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June 8, 2007

Countdown to Kickoff: Elon

Countdown To Kickoff: Preview of App State's 2007 Opponents

Game Five: Elon University
Where: Rhodes Stadium, Elon, N.C.
Playing Surface: Natural Grass
Capacity: 11,250
When: September 29, 2007
Series Record: 25-9-1 (ASU leads)
Last Meeting: 2006: ASU 45, Elon 21

About Elon
2006 Record: 5-6 (2-5 Southern Conference)
Head Coach: Pete Lembo begins enters his second season as Elon's head coach. He finished his first campaign at Elon with a record of 5-6, leaving him with an overall career record of 49-20. Before taking over the reigns at Elon in December of 2005, Lembo spent the previous five years as head coach at Lehigh. Prior to his days at Lehigh, Lembo served as an assistant at both Hampden-Sydney and Dartmouth.

Returning Starters: 19 (Offense: 6, Defense: 8, Specialists: 5)
2006 by the numbers: Scoring offense: 23 ppg; Pass offense: 246.1 ypg; Rush offense: 85 ypg; Total offense: 331.1 ypg; Scoring defense: 23.3 ppg; Pass defense: 211.4 ypg; Rush defense:157.1 ypg; Total defense: 368.5 ypg.

When Elon has the ball: Under the watchful eye of first year offensive coordinator Warren Ruggiero last season, the Phoenix managed to lead the league in passing. Senior quarterback Wes Pope threw for 2,572 yards, 16 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, giving them one of the more dangerous pocket quarterbacks in the SoCon. Combined with second team all-America wide receiver Terrell Hudgins and standout Michael Mayers, the passing game was a very worrisome challenge for every team that faced them.

Elon is expected to go to the air a lot again this year, as Hudgins and Mayers will again line up for Elon. Last season, Hudgins caught 69 passes for 1,027 yards and eight touchdowns while Mayers hauled in 73 balls for 866 yards and three scores. Unfortunately for those two they will no longer have Pope throwing to them. Instead, they will have redshirt freshman Donny Kirby lining up under center. Though Kirby will be seeing his first action during the 2007 season, the transition to college ball may be a little smoother with the likes of Hudgins and Mayers available for him to throw to.

The running game was practically non-existent a year ago as Elon's leading rusher, Reggie Hall, only managed 418 yards on the season. And with Hall recently graduating, his minimal production will be absent from the team in 2007. Replacing him will be T.J. Clegg rushed for only 226 yards last season and only averaged 3.4 yards per carry. Needless to say, the running game may not be much to look at next season.

The offensive line took a hit on the right side as starters Michael Moody and Marty Redden completed their eligibility at the conclusion of the 2006 season. Replacing them will be two redshirt freshmen in John Rubertone and Mark Hoffer.

Overall it could be a tough year for the Elon offense as they do not run the ball well and will be breaking in a new inexperienced quarterback.

What will Elon do offensively?: Offensively, the Phoenix will run multiple sets. For the most part they will line up in a traditional scheme with two wide receivers, a tight end, running back and fullback. Despite having a new quarterback, Elon will be expected to put the ball in the air, early and often.

Match-up to watch: App State's defensive secondary, Corey Lynch, Justin Woazeah, Jerome Touchstone, Titus Howard and Billy Riddle vs. Elon receivers Terrell Hudgins and Michael Mayers.

The big question: Can the ASU defense get into the head of redshirt freshman quarterback Donny Kirby and force him to make mistakes?

When Appalachian State has the ball: Despite having one of the nation's best defensive players in Chad Nkang during the 2006 season, Elon had one of the worst overall defensive units in the Southern Conference. They did finish fourth in scoring defense, however, they were sixth in total defense allowing a whopping 368.5 yards per game.

The good news for Elon is that eight of its defensive starters from a year ago return in '07 and will be a much improved unit having played in defensive coordinator Jay Bateman's system for a full season. The bad news is they lose all-America linebacker Nkang who racked up 127 tackles, 16.5 tackles-for-loss, 3 sacks and one interception.

Despite his loss, the Phoenix should field a solid group of linebackers as Corey Weaver (93 TT, 4 TFL, 1.5 Sacks, 1 INT), Zach McAlister (46 TT, 2 TFL, 2 INT) and Daronce Daniels (54 TT, 3.5 TFL, 2.5 Sacks, 1 INT) all return for '07.

Additionally, the Phoenix return three starters in the defensive secondary, including Chris Bland, who led the team in interceptions with four and was fourth on the team in tackles with 56. Also returning at defensive back is Karlos Sullivan, who was the team leader in pass breakups with 7 and Irvin Raglin, who finished sixth on the team in tackles with 51.

One area in which there is some concern is on the defensive line as the Phoenix must replace two starters, Travis Wetzel and Mark Ewing, with very inexperienced players. At this stage, Robert McGruder and Andre Campbell, combined for only 25 tackles last season, appear to be the frontrunners for the starting slots.

What will Elon do defensively?: Elon will lineup in a traditional 4-3 scheme. With eight returning starters, the Phoenix feel they will be able to match up efficiently in this defensive scheme in 2007.

Match-up to watch: ASU's experienced offensive line, Kerry Brown, Scott Suttle, Mario Acitelli, John Holt and Jonathan Bieschke vs. Elon's defensive line, Tim Happer, Eric Ludwig, Robert McGruder and Andre Campbell.

The big question: Can ASU exploit Elon's pass defense as they did a year ago, or will Elon's increased comfort level in Bateman's defense allow them to compete?

Elon's special teams: Brandon Lane returns as Elon's punter after averaging 42.4 yards in 35 punt attempts. Placekicker Andrew Wilcox, who connected on 12-of-18 field goal attempts last season, is also back. Karlos Sullivan will return punts again this season and T.J. Clegg and Michael Mayers will handle kickoff return duties.

2006 Results
9/02/06 � at Coastal Carolina (W, 23-20)
9/09/06 � Towson (L, 17-24)
9/16/06 � Presbyterian (W, 28-0)
9/30/06 � at Appalachian State (L, 21-45)
10/07/06 � Western Carolina (W, 37-19)
10/14/06 � at Georgia Southern (L, 21-28)
10/21/06 � Wofford (L, 21-35)
10/28/06 � at Chattanooga (W, 20-17)
11/04/06 � Furman (L, 13-24)
11/11/06 � at N.C. A&T (W, 45-0)
11/18/06 � The Citadel (W, 7-44)

2007 Schedule
9/01/07 � at South Florida
9/08/07 � West Virginia Wesleyan
9/22/07 � Liberty
9/29/07 � Appalachian State
10/06/07 � at Western Carolina
10/13/07 � Georgia Southern
10/20/07 � at Wofford
10/27/07 � Chattanooga
11/03/07 � at Furman
11/10/07 � at The Citadel
11/17/07 � Stony Brook



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