BOONE, N.C. — The sound of pads colliding made a loud pop as linebacker Andrew Parker met a running back in the hole, triggering more noise from excited defenders along the near sideline.
App State’s defense impressed head coach Shawn Clark on Monday, during a Spring Practice No. 4 held indoors, after a run-first offense had moved the ball effectively to start Friday’s third practice.
“We have a week under our belt now, and today was a big day for the defense,” Clark said. “They’re really closing the gap from when the spring first started. We’re flying around to the ball, and we’re making plays. Our secondary played excellent today with our safeties and our corners. The defensive line has really upped their game. We’ve added some length to the program with new guys coming in, and you can really tell that when we get into situational football.”
The length at defensive end comes into play with the arrival of transfers such as Michael Fletcher and Shawn Collins or true freshman early enrollees such as A.J. Mebane and Nathan Johnson — newcomers who have joined forces with promising redshirt freshmen like Josiah Wyatt and Santana Hopper to push veterans DeAndre Dingle-Prince, Kevon Haigler and Stephen Passegiatta. Marcus Clark, KaRon White and Deshawn McKnight have performed well in the middle.
A well-executed blitz from James Edwards led to an interception by fellow cornerback Tyrek Funderburk. Another corner, 6-foot-2 Trenton Alan Yowe, made a notable interception.
Offensively, Nate Noel broke through with some long and point-producing runs, including one before a red-zone connection between Brady McBride and August Drews delivered a touchdown. There were also successful deep throws, with Brady hitting Dalton Stroman in stride and Ryan Burger going over the top to Christan Horn.
“We’ve had a good few days on offense and been able to run the football,” Clark said. “I thought we protected the quarterback the first three days, but today the defense brought some more blitzes and high-pressure situations. Overall, I think we’re doing very well. The young quarterbacks are doing excellent, the running backs are doing well, and I think our tight ends have stood out lately.”