Center of attention

Appalachian State center Noah Hannon (with football) gets ready to snap the ball against Georgia in their 2017 game.

BOONE — Appalachian State center Noah Hannon had quite the difficult assignment in first game of his collegiate career.

Hannon’s task was to be a primary blocker on Georgia’s standout linebacker and Butkus Award winner Roquon Smith. It would have been difficult enough just to make sure of the normal things that centers must do, such as snap the ball on the correct snap count, call the blocking assignments for the rest of the offensive line, and of course, block Smith.

It was all in a days work for Hannon, who was recently named All-Sun Belt Conference by Athlon. He was also named second-team All-Sun Belt Conference for the 2018 season.

“I’ll never forget the first play at Georgia,” Hannon said. “It was supposed to be a double team with me and (guard) Colby (Gossett) on big Tristan Thompson in the middle and then they said ‘shift.’ The next thing I know there’s a big nose guard in the middle and I’m one-on-one on him, so, that was pretty cool. I made the calls ever since the first snap, so it’s pretty fun.”

That game was the first of two full seasons of starting at center for the 6-foot-1, 270-pound Hannon, who prepped at Greer (S.C.) High School. He earned his way on to the App State offensive line and took his place next to Gossett and tackle Beau Nunn, who have both played professionally.

Two years later, Hannon is the veteran junior on an offensive line that is learning a different system under new head coach Eliah Drinkwitz. As the center, Hannon has to call out the blocking assignments while on the line before the play begins.

He said the language is similar to what the Mountaineers had under former head coach Scott Satterfield, who left to become the new head coach at Louisville. App State returns an offensive line that includes All-Sun Belt offensive left tackle Victor Johnson, left tackle Ryan Neuzil, right offensive tackle Matt Williams and right guard Bear Hunter.

“We’ve got a lot of the same verbiage for us,” Hannon said. “How I’m calling stuff to our guys and how we communicate back and forth to each other and obviously we have some new schematics and stuff like that that coach Drinks implemented into the offense. We’re adapting to it, but I fully believe in what coach Drinks implemented and it’s our job to go and run it and learn it and get better at it.”

Hannon called the Georgia game “wild,” saying that playing college football was a dream come true and playing in front of more than 90,000 made it even better.

“I thought I wasn’t going to sleep at all Friday night and I was fully expected to be full of butterflies and nervous, but I slept like a champ Friday night,” Hannon said. “I woke up and was waiting for the butterflies to come through, but I forgot them.”

Georgia had the first possession of the game, but App State’s defense forced a punt, which made Hannon nervous, but not for himself.

“I was more nervous because when we started out on defense and my roommate was (then freshman receiver) Thomas Hennigan and they got a three-and-out,” Hannon said. “Thomas had to go back and catch a punt and I was more nervous for Thomas catching the punt. There are some big fellas trucking down the field there, but it was an awesome experience.”

Hannon also appreciated when Smith, who was drafted by the Chicago Bears the following spring, spoke to him after the game.

“I gained a lot of respect from the guys from Georgia,” Hannon said. “Roquan is now in the (NFL) and he came up to me after the game and that’s kind of when you know that I’m supposed to be here and God put me in the right place. That was pretty cool.”

Hannon wants the App State offensive line to be known as an aggressive group who are not merely satisfied with just making their initial block. He said blocking downfield is something the line prides itself in doing and credits offensive line coach Scott Clark for coaching them to be aggressive.

“That’s something we will continue doing,” Hannon said. “It’s one of those things that when defenses turn on the film, they’ll see five big guys running downfield at full speed and at any moment we’re going to do that. If you think about that, safeties and cornerbacks, if they watching that on film, they’re going there’s going to think about that for a bit. It’s something that we pride ourselves on and that starts with coach Clark.”

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