solid. They lost their best cover guy, Latrell Gibbs to academic, but they have so many kids coming up they won’t miss a beat. They’re not as big as some other teams, but as long as they don’t get worn down by being on the field, they will hold their own against Tennessee.”
DR: The thing to think about App State, is team speed. (Defensive coordinator) Nate Woody told us during media day that they have as good as team speed as any team in the country. They may be suffering in terms of size, but they’ll make up for it in terms of team speed. I think Eric Boggs may be as good as John Law, and Eric is only a junior. They may very well be one of the best inside linebacker tandems in the country. They are good. John Law, he’s really good on inside run, but he was the third leading defender on the team for interceptions.”
Q: What’s the feeling there, as far as how Appalachian State is approaching this game?
DC: “They see this is an opportunity, and then having Miami come up here in a couple of weeks, they can prove they are a really good team. They see this is as opportunity to make a statement and get into that thought process of (AP Top 25) voters. They feel they can compete with Tennessee. My thought in terms of potential upset, we all know from time to time Tennessee has a tendency to lay eggs. If they aren’t prepared or not focused, App State could give them some problems.”
DR: “Satterfield has made this transition as well as anybody could make it, but it came at the expense of 2013 and 2014 seasons because he redshirted so many guys. For App State to play well it won’t be a surprise. I don’t think Michigan was really expecting that much back in 2007, and frankly I don’t think they were that fit compared to App State. If Tennessee has any ambitions toward SEC supremacy or a national championship, if they have those thoughts in mind, App State will at least be a nuisance to those goals. I think App State will surprise a few people.”
Mike Griffith covers Tennessee for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s SEC Country and lives in Knoxville.