looking to get
out of the rain

First in a Series

Jerry Moore is a classic good ol' boy. He can sing a tune sad enough to bring a tear to your eye from 5,000 miles away.

You can't hold it against the Appalachian State coach when he says only 10 of his Mountaineers are seniors (there are actually 15 on the media guide's list). A little preseason creative math is to be expected from a man going into his 22nd year as a college football head coach.

And from the way Moore describes the recent weather around Boone, N.C., he must be doing some literal sandbagging. Construction of the ark should be completed any day now.

Between the constant rain in the area and FieldTurf installation (Hawaii fans can relate to that one), Moore says good practices have been few and far between for the soggy Mountaineers.

"We've had terrible weather and we've been waiting on getting on the field because of the FieldTurf. We get on the field occasionally, and when we do we get all that (FieldTurf infill) stuff on us. I think that's a given for a month. We've been working out on an intramural field," he said. "Yesterday (Wednesday) was our first time on a lined field. We haven't practiced very well.

"It's been more group work, just a little scrimmage last night on the turf."

Moore is worried about the lack of cohesive practices because only two starters return on offense.

"We're experienced in some areas," he said. "But we're rebuilding our entire offense."

Moore almost makes you believe the bottom is ready to fall out of this program that hasn't had a losing season since 1993.

What the wily Moore doesn't tell you is the Mountaineers return 36 lettermen -- including seven defensive starters -- from the team that went 8-4 last fall.

Three senior studs key the 4-3 defense.

Defensive end K.T. Stovall (6-foot-2, 245 pounds) is a Southern Conference Player of the Year candidate; 15 of his 65 tackles last year were for losses. Leon Moore (6-3, 240) is nearly as good from the other side, with 67 stops and 10 behind the line.

Most of what they don't get is taken care of by middle linebacker Sam Smalls (5-10, 230). He led the Mountaineers with 122 tackles after 99 in 2001.

"They're solid performers," Moore says.

Corners Derrick Black (5-8, 180) and Jay Lyles ( 6-0, 165) are two of the best cover men in Division I-AA, and big-hitting safety Nygel Rogers (6-0, 220) made 109 tackles last year and broke up seven passes.

As experienced as ASU is on defense, it is green on offense.

Quarterback Richie Williams (6-2, 175) is but a sophomore. He started three games last year before losing the job, but has lots of potential as a runner and passer.

Williams is battling Air Force transfer Eric Elsener (6-1, 215) for the starting spot.

Moore says Appalachian State will use a one-back offense that can be adapted to either QB's skill set.

The Mountaineers will look for lots of ways to get the ball to junior DaVon Fowlkes (5-7, 165), an exciting kick returner who is likely to line up anywhere on offense.

Sophomore right tackle Grant Oliver (6-4, 280) and sophomore tight end Daniel Bettis (6-2, 240) are the most experienced offensive linemen.

Senior wide receiver Sterling Hayward (6-0, 180) comes into the season with a streak of at least one catch per game in the past 24.

It's enough to make Moore forget about the rain, at least for a minute.

"The spirits are still high. Everyone knows there's nothing you can do about that," he says.

Appalachian State Mountaineers

2003 schedule

Aug. 30 At Hawaii
Sept. 6 at Eastern Kentucky
Sept. 20 Morehead State
Sept. 27 at The Citadel
Oct. 4 East Tennessee State
Oct. 11 at Furman
Oct. 18 Georgia Southern
Oct. 25 at Wofford
Nov. 1 Chattanooga
Nov. 8 at Elon
Nov. 15 Western Carolina

2002 results

8-4 overall, 6-2 Southern Conference
Aug. 31 at Marshall L, 17-50
Sept. 14 Eastern Kentucky W, 36-28
Sept. 21 at Liberty W, 29-22
Sept. 28 The Citadel W, 37-28
Oct. 5 at East Tennessee State W, 29-10
Oct. 12 Furman W, 16-15
Oct. 19 at Georgia Southern L, 20-36
Oct. 26 Wofford L, 19-26
Nov. 2 at Chattanooga W, 20-17
Nov. 9 VMI W, 54-13
Nov. 16 at Western Carolina W, 24-14
Nov. 30 Maine* L, 13-14

*NCAA I-AA Playoff game


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