Appalachian State had no trouble filling the three football scholarships it had to offer on National Signing Day.
Three new Mountaineers, including Watauga standout Anderson Castle, signed on the dotted line Feb. 5 to accept scholarship offers. The Mountaineers also signed running back Nathaniel Noel from Miami and tight end August Drews from Sarasota, Fla.
The Mountaineers already signed 17 players during the early signing period in December. During that time, the Mountaineers brought in four defensive backs, three linebackers, four defensive linemen, three offensive linemen, one receiver, one tight end and one quarterback.
“We’re excited to welcome the 2020 signing class to The Rock,” App State head coach Shawn Clark said in a statement. “These young men that signed with us in December and today come from great families, have strong academic backgrounds and add a lot of talent to our football team.”
Appalachian State recruiting coordinator and tight ends coach Justin Watts said Castle, rated a three-star recruit by 247sports.com, was a target of the Mountaineers to sign, even before the early signing period. Castle, who was offered a scholarship after a basketball game at Watauga High School by Clark, signed as a defensive back. Castle gained 2,223 yards and scored 36 touchdowns while playing quarterback at Watauga during the 2019 season.
Castle finished his Watauga career as a three-year starter at quarterback. He led the Pioneers to a 36-6 record, rushed for 4,420 and ran for 49 touchdowns during those years despite missing the bulk of six games his junior season because of a wrist injury.
Defensively, Castle finished with 53 tackles and broke up nine passes in 2019.
“He was a guy we wanted to sign the whole time,” Watts said. “Even with the previous staff we were extremely interested in him. When coach Clark took over the head-coaching job, he kind of took a special interest in Anderson. He watched him play basketball and was blown away by his leadership.”
Castle also played slot back in the 2019 Shrine Bowl. Watts said Castle’s versatility leaves the Mountaineers some option as to where he might play. The App State coaches talked with some of the coaches of the North Carolina Shrine Bowl team and liked what they heard.
“To me, he’s an athletic guy,” Watts said. “He’s athletic enough that he can play multiple positions. He’s not one of these guys who is underdeveloped. His body has already developed. He’s 190 pounds and, so he’ll get a shot. He’s starting off at safety because that’s more where we have a need, but if his skill set shows up where he can help us win on offense, that’s something that we would talk about.”
Watts also likes the idea of Castle playing special teams.
“When you watched us last year, the majority of our young guys who were contributors were contributing on special teams,” Watts said. “He’s fast enough, big enough and strong enough, he’s got to be able to run down on kickoffs on day one.”
Watts said the Mountaineers did not use enough of the younger guys on special teams earlier in the season and he predicted that would not be the case with Castle.
“We’ve already discussed as a staff to playing these guys early,” Watts said. “We made a mistake last year not playing some of our guys enough earlier, but that will definitely be in his future from the word go.”
Noel, who is rated a three-star prospect by the recruiting website 247Sports.com, is a 5-10, 175 back from Northwestern High School in Miami. He rushed for 1,556 yards and scored 22 touchdowns, including three touchdowns in Northwestern’s 34-17 win in the state 5-A championship game.
“We knew about him the rest of the season,” Watts said. “Our original plans were not to get a running back, but when Darrynton decided to come out early we sort of jumped on that.”
Noel is also a member of Northwestern’s 400-meter relay team his junior year that turned in a time of 40.74 seconds.
“He can really fly,” Watts said. “His film was really impressive. We were able to get his parents up here for a visit two weeks ago and they kind of fell in love with this place.”
Noel is not the only Northwestern High graduate on the Mountaineers’ roster. Defensive tackle Demetrius Taylor also attended Northwestern.
Watts said Drews was a late arrival on the Appalachian State radar screen. Drews was recruited by several Power Five teams, including Florida, where he verbally committed to being a preferred walk-on.
He reconsidered and committed to Appalachian State before signing with the Mountaineers.
Drews stands 6-foot-4 and weights 210 pounds. He attended Sarasota High School.
“He’s also a nationally ranked long-snapper,” Watts said. “We really fell in love with his tight end film and just what we think he can grow into.”
Six of the signees in December are already on the App State campus. Quarterback Navy Shuler, defensive back Mike Smith, linebacker Kevon Haigler and offensive linemen Seth Williams, Austin Reaves and Damion Dailey have already enrolled at App State.