By Colby Gable
This week in Kidd-Brewer Stadium, seniors on the football team will be honored at halftime as part of “Senior Night,” during what will be the last game the Mountaineers will host in Boone for the 2019 season. When looking at the starting lineup for Appalachian State’s football team this season, one noticeable aspect is the adamantly small number of seniors this team actually holds on its roster, having only 8 total registered on the official roster as seniors. While there are still a large number of upperclassmen as half the offensive and defensive starters fall within the Junior class, there have still certainly been a number of seniors this season who have produced on a high level and had a crucial impact on the 2019 season. Here’s a look at a few which will be honored this weekend.
#87 Collin Reed, Tight End
Hometown: Boiling Springs, SC
Last season, Reed finished Third-team All-Sun Belt with only 11 starts in 13 game appearances, with one non-start being when App State began in a four-receiver set. Now for the second straight season, Reed is on the John Mackey Award watch list, which goes to the best tight end in college football, as well as being projected onto the First-Team All-Sun Belt. While 2 of his 6 of his receptions so far this season have ended with a touchdown, Reed also makes major contributions in blocking for the running game, allowing for players like Darrynton Evans and last year’s Jalin Moore Jr. to excel.
#59 Jordan Fehr, Linebacker
Hometown: Charlotte, NC
Fehr came into the season as a Team Captain and First-team All-Sun Belt selection after finishing third on the team with 86 tackles throughout the season. This year, with three games total remaining on the schedule, Fehr has already reached 79 tackles and should be in a good position to top his last year’s tacking totals. In an interview with NFL Draft Diamonds highlighting Fehr’s capacity for the NFL, fellow defensive players Jalen Virgil and Kaiden Smith praised Fehr’s ability to lead, as Virgil cited him as a “leader who leads by example” echoing Smith’s take of Fehr being “a guy whose lead is easy to follow.” Fehr also mentioned that one player he tries to model his game after is Panthers linebacker, Luke Keuchly, and the similarities are not that far apart. Both do a tremendous job being able to track running backs and taking smart angles when attempting to chase down a tackle. This, along with Fehr’s ability to play extremely physical as one might hope from a linebacker, has been why Fehr has been able to consistently be an important part of the defense in ways that go beyond being an effective playmaker and into that of a leadership role on the defensive side.
#75, Victor Johnson, LT
Hometown: North Augusta, SC
Another Senior Captain along Fehr is offensive tackle, Victor Johnson. Johnson started at left tackle in each of the previous three seasons and made the All-Sun Belt Conference first team each of the last two years. Named the league’s best pass blocker and #3 in the Sun Belt’s NFL Talent list by Lindy’s Sports, he’s the most experienced member on an offensive line that has ranked in the top 25 nationally in both rushing yards per game and fewest sacks allowed for the last five years. Johnson also entered the season being named to the preseason watch list for the Outland Trophy, given annually to the nation’s top offensive lineman in college football, as well as the Reese’s Senior Bowl watchlist. Johnson also leads an offensive line squad which this year, was nominated in October for the Joe Moore Award Midseason Honor Roll. The committee which designates the award commented, “This is a ‘must-watch’ unit. They consistently display many of the award criteria that we look for, with their technique, physicality and effort being the pillars of their success.” Other schools that were nominated but lost out to Appalachian include Alabama, LSU, Notre Dame, Georgia, Penn State, Clemson, Texas, and Ohio State.
#24, Akeem Davis-Gaither, Linebacker
Hometown: Thomasville, NC
Davis-Gaither has entered the season with a variety of preseason award watch list nominations, and his play on the field has not disappointed. These awards include the Bednarik Award for the nation’s top defensive player in college, the Butkus Award for the top linebacker in college football, Reese’s Senior Bowl watchlist, and the Sun Belt’s #4 ranked NFL talent for the upcoming draft. So far, his average of 7.3 tackles per game is second for the Mountaineers this season, only behind another fellow Senior linebacker Jordan Fehr at 7.7 per game. In three games this season versus UNC, Louisiana, and Georgia Southern, Davis-Gaither was able to finish with double-digit tackles, and 11.5 tackles for a loss throughout all 10 games. Apart from his ability to make tackles and the huge impact Davis-Gaither brings to stopping the rushing game, last season he finished in the top 10 nationwide for most pass-breakups by a non-defensive back with 7 total, showing how he can produce results against the passing game as well. This season he is currently at 6 pass-breakups and will have the chance to tie or break this stat from last year against Texas State on Saturday at 2:30.