KNOXVILLE - Tennessee opens its season hosting Appalachian State at Neyland Stadium on Thursday night.
Here’s what you need to know about the Mountaineers.
Overview: Last season’s Sun Belt Conference runner-up went 11-2, and the Mountaineers have won 17 of their last 19 games under fourth-year head coach Scott Satterfield.
Satterfield also played quarterback at Appalachian State from 1991-1995.
The Mountaineers are among the favorites to win the Sun Belt Conference.
Date: Sept. 1, 2016
Game Time: 7:30 p.m. Eastern Time
TV: SEC Network
Site: Neyland Stadium
2015 Record: 11-2 (7-1 Sun Belt)
Coach: Scott Satterfield
Location: Boone, N.C.
Series against UT: Thursday marks the first time the Vols and the Mountaineers have played each other. Tennessee holds an 8-0 record against current members of the Sun Belt Conference.
Appalachian State Returning Leaders from 2015
Taylor Lamb (6’2”, 200 lbs., junior): 170-of-283 passing, 2,387 yards passing, set a single-season school record throwing with 31 touchdown passes, 9 interceptions, 74 rushes, 436 rushing yards, 5 rushing touchdowns.
The third-year starter was named to the preseason watch list for the Manning Award. Lamb holds a 17-6 record as a starter.
Marcus Cox (5’10”, 205 lbs., senior): 243 carries, 1,423 rushing yards, 9 rushing touchdowns, 18 receptions, 160 receiving yards, 2 receiving touchdowns. Cox is the first Appalachian State player to rush for 1,000 yards in each of his first three seasons.
Cox enters the season as the nation’s second leading active rusher, and he needs 716 yards to break Kevin Richardson’s school rushing record of 4,804 yards.
Appalachian State averaged 271.5 rushing yards per game last season, which ranked second best in the Sun Belt and sixth best in the country.
Shaedon Meadors, wide receiver (6'2", 185 lbs., junior): 21 receptions, 439 receiving yards, 20.9 yards per reception, 3 receiving touchdowns.
Barrett Burns, tight end (6'4", 250 lbs, senior): 15 receptions, 163 receiving yards, 8 receiving touchdowns.
Four of the top five tacklers for Appalachian State return this season.
Senior linebacker John Law was named the preseason Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year. He had 72 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, four sacks and two interceptions last season.
Junior linebacker Eric Boggs also returns after leading the team with 104 tackles last season.
Appalachian State ranked first in the nation in redzone defense last season, allowing teams to score only 63.6 percent of the time.
The Mountaineers allowed only 10 touchdown passes last season, which tied for the fifth fewest scores in the nation through the air.
Things to know about Appalachian State
1. The Mountaineers are no strangers to huge upsets: The school became the first FCS team to beat a ranked Power 5 school in a 34-32 upset win at the Big House against Michigan in 2007. The Mountaineers are now members of the FBS.
Two of Tennessee’s assistant coaches, offensive coordinator Mike DeBord and defensive line coach Steve Stripling, were on Michigan’s staff in 2007.
2. Appalachian State ranked No. 43 in USA TODAY re-rank: Appalachian State has a higher preseason ranking than six SEC teams in USA TODAY’s preseason re-rank, including: Texas A&M (No. 46), Mississippi State (No. 55), Kentucky (No. 74), Vanderbilt (No. 79), South Carolina (No. 84) and Missouri (No. 87).
The Mountaineers also have a higher ranking in the poll than UT’s Battle at Bristol opponent Virginia Tech (No. 57).
Tennessee is ranked No. 12 in the USA TODAY re-rank, and No. 9 the Associated Press poll.
3. The Mountaineers are strong on the road: Appalachian State has won its last six non-home games, which is tied for fourth best in the country.
(© 2016 WBIR)