No football coach likes to miss out on practices of any kind. App State head coach Shawn Clark is no exception.
The Mountaineers were not allowed to finish their spring workouts. The Sun Belt Conference shut down all athletic games, events and practices on March 13, which included spring football, for the rest of the season.
The Mountaineers held their final practice on March 6, before spring break, and were supposed to end March 21. App State had four spring practices left, but Clark downplayed missing those workouts.
“In the big picture, football is a small part of what we do,” Clark said. “In times like this, you realize the importance of the safety of others, the safety of our town and the state of North Carolina. In the big picture, it doesn’t really mean that much. Would I have liked to get four more practices in? Yes. I’d like to have 14 more. But in the big picture, we want to make sure our players are safe, the town of Boone is safe and we’ll catch up on those practices in August.”
Clark said some players improved their status during the first 11 workouts, although he did not say to what extent. Clark mentioned defensive lineman Hansky Paillant, outside linebacker/defensive lineman Kevon Haigler, defensive lineman Jordon Earle, defensive back Milan Tucker, and defensive back Steven Jones as players who helped themselves get noticed by the coaching staff.
“I do think some guys did a great job in spring practice,” Clark said. “I look around at our defense and some young guys we had to have step up have done a good job.”
Clark also said former Watauga quarterback and cornerback Jackson Greene had a good spring. Greene redshirted in 2019, his freshman season, and is listed as a defensive back.
“He was playing out of position, but he may have a chance to help us out on special teams,” Clark said. “We’ve got a bunch of young guys reps and we had to have some answers now.”
Appalachian State must also replace rising senior Elijah Diarrassouba, who left the team because of injury problems. Diarrassouba has an injured hip that gave him problems all of last season despite starting in 12 of the 13 games he played.
“Souba is one of those players that Appalachian is all about,” Clark said. “He’s a guy who comes in and works hard and he’s a blue-collar guy. That’s a big hole to fill not just on the football field, but in leadership. We’re excited for him in his next venture in life. We’ll see how it goes.”
The players were not the only people on the field who had to make adjustments. Clark is in his first year as a head coach and he hired several new coaches to the Mountaineers’ staff, including offensive coordinator Tony Peterson, outside linebackers coach Courtney Braswell, safeties coach Mark DeBastiani, special teams coordinator and running backs coach Brian Haines, defensive line coach Robert Nunn and cornerbacks coach James Rowe.
Defensive coordinator Dale Jones returned to App State one season after coaching at Louisville with former App State head coach Scott Satterfield. Clark hired former App State player and assistant coach Nic Cardwell and both tight ends coach Justin Watts and receivers coach Pat Washington were retained by Clark.
Clark likes how the coaches have gelled into a staff and feels the lack of an extra week of practice won’t derail their progress.
“Probably the biggest learning curve was to (Peterson) to learn our terminology and to do our things and I’m very excited about Tony,” Clark said. “He’s going to do a great job for us for year to come.”