Marcus Cox plays his final game in an Appalachian State uniform on Saturday. The Mountaineers (9-3) face Toledo (9-3) in the 2016 Raycom Media Camellia Bowl. Kickoff is at 5:30 p.m. ET on ESPN.
Cox isn’t the only impact senior in the Apps’ vaunted running game putting the wraps on a record-setting career Saturday night.
Four seniors with a combined 12 seasons of starting experience in an App uniform from tackle-to tight end play their final game for the Black and Gold. Senior offensive linemen Jamie Collmar and Parker Collins make their final starts along with tight end Barrett Burns, who is on the cusp of his own record with 14 touchdown receptions, tied for the most ever by an App tight end.
It’s a group that has made App’s FBS transition an overwhelming success with time, and they might take it harder than most as they play their final game in an App uniform.
“There is going to be a lot of emotion,” Cox said Thursday. “The week leading up to bowl week, I was fine, but once we got on the plane, it started to hit me that this was the last go around. We’ve accomplished a lot. This is just the next piece we can put in place.”
The team has a piece in a 10-win season.
Cox will also be chasing history in a number of ways. The senior running back needs 40 rushing yards to reach 5,000 for his career. He’s 23rd on the NCAA’s all-time career rushing yards list, just behind Darren Sproles and, if he were to match his MVP effort from last season’s Camellia Bowl win, he’d climb as high 15th in NCAA history, passing Heisman winner George Rogers.
Only 21 backs have rushed for more than 5,000 yards in a career and fewer than 10 have had four 1,000-yard seasons in their career, a feat Cox is 128 yards shy of ahead of Saturday.
“I’m definitely hungry for (5,000),” Cox said. “It would be a great milestone in my career. I’m going to go out there, give it my all, and see what happens.”
Like any good running back Cox doesn’t shy away from crediting his veteran offensive line. Whether Cox or Sun Belt Offensive Player of the Year Jalin Moore, App seems to be running downhill behind them.
“I love those guys, they mean a lot to me,” Cox said of the O-line. “Without them, doing what they do, none of this would be possible. They want (records) and want to win just as bad as I do, so they take pride in every yard, every game and want to have success.”
The success for the offensive line has come from the type of relationships you expect to develop from spending 4-5 years alongside each other. Collmar and Collins have started every game this season along with junior Colby Gossett and freshman Vic Johnson. Tackle Beau Nunn missed two games, but it didn’t keep him from being the third App offensive lineman to earn All-Sun Belt honors. Collins and Gossett were first team selections.
“I think the camaraderie comes from being close on and off the field,” Collmar said of the offensive line. “We’re a tight-knit group in the meeting room, but maybe even moreso outside of there. It’s a brotherhood.”
The brotherhood has made them buy into getting the job done together, leading to records and more potential records for the next back as Cox hands over the reins, but with App’s run-first attack, the idea is to wear down the opponent up front, regardless of who is carrying the football. Something Collmar admits, the O-Line often doesn’t bother to know.
“It doesn’t matter to us (who is playing running back),” Collmar added. “Sometimes, I don’t even know who is back there, Jalin or Marcus. You play the way you do for the guy next to you and it works because we all know we’re going to get the job done for each other.”
Cox knows he’ll post his final career yardage number on Saturday and, when the 2017 season opens, his understudy will immediately be a threat. Moore will surpass 2,100 yards for his career on Saturday and has a chance at a 1,500-yard season despite sharing time with Cox.
“When Jalin first got here, you could tell he had the potential you’re seeing now,” Cox said. “I try to bring him along as much as I can, because after this game, it’s going to be his team. Proud of him for working the way he has and hop two years from now he starts to chase down my career records.”
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