BOONE — Frank Ponce had his first chance with the media as the new offensive coordinator for the Appalachian State Mountaineers football team Friday, Jan. 22. Head coach Shawn Clark announced Ponce’s hire a week earlier.
Ponce replaces Tony Peterson, who left the Mountaineers in December to join Bret Bielema’s staff at the University of Illinois. Ponce is inheriting an offense that finished ninth in the FBS in total yards and put up 56 points in the Myrtle Beach Bowl, but will also have to deal with the loss of three-year starting quarterback Zac Thomas.
Ponce said he was excited to be back with the Mountaineers program, as he spent six seasons as the co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach from 2012-28 under Scott Satterfield. When Satterfield left to become the head coach of the Louisville Cardinals, Ponce followed.
“I’m looking forward to a new challenge for me, something that I’m prepared for,” Ponce said. “I’m excited to be back in Boone, with great fans, a great university and a winning tradition. I can’t wait to meet the guys and start working with them.”
Ponce said the “timing was right” for his return to Boone.
“In this profession, you’re always trying to get better and move up,” Ponce said. “The opportunity was there and this time I said to myself, ‘Well, you know we’re not getting any younger.’ This is a great opportunity and is something that I’ve prepared for.”
In Ponce’s previous stint with the Mountaineers, he worked in the offense alongside Clark, noting their relationship was something that made the job more appealing to him.
While Ponce has only spent two years away from the Mountaineers program, much of the roster has changed.
Ponce said the first thing for him in the new job will be getting to know his players and getting the offensive system in place for them. That offensive system just spent two years in the Atlantic Coast Conference, where it went up against football powerhouses in Clemson, Miami and N.C. State.
“I always say this and I’m a firm believer in it, that ball is ball,” Ponce said. “The only thing that changes sometimes is the level of talent. We always joke around and say that as long as they have 11 on the field, we’ll be in good shape … Whether it’s the ACC, whether it’s the Sunbelt, whatever; at the end of the day, ball is ball.”