Friday, October 3, 2008

Appalachian looks for special homecoming

A key to Appalachian's homecoming game with The Citadel -- also the Mountaineers' Southern Conference opener -- will be the play of its special teams. The Citadel comes to Boone with one of the best punt returners in the Football Championship Subdivision, all-American wide receiver Andre Roberts. Roberts is tops in the conference with a 20.8 return average on punts, and third in the FCS.

Meanwhile, ASU has stumbled in that area, allowing an average of 14.1 yards per punt return and 25.8 yards on kickoffs. The Mountaineers allowed a 60-yard punt return for a TD against non-scholarship Jacksonville. Then they yielded a 99-yard kickoff return to James Madison following halftime, shifting momentum in a game that wound up a loss. And last week, even though they blew out overmatched Presbyterian, they allowed the Blue Hose to return a punt 56 yards.

Appalachian's special teams -- like their starting units -- are young and learning. They'll have to learn quickly against The Citadel, which is off to a 3-1 start.

*ASU linebacker Pierre Banks has been named a semifinalist for the 2008 Draddy Award, presented annually to the nation's premier football scholar-athlete by the National Football Foundation. He is one of 164 players so honored. Banks has a 3.91 grade-point average in graduate studies for a master's degree in educational media, which he expects to receive in December. He earned a bachelor's degree in communication — electronic media/broadcasting in three years and should receive his master's in a year-and-a-half.

-- Stan Olson