The top 10 Appalachian State football players you need to know for the 2016 season.
1. RB Marcus Cox, Sr.
One of the better running backs in college football over the last few seasons, Cox was special from the start running for 1,250 yards and 21 scores as a freshman, followed it up with a 1,415-yard, 19-score sophomore season, and was the main man again as a junior averaging 5.86 yards per pop with 1,423 yards and nine touchdowns, while catching 18 passes for 160 yards and two touchdowns.
The 5-10, 200-pounder is tough on the inside and has the athleticism and pop to come up with big gashes whenever he gets into the clear. A natural receiver, he can do a little bit of everything to help carry the offense, and when he’s on, he’s devastating running for 192 yards against South Alabama and 162 in the bowl. There are other options to help carry the ground game, but he’s the program’s signature star.
2. LB John Law, Sr.
The team’s second-leading tackler, Law came up with 72 stops to go along with four sacks and 9.5 tackles for loss on the inside. At 6-0 and 230 pounds, he has the size and the thump to be a key part of the run defense to flow through – making 13 tackles against Wyoming in a steady overall year. He missed the bowl game, but he’s back should be an All-Sun Belt star again as the leader and experienced rock of the D. But can he stay healthy? He’s had ankle problems and has been banged up throughout his career, but when he’s on, he’s one of the league’s best.
3. LB Eric Boggs, Jr.
The team’s leading tackler, Boggs proved to be a fantastic running mate next to John Law on the inside. He rallied past a knee injury that knocked him out of his freshman season after making 43 tackles, coming up with 104 stops with three picks and four sacks, making 14 tackles against Troy and 15 against South Alabama. At 6-3 and 235 pounds, he has terrific size and the bust to potentially grow into even more of a pass rusher on the outside. He’s a terrific athlete with great intensity – he’ll be an all-star.
4. QB Taylor Lamb, Jr.
While the running game carries the team, Lamb is a veteran playmaker who can make the passing game rock, too, hitting 60% of his passes for 2,387 yards and 31 touchdowns with just nine picks, while running for 436 yards and five touchdowns. While he might not be all that big, the 6-2, 200-pounder holds up well with a good, accurate arm – he doesn’t make a slew of mistakes. He bombed for 314 yards and three scores against Georgia State and 321 yards and four touchdowns against Arkansas State, throwing two touchdown passes or more ten of the 13 games. Now in his third year, he should and could be a First Team All-Sun Belt performer. The numbers should only get better.
5. CB Latrell Gibbs, Jr.
A playmaker from Day One, the 5-10, 170-pounder used his tremendous speed and quickness to take over a starting job as a freshman making 35 tackles with two picks. Last season he turned in an all-star season making seven interceptions taking two back for scores with a 91-yarder against Wyoming and a 47-yarder against Georgia State in back-to-back weeks. While he’s not going to bring the big hit at his size, he’ll hit, making 45 tackles with 34 of them in the open field. He can do it all on one side.
6. OG Parker Collins, Sr.
The All-Sun Belt blocker who helps make the fantastic ground game go, the 6-3, 280-pound guard took over a starting job midway through his sophomore season and has been a rock ever since on the left side. He might not be massive, but he’s versatile enough to play either guard spot, and good enough to be technically sound on a consistent basis. With a nasty streak, he finishes off every block with a pop.
7. TE Barrett Burns, Sr.
While he didn’t make a ton of big plays, he made them count. He’s like a very big wide receiver with 6-4, 245-pound size and terrific quickness and high school sprinter’s speed. Banged up early in his career, he came back to make 14 catches as a sophomore before coming up with an interesting junior season. A great blocker, he’s also a terror around the goal line as a target with eight of his 15 catches going for scores including two in the bowl win over Ohio. He’s too good not to get start getting the ball more.
8. LB Devan Stringer, Jr.
While he’s not the playmaker in the linebacking corps that Eric Boggs and John Law are, he did his part with 61 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 7.5 tackles for loss and a fumble recovery for a 77-yard touchdown against Ole Dominion. Like a safety compared to the thumpers on the inside, Stringer has 5-11, 200-pound size with a fearless style – and that’s sort of a problem. He’s tough enough to play on the inside, but he got hurt and moved outside where he was turned loose a bit more. The potential is there to be bigger pass rusher.
9. RB Jalin Moore, Soph.
It’s hard to get too much work and too much attention in the same backfield as Marcus Cox, but Moore did his part as a true freshman finishing second on the team with 731 yards and five scores, averaging 7.38 yards per carry. The shifty 5-11, 200-pounder is like another Cox in terms of style, showing off his potential with a whopping 27-carry, 244-yard day against Idaho, followed up by a 104-yard day against Louisiana-Lafayette. Cox is still the main man, but Moore will get ten or more carries a game now to keep the star fresh.
10. P Bentlee Critcher, Sr.
The former walk-on averaged close to 46 yards per kick as a true freshman, and did a little of everything as a sophomore averaging 40.7 yards per try while also serving as the placekicker hitting 7-of-10 field goals. He went back to only being a punter last year and did a great job, averaging 43.37 yards per attempt, putting 13 inside the 20. It’ll be a shock if he’s not on the All-Sun Belt team.