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App State has one big question in the SoCon

Appalachian State: Five straight Southern Conference titles, back-to-back-to- back FCS champs from 2005-2007. Clearly, this team can play ball.

Do you know who else can play ball? Armanti Edwards. Namely for the NFL's Carolina Panthers. The Appalachian State Mountaineers, they are not.

Does Edwards' departure open the door for some other players to step up in the SoCon?

Let us first establish that this is simply an exercise. An interesting hypothetical. Let us first recognize App State's right to the SoCon throne.

The Mountaineers return all but six starters from their 2009 roster. They are favored in both the Southern Conference coaches and media preseason polls. They have the most players (seven) on The Sports Network/Fathead.com FCS Preseason All-America Team. Among these players are standout offensive weapons Devon Moore at running back and Brian Quick at wide receiver. The defense boasts three Buck Buchanan Watch List members (sponsored by Fathead.com) in defensive end Jabari Fletcher, linebacker D.J. Smith and safety Mark LeGree.

Let us now start the exercise:

Of Appalachian State's numerous returning starters, two-time Walter Payton Award winner Armanti Edwards is not among them. He won the award given to the top performer in the FCS in 2008 and 2009, and is the only player to hold such a distinction. Last season, Edwards manned an offense which finished first in the Southern Conference in both points scored (33.2 ppg) and total offense (465.1 ypg). He threw for a school record 3,291 yards and ran for an additional 679. He captured the SoCon Offensive Player of the Year Award.

The loss of the most decorated player in Appalachian State history can not be ignored. The task of filling his shoes can not be considered enviable.

Heading into camp, that task has yet to be assigned. Two-year backup DeAndre Presley will be competing with freshman Jamal Jackson for the starting roll.

In the season opener last year, with Edwards out due to injury, Presley completed 7 of 15 passes for 89 yards and one interception, while running for 12 yards and one touchdown, in a 29-24 loss to East Carolina. In the hard- fought contest, it was actually third-string quarterback Travaris Cadet who led a late Appalachian State charge. Cadet has since been moved to wide receiver.

Three Key Games
Elon at Appalachian State, Oct. 13 - Appalachian State ousted Elon, 27-10, last season in a matchup of the SoCon's two strongest teams. This year, the teams meet relatively early in the year, but championship implications will still be very high.

Furman at Elon, Nov. 13 - These teams match up well, as Elon's exciting 19-12 victory proved last season. Coming late in the season, this game could prove to have FCS playoff implications as well.

Furman at Georgia Southern, Nov. 20 - Allen E. Paulson Stadium should be rocking for this one. Last year's game saw Georgia Southern score 15 points in the final quarter in a failed comeback attempt. Can someone say vengeance?


Jackson is still inexperienced, spending last season primarily running the scout team as a redshirt freshman.

When speaking of the loss of Edwards and the ensuing task of replacement, head coach Jerry Moore calls to mind another decorated Appalachian State quarterback. Richie Williams won an FCS title his senior year at Appalachian. His replacement: Armanti Edwards, who won his own FCS title the subsequent year.

"We went through the same thing with Richie Williams," Moore said today after the Southern Conference installed his squad as its preseason favorite. "He had a terrific year and a good career, Armanti stepped in there, played well, and I hope that (now) we can develop one or two other guys."

The goal appears lofty even for the conference power. It is not every day that an Armanti Edwards walks through the door.

One team not facing the crisis of a quarterback turnover is 2009 SoCon runner- up Elon. At the helm is 2010 SoCon Preseason Offensive Player of the Year Scott Riddle.

The Phoenix finished 9-3 last season and 7-1 in conference, with their only loss coming to Appalachian State. Admittedly, Riddle did not have his best game.

"I didn?t perform to the best of my ability against Appalachian," he said. In the 27-10 loss, Riddle completed 20 of 34 passes for one touchdown and three interceptions. He was outplayed by Edwards, who tallied three rushing touchdowns. This season, in a highly anticipated SoCon matchup, a motivated Riddle may be enough to turn the tide.

Riddle is definitively motivated. Entering his senior season, the reality of conclusion has begun to sink in. "Just thinking about it just gave me goose bumps ... I remember walking in here as a freshman ... and it has gone by fast ... I?m just glad I?ve got one more year. I?m gonna make the best of it and, hopefully, we can do special things."

Still, Elon is not without personnel losses of its own. Most notably, star receiver Terrell Hudgins has departed for the NFL?s Dallas Cowboys. Hudgins was a four-time All-SoCon First-Team performer, and Riddle?s go-to receiver.

The defensive backfield also looks to regroup after losing three of four starters from last season.

In deference to Appalachian State?s recent dominance, Elon tempers its optimism about the upcoming season.

"Until any team in our league proves that we can beat them, they are still the barometer," Elon head coach Pete Lembo said.

Remember, this is only an exercise. But it is a necessary one. And with Edwards out of the picture it may prove to be a prophetic one. As Riddle said, after paying his dues to Appalachian State, "It?s good to have Armanti out of the league. Now maybe we can take those guys down."

SOUTHERN CONFERENCE PRESEASON POLL (Coaches)

1. Appalachian State (7 first-place votes), 63 points;
2. Elon (2), 58;
3. Furman, 41;
4. Samford, 39;
5. Chattanooga, 37;
6. Wofford, 36;
7. Georgia Southern, 25;
8. The Citadel, 14;
9. Western Carolina, 11


SOUTHERN CONFERENCE PRESEASON POLL (Media)

1.Appalachain State (22 first place votes), 259 points;
2. Elon (6), 231;
3. Furman (1), 197;
4. Chattanooga, 157;
5. Wofford, 152;
6. Samford (1), 141;
7. Georgia Southern, 116;
8. Western Carolina, 52;
9. The Citadel, 45

PRESEASON SOCON ALL-CONFERENCE TEAM

Offensive Player of the Year - Scott Riddle, QB, Elon

Defensive Player of the Year - Bryce Smith, LB, Samford

First-Team Offense

QB
Scott Riddle, Elon;

RB
Devon Moore, Appalachian State;
Chris Evans, Samford;

OL
Brett Irvin, Appalachian State; OL
Pat Mills, Appalachian State; OL
Thomas Gray, Samford; OL
Chris Harr, Chattanooga; OL
Pat Illig, Wofford;

TE
Ben Jorden, Appalachian State;

WR
Adam Mims, Furman;
Brian Quick, Appalachian State

First-Team Defense

DL
Jabari Fletcher, Appalachian State;
Lanston Tanyi, Appalachian State;
Brandon Ward, Elon;
Brent Russell, Georgia Southern;

LB
D. J. Smith, Appalachian State;
Bryce Smith, Samford;
Kadarron Anderson, Furman;

DB
Mark LeGree, Appalachian State;
Cortez Allen, The Citadel;
Buster Skrine, Chattanooga; DB- Mitchell Bell, Western Carolina

First-Team Specialists

PK
Jason Vitaris, Appalachian State;

P
Bob Hooper, Samford;

RS
Adam Mims, Furman

Second-Team Offense

QB
B.J. Coleman, Chattanooga;

RB
Tersoo Uhaa, Furman;
Mike Rucker, Wofford;

OL
Daniel Kilgore, Appalachian State;
Clark Bishop, Wofford;
Matt Ruff, Appalachian State;
Rodney Austin, Elon;
Ryan Lee, Furman;

TE
Alex Sellars, The Citadel;

WR
Riley Hawkins, Samford;
Marquell Pittman, Western Carolina

Second-Team Defense

DL
Jordan Gibson, Elon
John Michael Clay, Samford
Josh Williams, Chattanooga; (tie)
Ameet Pall, Wofford; (tie)
Eric Eberhardt, Wofford;

LB
Joshua Jones, Elon;
Ryan Consiglio, Chattanooga;
Mike Niam, Wofford;

DB
Terell Wilson, Elon;
Max Lerner, Furman;
Ed Gainey, Appalachian State;
Laron Scott, Georgia Southern

Second-Team Specialists

PK
Blake Bostic, Western Carolina;

P
Mike Hammons, Chattanooga;

RS
Richie Fordham, Samford

By Andrew Gaddess, FCS Assistant


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