Appalachian State found plenty of success from its run-first offense under Scott Satterfield, finishing top two in the Sun Belt in rushing yards per game in all five years the team has played in the league.
The Mountaineers became a machine behind the powerful run-based spread, cranking out 51 wins over those five years and has won at least a share of the Sun Belt crown in each of the last three years.
Times are changing in the hazy Appalachians, however, as Satterfield has moved on to Louisville and North Carolina State offensive coordinator Eliah Drinkwitz has stepped in as App State’s second coach in the FBS era.
Drinkwitz arrived in Boone with experience working under Gus Malzahn, Bryan Harsin and Dave Doeren. He had a hand in the development of Boise State quarterback Bret Rypien and coached NCSU quarterback Ryan Finley for three seasons.
As a result of these roots, Drinkwitz is bringing some pass-game flavor to the App State offense and returning quarterback Zac Thomas is ready for it.
“Obviously, last year, I liked to run the ball,” Thomas told Forgotten5 at Sun Belt media day. “I missed a couple of games because I got injured. I talked to coach (Drinkwitz) about it and one of the main focuses was just trying to stay in the pocket, not getting antsy with my feet and finding the open receiver.”
Thomas was credited with 92 carries last season for over 500 yards and 10 touchdowns. Through the air, the junior had 2,039 yards and 21 touchdowns on a 62.6 percent clip.
As a team, the Mountaineers ran the ball 540 times and threw it just 319 times. That ratio is likely to shift this year.
“Last year we were kind of a run heavy team,” Thomas said. “We liked to run the ball and we threw the ball every once in a while. We’d throw it probably 20 times a game. I think this year it’s probably going to be 50/50.”
After senior back Jalin Moore went down last season, Darrynton Evans filled the role and then some on his way to the Sun Belt rushing title. Evans returns with a deep running back group that also includes Marcus Williams.
The run game will still be strong, but an added layer to what has always been a relentlessly consistent offense will provide a new challenge to league defensive coordinators.