BOONE, N.C. – For the first time since he assumed head coaching duties in December 2019, Shawn Clark completed a full slate of App State spring practices following a Friday scrimmage at Kidd Brewer Stadium and Saturday walk-through inside the Sofield Family Indoor Practice Facility.

"We did a lot of great things this spring," said Clark, who led his alma mater to a 9-3 season and sixth consecutive bowl victory last fall despite pauses and challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"The last three or four practices, we've taken big steps in all three phases of the game – special teams, offense and defense. A big point of emphasis this year is to really open up our offense and throw the ball more downfield – to not let teams dictate to us what we're going to do, but we dictate to them. When we have a full receiver group ready to go, it's going to be great for our offense and for our fans to see."
Consistent with other recent spring seasons, the App State defense played at a high level. Ten of 11 starters return from last year's unit that ranked top 20 nationally in scoring defense and total defense and No. 9 in passing yards allowed.
In addition to the 10 returning starters, Clark has been impressed with some of the younger players that are providing depth across multiple positions.
"To see the young guys – the Deshawn McKnights, the KaRon Whites, Tommy Wrights really step up – those guys are going to be big contributors for us."
Younger players have also stepped up on offense, notably at receiver, where the team already has four "Super Seniors" returning in all-conference playmakers Thomas HenniganCorey SuttonJalen Virgil and Malik Williams.
Clark noted that rising sophomores Christan Horn and Christian Wells have made big strides this spring alongside another rising sophomore who took some snaps with the first string over the final week of practice.
"One player that's really come a long way the last three or four days is Milan Tucker," Clark said. "He's a guy that can be very special for us in the slot position."
Former Clemson and Duke quarterback Chase Brice has established himself as the frontrunner to direct the offense behind center this fall, while Tanner Wilson finished spring as the No. 2 option, with DC Tabscott and Navy Shuler also in the mix for practice reps.
App State's 2021 season opens Thursday, Sept. 2 against East Carolina at Charlotte's Bank of America Stadium. The 2021 home opener is Sept. 18 vs. Elon.

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