BOONE — New Appalachian State defensive coordinator Ted Roof has not had much time to look at the defense he will take over in 2019.
That doesn’t mean he is not familiar with how the Mountaineers play. He watched Appalachian State beat Middle Tennessee 45-13 in the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl, so he saw the Mountaineers slow down the Raiders’ passing game, which was led by quarterback Brent Stockstill, who finished his career with 12,165 passing yards.
Against Appalachian State, Stockstill finished with 330 yards passing, but was sacked six times and threw two interceptions.
Roof feels that Appalachian State’s defense is aggressive, plays hard and knows where to go and what to do. Roof has coached his share of systems during his career, which includes stops at Auburn, Georgia Tech, Penn State, Minnesota, Central Florida and a head coaching stop at Duke.
During his long career, Roof had a stop at Western Carolina in 1997 and had a chance to coach against Appalachian State. The Mountaineers claimed a 13-7 victory over the Catamounts and Roof noted the respect he’s had for the coaches who have been at Appalachian State and the success the Mountaineers have had.
“I remember it was really cold that day,” he said. “We didn’t win and when we went home it was a long bus ride.”
His more recent job was at N.C. State, where he helped the Wolfpack to a 9-3 record and top 20 national defensive rankings in rush defense (13th at 109.1 yards per game), sacks (16th), red zone defense (ninth with scores on 73.8 percent of trips inside the 20), red zone TD rate (eighth with touchdowns on only 45.25 percent of trips inside the 20) and third-down defense (19th).
Roof wants to see up close just what he’s got at App State and then find a defensive scheme that fits the players on the roster. Roof said the Mountaineers’ defensive schemes will be multiple but based out of the familiar 3-4 defense the Mountaineers have used in the recent past.
“I think what good coaches do is they evaluate their personnel and plug personnel not based on what they’ve done,” Roof said. “What they have to do is to put the players in the right place to be successful, whatever that skill set is.”
“It’s not just the system,” Roof added. “It’s the execution of the system. That’s what separates great teams from average teams.”
Roof is pleased with the talent level of the Appalachian State defense. The Mountaineers are also experienced, but not overloaded with upperclassmen. Appalachian State just lost cornerback Clifton Duck, who declared his eligibility for the 2019 NFL Draft.
App State also loses nose tackle Myquon Stout, defensive end Okon Godwin, linebacker Anthony Flory and cornerback Tae Hayes.
But the Mountaineers also return several postseason 2018 All-Sun Belt Conference selections, including rising senior linebacker Akeem Davis-Gaither, rising junior linebacker Jordan Fehr and rising senior defensive back Desmond Franklin.
Roof acknowledged the team speed for which the Mountaineers are known.
“I hope the team speed continues, because of the evolution of the spread offense and teams making you defend the entire field, you’ve got to have guys who can play in space and guys who can come off blocks and overlap,” Roof said. “No matter what system you run, the overlap of player to player — you want to stay out of one-on-one situations. You want to gang tackle and with speed, the overlap and the physicality of coming off blocks allows you to do that.”
Roof knows he doesn’t have to build a winning culture since he feels it already exists at App State. He wants to maintain that culture and then add different touches to it.
“There’s a fine line with that,” Roof said. “From a perspective standpoint, you have to do what’s best for the team and not what you’ve done in the past two years or the past three years. Systematically, you want to build on the things that are done here and enhance it and certainly you want to evaluate what they’ve done and they’ve done things well here and you want to build on that.
“At the same time, with various things you might add a little wrinkle and do things like that.”
As far as filling out the defensive coaching staff, the Mountaineers retained outside linebacker and former FCS All-American D.J. Smith and safeties coach Greg Gasparato. Roof still has some holes to fill when it comes to staff members since App State’s defensive line coach Mark Ivey and inside linebackers coach Dale Jones followed former App State head coach Scott Satterfield to Louisville.
Roof said he will keep the same basic structure of the App State defensive staff by having one coach handle the defensive line, one coach handle the inside and another to handle the outside linebackers, and a coach to take over the cornerbacks and another to coach the safeties.