A Look At The 2006 Appalachian State Mountaineers

By L.A. Batchelor
Updated: August 17, 2006

NORTH CAROLINA — The Mountaineers lost key players from last year’s National Championship squad, but Head Coach Jerry Moore does have some very reliable and capable players returning in 2006.

ASU finished 3rd in the Southern Conference in total offense (423 ypg) and first overall in passing (229 ypg), but will need to improve their rushing offense (5th overall at 194 ypg). Especially in a run-driven conference.

Last year, the Mountaineers had one of the best win-loss and one of the best margin of victories in the SoCon and in the country. The ASU offense averaged over 30 points per game and averaged an impressive 193 yards rushing per game and 230 yards passing per game.

They also averaged over 6 yards per play and well over 423 yards in total offense per game. With the loss of QB Richie Williams, WR Zach Johnson and WR Jermane Little, the pressure is surely on Trey Elder and the rest of the very talented offense.

If Elder is going to have success, he will have to improve on his experience as a limited signal-caller from last year. Elder was 43 of 70 with 5 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. Elder completed 61 percent of his passes and also showed his mobiltiy by rushing for 172 yards and a touchdown.

In order for Elder to improve and the offense to once again be prolific, the offensive line must play well. The Mountaineers have four returning starters on the offensive line.

Right tackle Matt Isenhour, Right guard Jeremy Robertson, Center Scott Suttle and Left guard Kerry Brown are solid and experience enough to get the job done in protecting Elder and opening up running lanes for the ground game. Isenhour and Brown are pre-season All-Americans.

Isenhour anchors the offensive line. Last season, he became the first Mountaineer since 1989 to win the Jacobs Blocking Trophy, given to the top offensive lineman in the SoCon.

The teams success also is determined by the ground game and that begins with All-American candidate Kevin Richardson. Richardson is poised to have another stellar season. Richardson rushed for 1433 yards and 19 huge touchdowns.

Richardson was a man among boys averaging a whopping 5.4 yards per carry, almost 96 yards per game and showed his versatility and athleticism catching 52 passes in 2005.

Look for Trey Hennessee to give Richardson some relief and give ASU some tough yards on the ground to compliment the running game.

The Mountaineers look to keep a balanced attack on offense through the air with some talented receivers. Although the National Champs lost 2 wide-outs in Zach Johnson and Jermane Little, the Mountaineers still have some very talented and capable players returning catching passes in 2006.

Dexter Jackson returns as the team’s leading receiver this year after finishing 3rd on the team in receptions with 30 for 449 yards, 5 touchdowns and a 15 yards per catch average. Daniel Bettis also will be a key pass-catcher this year coming off a workman-like season with 28 catches for 337 yards and a team leading 8 touchdowns.

Bettis also had an impressive 12 yards per catch average in 2005. Look for freshmen T.J. Courman to get some playing time as well for the National Champs. The receivers will need to get open early and often to help Elder and the Mountaineer offense.


If the Mountaineers are to have success on offense, they will not only have to execute on offense, their defense must be solid in 2006. ASU was very opportunistic on defense leading the SoCon in scoring defense at 19 points per game.

They also finished 2nd in the league against the rush but no one in the league really stopped the run. ASU allowed 167 yards per game in 2005 while also finishing 2nd in the league against the pass allowing 164 yards per game.

ASU was also very good in holding their opponents to less than 4 yards per carry but must improve in the passing game after giving up 11 yards per catch. The defense was impressive on 3rd down only allowing 39 percent on 3rd-down conversion but allowed an alarming 55 percent on 4th down.

After losing two very talented players on the defensive line(DE Jason Hunter and DT Joe Suiter), the Mountaineers look to two pre-season All-American candidates to stop the run and put pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

Left end Marques Murrell and Right tackle Omarr Byrom. Murrell is a preseason favorite for the Buck Buchanan Award, given to the best defensive player in I-AA, after finishing ninth in voting for the award last season. He’s led the SoCon in sacks each of the last two season and was one of just three players last season to rank among the nation’s top 10 in sacks (13), tackles for loss (26.5) and forced fumbles (7).

Murrell forced the fumble in the national championship game that was led to Jason Hunter’s game-winning touchdown. He could become the first player in ASU’s long line of defensive standouts to lead the team in sacks three-straight seasons.

Byrom had a solid year in 2005 with 63 tackles including 8 tackles for a loss, 3.5 sacks, 2 quarterback hurries, 1 forced fumble and an exciting fumble recovery in which Byrom rumbled down the field for 61 yards.

At linebacker, the Mountaineers will be challenged to make plays after losing LB Zodd Kelly and LB Brad West. The Mountaineers will look to Senior Monte Smith to lead the way at the linebacker position this year for the Mountaineers.

Smith, a native of Shelby, NC, was 4th on the team in tackles with 95 including 10.5 tackles for a loss. Juniors Cam Speer (40 tackles including 1 tackle for a loss, 1 interception and 1 forced fumble), Pierre Banks (57 tackles including 2.5 tackles for a loss and 0.5 sacks) and Senior Michael King are also looked to pave the way and stablized the middle of the Mountaineer defense in 2006.

In the secondary, ASU has experience, talent and returning players that should provide the type of leadership and competitiveness to be successful in 2006. All-American candidate Junior Corey Lynch, led the team with 6 interceptions and finished 5th on the team with 92 tackles and 1 forced fumble last year among other big plays he made for the Mountaineer defense in 2005.

All-Star candidate Senior Jeremy Wiggins led the team in tackles with 134, had 2 quarterback hurries and 2 interceptions. Returning starters Justin Woazeah along with Jerome Touchstone showed promise and discipline and look to continue in 2006.

Senior Dominick Dingle also look to provide some senior leadership and guidance to some of the younger players coming in to cement their place on an experience Mountaineer defensive unit. Look for Juniors Justin Woazeah, Billy Riddle and Titus Howard to contribute at a position where the Mountaineers have lots of depth and talent.


The defending National Champions have the personnel, talent, ability, discipline and confidence to not only make the playoffs but repeat as champions.

The key is Trey Elder and his ability to lead the Mountaineer offense back to the top in scoring while not feeling the pressure of losing one of his confidants and friends in Richie Williams.

The pressure and weight of success is also on the returning receivers that will need to make plays to take the pressure off Elder in his 1st full year as a starter(we are projecting him as such).

If the offense doesnt make mistakes, scores touchdowns in the red zone as they did in 2005 and the defense can remain opportunmistic, the optimism for the Mountaineers repeating will be on solid ground.

The defending champs have tough games at ACC N.C. State, at Chattanooga, at Georgia Southern, their traditional rival game at Western Carolina and of course their “Black Saturday” game at home versus Furman, 5th in the Preseason I-AA College Football Poll.

A poll that has ASU at the top and has the Mountaineers successfully defending their title. The team is well coached which should help them in the areas of inexperience and weakness and could propelled them to back-to-back titles however tough in the very competitve Southern Conference.


9-2 Regular season record (6-1 in the Southern Conference)

(Conference Champions and National Champs once again)

NOTE: The Mountaineers open their season in Raleigh against the ACC opponent N.C. State University on Saturday September 2nd.


Head Coach: Jerry Moore (2005 AFCA National Coach of the Year)

Coaching record at Appalachian State University: 140-67(18 seasons)

Overall coaching record: 167-115-2 (25 seasons)

2005 Record: 12-3 (6-1 in the Southern Conference)

Returning/lost starters(including special teams (17/9)

Key losses on offense: QB Richie Williams, WR Zach Johnson, WR Jermane Little, LT Grant Oliver

Key losses on defense: DE Jason Hunter, DT Joe Suiter, LB Zodd Kelly, LB Brad West

Key losses on special teams: P Matt Dodge

Players to watch on offense: RB Kevin Richardson, RT Matt Isenhour, TE Daniel Bettis, QB Trey Elder

Players to watch on defense: DE Marques Murrell, S Corey Lynch, S Jeremy Wiggins, LB Monte Smith

All-Star Candidates: DE Marques Murrell, RB Kevin Richardson, DB Corey Lynch, DB Jeremy Wiggins, Kerry Brown and OT Matt Isenhour.

All conference players: DE Marques Murrell, RB Kevin Richardson, DB Corey Lynch, DB Jeremy Wiggins, Kerry Brown, OT Matt Isenhour

TE Daniel Bettis and LB Monte Smith.

Notes: For the first time in school history, national champion Appalachian State topped the Division I-AA preseason football poll. The Mountaineers, are the first college football team in North Carolina history with a National Championship and are poised to repeat but they will face some tough competition this year ready and excited to defeat the National Champs.