At this point last week, Garrett Riley was still working through Appalachian State’s 2018 game film.
But the new Mountaineers running backs coach sees untapped potential for a group that returns a wealth of depth and talent for 2019.
“Where I think they can really grow is some things on the perimeter,” Riley said. “Some catching ability, route running, some things like that, where maybe they’re displaced a little more than they have been.
“Just finding out who can do that. Our job as coaches is to find out what their strengths and weaknesses are and be able to utilize that as best we can.”
Here’s a little reminder what Riley and App State will be working with in the running backs room:
• Darrynton Evans, junior: A 1,000-yard running back that was named first team all-Sun Belt last season and won the MVP award in the conference title game.
• Marcus Williams Jr., junior: Became the Jalin Moore supplement to the Mountaineers’ steady run diet. He ran for 561 yards last season, 404 of which came after the season-ending injury to Moore.
• Daetrich Harrington, sophomore: A guy who played well near the end of the 2017 season as a true freshman. Harrington tore the ACL in his right knee in February of 2018 and returned to play in November. He played in only two games last season and preserved his redshirt.
• Camerun Peoples, freshman: The 6-foot-2, prized talent of the former coaching staff. Peoples played in only four games last season, allowing him to use his redshirt. But he had his flashes — such as the 63-yard touchdown in the New Orleans Bowl — and still has four seasons of eligibility.
Riley’s statement about pass-catching ability seems to lean toward a trait Evans and Williams have flashed. Evans grabbed 12 receptions last season, which was seventh most on the team for 2018, with one touchdown. Williams added five catches and a score of his own. Harrington only had three catches in his first season, and Peoples had none in 2018.
But Riley was quick to mention that this goal doesn’t mean the running component of App State’s offense will change drastically. But now it’s about building off that run-first moniker and branch it out with routes.
“It’s going to be a lot of similar things that this place is doing for a number of years,” Riley said. “And what they’ve had great success doing. There’s no reason to change something if it’s not broke.”
Riley has some connections to some of the best offensive coaches in football. On top of the obvious connection to his brother, Lincoln Riley, the head coach at Oklahoma, he’s also been around people like Dana Holgorsen, Sonny Dykes and Seth Littrell. All of those guys were former assistants at Texas Tech while Riley was a quarterback on the Red Raiders roster.
He’s also coached quarterbacks, running backs, tight ends and wide receivers in his short career. With that experience, he hopes he can be even more of an asset to Coach Eliah Drinkwitz, who will also serve as offensive coordinator.
“I think it makes you just more well-rounded obviously, just as a coach, it forces you to really understand the big picture and not just your own room and your own world, so to speak,” Riley said. “Having another guys that’s well rounded, that your coordinator can bounce ideas off of.”