Appalachian State Mountaineers Coaching Staff 2023

Shawn Clark brought back two of the best coordinators in Appalachian State history, will it be enough to help the Mountaineers exceed their lofty expectations?

Appalachian State has long been one of the top teams at its level, especially during its days as an FCS power. Head coach Shawn Clark has been a huge part of that success, dating back to his days as a two-time All-American offensive lineman in Boone. In 2022, Clark is turning to some familiar faces as the Mountaineers look to bounce back.

Appalachian State Coaching Staff

The Mountaineers’ coaching search was quick and painless in 2020 when Eliah Drinkwitz departed for Missouri. Clark, then assistant head coach, was promoted to head coach just five days after Drinkwitz moved on, much to the excitement of many Appalachian State players and fans.

Since then, he has led the team to a 26-13 record, though last year’s 6-6 mark was surely a disappointment.

Head Coach, Shawn Clark

Clark played at Appalachian State in the late ’90s, earning All-American honors as an offensive lineman in both 1996 and 1998. He got his start in coaching at Louisville in 2001, where he earned a Master’s Degree.

Clark then became a full-time offensive line coach in 2003 at Eastern Kentucky, moving to Purdue (2009) and Kent State (2013) after that.

Widely regarded as one of the better offensive line coaches in the country at the time, Clark returned home to coach the Appalachian State offensive line in 2016, this time with a Co-Offensive Coordinator title as well. In 2019, the Mountaineers finished the year 11-1, the second 11-win season in the school’s history, joining Clark’s 1995 team.

Clark finished the year off with his first win as head coach in the New Orleans Bowl.

Widely considered as one of the best culture builders, Clark has a reputation in the industry as a strong recruiter and talent evaluator. The big question for Clark’s Mountaineers will be the quarterback position in 2023.

Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks, Frank Ponce

Ponce represents one of the two biggest acquisitions for the Mountaineers this offseason. Ponce was in charge of the Mountaineer offense from 2013 to 2018 and again in 2021. Ponce’s Mountaineers were fifth in the Group of Five in scoring while Chase Brice set multiple program records.

Ponce has coached multiple high-level NFL players at stops in Miami, FIU, and other places around the Southeast. With his return to Boone, I expect the Mountaineer offense to take another step forward.

Defensive Coordinator/Safeties, Scot Sloan

If the name sounds familiar, it’s because it is. Sloan oversaw some of Appalachian State’s best defenses in school history during his tenure from 2010 to 2017. A secondary coach by trade, Sloan spent the 2018-2020 seasons at rival Georgia Southern before turning Army’s defense into one of the best in the country last season.

When Sloan was originally at Appalachian State, the Mountaineers went 6-2 against rival Georgia Southern, allowing just 17.9 points per game. When he moved to Georgia Southern, the Eagles went 2-1, allowing just 23 points and holding App State’s strongest offense in history to 14 points.

Sloan’s return to Boone should transform an uncharacteristically porous Appalachian State defense into a team that looks more like what we’re accustomed to seeing.

Special Teams Coordinator/Running Backs, Brian Haines

Haines leads two of Appalachian State’s best units. Despite being decimated by injury at the running back position in recent years, the Mountaineers have ranked in the top three in the Sun Belt in rushing every year under Haines.

The special teams unit is widely regarded as one of the top units in the country, boasting multiple All-American returners in Haines’ tenure.

Prior to joining Clark’s staff, Haines was best known as the recruiting coordinator and tight ends coach for the University of Ohio during a stretch of 10 straight winning seasons under Frank Solich.

Assistant Head Coach/Recruiting Coordinator/Passing Game Coordinator/Tight Ends, Justin Watts

Watts wears plenty of hats for the Mountaineers in his 10th year with the program. A holdover from several previous staffs, Watts picked up the Assistant Head Coach and Passing Game Coordinator titles in recent seasons under Clark.

Watts’ units have historically performed well under his leadership, and the Mountaineers’ recruiting has been at an all-time high since he took charge in 2018.

Offensive Line, Mike Cummings

Clark hired Cummings in January 2023, bringing an experienced and talented coach to Clark’s former position group. Cummings is a former offensive coordinator who has coached several draft picks, including former first overall pick Eric Fisher.

Wide Receivers, Lawrence Dawsey

Dawsey has multiple years of NFL playing experience and Power Five coordinating experience under his belt. Dawsey is most known for his tenure at Florida State, where he finished three seasons as a top 25 recruiter and served as the offensive coordinator for five seasons.

The Appalachian State receiving corps has greatly improved in the last two seasons.

Defensive Line, Victor Cabral

Cabral spent the vast majority of his coaching career at Georgia Southern, where he served in various positions as a defensive line coach, director of player personnel, and recruiting coordinator. He was hired in January with Sloan and fits Clark’s vision as a player’s coach.

At Georgia Southern, Cabral coached seven All-Americans and multiple NFL draft picks.

Inside Linebackers, Travis Cunningham

Cunningham came to Appalachian State in February after serving with Sloan at Georgia Southern. He has spent a large part of his coaching career in the Carolinas, with 16 years at Gardner-Webb. He has experience coaching in both a 3-4 and a 4-3 scheme and was highly successful last year at Western Kentucky.

Outside Linebackers, AJ Howard

One of the best defenders in school history is returning to Boone to coach at his alma mater. After spending two years in the NFL as a safety, Howard was a student assistant at Louisville under his former coach, Scott Satterfield. As a player, Howard amassed 222 career tackles and earned two All-Conference selections.

Defensive Pass Game Coordinator/Cornerbacks, Rod West

West came to Boone in 2021 after five years at Richmond. He is well-respected in the coaching industry and the media, as evidenced by his inclusion on the American Football Coaches Association 35 under 35 list in 2021.

In just two years, West has already coached multiple All-Sun Belt selections.