BOONE — Appalachian State running back Darrynton Evans knows the speed that is involved with a college football game.
Without good football speed, Evans, a redshirt junior from Oak Hill, Fla., could not have returned two kickoffs for touchdowns with the Mountaineers, one in the 2016 Camellia Bowl against Toledo and another in App State’s 2018 season opener against Penn State.
Then again, Evans, while growing up in Oak Hill, which is a 40-minute drive south from Daytona Beach, Fla., has seen his share of speed in the form of a racecar.
“I’ve been to a couple of them,” Evans said of the Daytona 500. “It’s definitely different, but it’s a great environment. It’s definitely loud. There are a lot of crazy fans out there.”
The environment Appalachian State plays in, namely Kidd Brewer Stadium, could be described as loud and crazy, especially by Sun Belt Conference standards. The Mountaineers start their 2019 season Aug. 31 at Kidd Brewer against former Southern Conference rival East Tennessee State, with Evans returning as the incumbent starting running back for the first time.
“I don’t really look at it as being the starter,” Evans said. “We are all prepared as if we’re going to get 20 snaps each or 20 carries each and not so much being the starter that day.”
As the presumed starter, Evans has a tough act to follow. While a 2016 freshman, Evans backed up App State’s all-time rushing leader Marcus Cox. He was the backup when Cox was injured against Miami, a team that Evans’ family made a special trip to watch.
Former App State football coach Scott Satterfield, looking to get the ball to Evans more, moved the running back to receiver in 2017. But Evans was sidelined with a knee injury that knocked him out of the season.
Returning back to the field in 2018, Evans had to back up Jalin Moore, a senior who occupied the top of the depth chart for the first five games of the season. But Moore’s App State career ended with a foot and ankle injury suffered in a win over Arkansas State.
By then, Evans proved he was ready to take over. He started eight games and played in all 13 games during the 2018 season, when Evans gained 1,187 yards and scored seven touchdowns.
Evans said he had confidence in himself when Moore went down, and he maintains that confidence going into the 2019 season. He said the feeling was contagious with his peers.
“I felt confident,” Evans said. “Our whole staff felt confident in the running back room no matter who was in the game.”
This year, Evans leads a group of running backs that head coach Eliah Drinkwitz said is one of the deepest on the team. Along with Evans, App State’s stable of running backs features junior Marcus Williams Jr., sophomore Daetrich Harrington and redshirt freshman Camrun Peoples.
But Evans is not stressing any reduction of playing time or number of carries, even if the Mountaineers use more of a short passing game to move the ball, instead of a running game that was second in the Sun Belt Conference in rushing with 240.4 yards per game.
“I’m not really concerned about that,” Evans said. “If we pass the ball or run the ball, we’re going to get whatever they give us. It’s not about personal stats. As long as we 1-0 every week then we’ll be satisfied.”
Evans also said it would be a big mistake to overlook East Tennessee State, which is an FCS team that rejoined the SoCon in 2015 after dropping the program in 2003. The Bucs reached the FCS playoffs in 2018, but lost in the first round to Jacksonville State 34-27.
“If you think about it, we were FCS not too long ago. You can’t let a slip up like that happen. You saw us vs. Michigan (in 2007). You saw Georgia Southern vs. Florida. Things like that — it happens. You can’t overlook anybody.”
Evans’ confidence is not just with his fellow running backs. He also feels the pro-style system Drinkwitz has installed will look familiar to the eye, but will also have differences that the Mountaineers can use to their advantage.
“They did a good job installing everything,” Evans said. “It’s a new staff and everything is going to be different. It’s the same when you go from high school to college. You either learn it or you don’t.”
Evans knows that no matter what system the Mountaineers use, they have to execute it, or their goal of winning the Sun Belt Conference will not be realized. He also feels that a successful 2018 season is over, and the Mountaineers won’t get any bonus points for being the defending Sun Belt champs.
“Everybody says we have a target on our back, but last year was last year, so it doesn’t really matter,” Evans said. “We’ve got to look at every team as if we don’t bring our ‘A’ game that day, we’re going to lose. As long as we bring it every week, we’ll be fine.”