ASU front key to Sun Belt dominance

With four players in the top 10 in sacks in the Sun Belt, the Mountaineers are undefeated in the conference heading into Troy showdown

Jeremy Brevard—USA TODAY Sports
Miami Hurricanes running back Joseph Yearby (2) runs the ball against the Appalachian State Mountaineers at Kidd Brewer Stadium inBoone

Appalachian State has more than proven itself in the Sun Belt since entering the conference last season. With three wins at Kidd Brewer Stadium already this season in conference play, the Mountaineers are often noted for their high-powered offense.Taylor Lamb, Marcus Cox and Jalin Moore make up one of the best backfields in the country, but the front seven has more than done its part. With four players in the top 10 in sacks in the Sun Belt, App possesses a complete defense under head coach Scott Satterfield.Seniors Dezmin Reed and Antonious Sims both have six sacks this season. Juniors Caleb Fuller and Kenna Gilchrist are tied for 10th in the conference with three sacks apiece. Gilchrist tallied two of those sacks and 3.5 tackles for loss against Texas State and was named this week’s Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Week.”Our defense has done a great job of not giving up the big plays, they’re running to the football and they’re tackling well,” Satterfield said. “There were some physical hits out there by our defense, and that’s what we’ve got to continue to do. When you do that, you’re going to have a good defense.”The front seven play has been a product of a solid secondary that has totaled a Sun Belt-high 16 interceptions on the year. Oddly enough, App’s 24 sacks are tied with Saturday’s opponent in Troy.That defensive pressure from the front seven and smothering coverage has led to a scoring defense allowing just 8.4 points per game. Leading up to Troy, the defense also held back-to-back opponents under 200 yards of total offense.A huge part of that consistency has been the breakout season for Sims. After coming to App State from Georgia Military College for his final two seasons, Sims played in just four contests last season. Projected as a back up to Caleb Fuller on the edge before the season started, he’s been a force for the Mountaineers during his final campaign in Boone.”He has a ton of talent and potential,” Satterfield said of Sims. “When he turns it on, you see what he can do. That’s where those sack numbers come into play and tackles for loss. “It’s a fit defense, and you have to be in the right gaps and do the right things. The more he plays, the better he’ll get at it.”With three games remaining on the schedule, App has to face both the conference’s top-ranked offense in Troy and No. 4 offense in UL Monroe. The Trojans have posted 39.4 points per game this season with a whopping 39 touchdowns through eight contests. To put that into perspective, App State — the Sun Belt’s No. 2 offense — has scored 31 touchdowns in nine games.In order to keep Troy and UL Monroe out of the end zone over the next few weeks, the front seven will play a key part in winning the Sun Belt crown. Equipped with four fierce pass-rushers and a stingy secondary behind them, the next few weeks will be telling ones for the Mountaineers defense.