Why New Defensive Coordinator Nate Woody Works For Appalachian State

Nate Woody Ready To Take The Reins of the Appalachian State Defense in 2013

BOONE, N.C.–Since Appalachian State’s football season came to a heartbreaking end with a 38-37 overtime loss to Illinois State in the second round of the FCS playoffs, there’s been plenty of changes that have ensued since that Shelby Harris blocked PAT.

Appalachian State, of course, will have a new coach for the first time in 25 years when it takes the Washington-Grizzly Stadium turf for the season opener on Aug. 31 against the Montana Grizzlies, with the exit of the legendary Jerry Moore on Dec. 2 and the entrance of new head coach Scott Satterfield on Dec. 17.

The offensive-minded Satterfield, who along with former Mountaineer offensive line Shawn Elliott, helped convince Moore in the spring of 2004 to switch to the newest fad sweeping the college football world, as the Mountaineers  converted from the conventional I-Formation offense that had made the Mountaineers a traditional winner in the Southern Conference.

The change, which at the time was a huge risk with many calling for Moore’s head after the Mountaineers had struggled to live up to lofty expectations from 2001-03 and had many calling for the veteran coach and staff to be replaced, however, the change would pay off less than two years later with the Mountaineers lifting the first of three national titles in an unprecedented run of success on the FCS football scene. 

Now, Satterfield is in charge and his first change is to make some waves on the defensive side of the football. He first moved Dale Jones from defensive coordinator to defensive assistant after defensive line coach Jason Blalock was not retained on staff following the 2012 season. The man the Mountaineers would hire at defensive coordinator would send some shock-waves across the Southern Conference landscape, as the Mountaineers were able to procure the services of a coordinator that, according to Satterfield, did the best job of slowing the juggernaut Mountaineer offense since the implementation of the spread in the High Country.

Convincing Nate Woody to leave a place like Wofford, where he played for and coached for 26 years under Mike Ayers, wouldn’t be easy. But, what ASU had to offer proved to be too hard for Woody to pass up, and that offer was opportunity. The ceiling is unlimited at Appalachian State for Woody, and though what he had helped build at Wofford into a perennial Southern Conference and national power at the FCS level, the immediate prospect of improving his coaching career was in Boone, despite many holding to the belief that Woody was next in line to take the head coach job at Wofford upon Ayers’ retirement.

For the past 13 seasons, the Terriers were under the watchful eye of Woody, and he built Wofford’s defense into one of the stoutest, and most difficult schemes to solve in the Slant-50, 3-4 defense over the past 13 seasons. It was the Wofford defense, which led the entire country in takeaways in 2003 (41 takeaways), that helped the program not only claim its first SoCon Football crown and subsequent first appearance in the postseason, but also made some noise while there, advancing all the way to the FCS Semifinals before bowing out in the Semifinals to eventual national champion Delaware.

That ’03 Terrier defense, which helped blaze the path for the championship success that the Terriers enjoy at present, as Wofford traditionally is among the SoCon, as well as its FCS brethren nationally, in total defense and scoring defense, year in and year out. The Terriers ranked second in the SoCon and third nationally in scoring defense (14.4 PPG) in Woody’s third year at the helm of the Wofford defense. Additionally, Wofford ranked third in the SoCon and 25th nationally in total defense to close out that memorable season (314.3 YPG).

But no time like the recent has Woody’s defense been at its peak in Spartanburg, and over the past three seasons, the Terriers were dominant, with the fruits of Woody’s scheme and recruiting targets helping mold a defense that boasts athleticism to go with its disciplined, physical play that Appalachian State fans had been accustomed to seeing out of Woody’s Terrier defense since he took the reins of the unit in 2000.

In addition to ranking ninth nationally in total defense this past season, the Terriers were stout in back in 2010, fielding another Top 10 defensive unit by ranking seventh in the FCS in total defense, allowing just 285.9 YPG.

Over the past couple of seasons, the Terriers have been one of the few defenses that has completely shut down the Appalachian State spread offense, including this past season, which saw the Terriers post a 38-28 win in Boone–the first Terrier win in the High Country since 2002 and only second since joining the SoCon in 1997.

In the Terriers’ 10-point win in Boone this past season, the Terrier defense limited ASU’s Top-10 ranked offense to a season-low 363 yards and just 14 offensive points, with the Mountaineers scoring a pair of non-offensive TDs on a fumble return for a score, as well as a kickoff return for a score.

Woody’s defense would also come up with what turned out to be the tide-turning play in the contest when Wofford got pressure on ASU quarterback Jamal Jackson, and he was hit from behind as he went back to throw the ball and the hit jarred the ball loose, allowing Odom to recover the ball and return it 40 yards for a score to prove to be the game-winning points just a minute into the final frame.

In the 2011 matchup, Woody and Wofford once again put the Mountaineer offense on lockdown, holding the ASU potent spread attack to just 247 yards and 14 points in a 28-14 win in Spartanburg. The 247 yards by the ASU offense were also a season low for the 2011 season for the Mountaineer offense.

Woody’s Terrier defense went on to lead the SoCon in three of four major defensive categories, leading the league in total defense (305.9 YPG), rushing defense (125.0 YPG) and scoring defense (16.6 PPG). The Terriers also completed the 2012 season ranking ninth nationally in total defense and seventh in scoring defense.

Overall, Appalachian State fattened its chances of lifting the Southern Conference title for an eighth time in 2013 with the hiring of Woody, but admittedly, Woody knows that the future of this defense is developing the 3-4 scheme even more in the High Country over the next few seasons, with implementation beginning this spring.

Who Has Influenced Woody As A Defensive Coach:

Woody has been influenced heavily in his schematic approach by a couple of legendary defensive minds of the NFL ranks, in Pittsburgh defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau and former New York and New England head coach Bill Parcels.

Both LeBeau and Parcels are known for their scheming and their ability to be authors of confusion, with Parcels’ scheme in New York enhancing the Hall of Fame status of a player like linebacker Lawrence Taylor, and in more recent seasons, with LeBeau directing a Pittsburgh defense that in recent seasons has been able to oftentimes confuse the best of quarterbacks at the next level.

While Woody won’t have quite the that of talent and athleticism that LeBeau and Parcels have had, he will have maybe the best crop of athletes on any defensive squad in the Southern Conference next fall.

While Woody didn’t not go into details in his introductory press conference to the exact wrinkles he wants to implement to the ASU defensive scheme, which transitioned to the 3-4 defense in the spring of 2011 but played more multiple last season after injuries ravaged a young defensive unit, he went as far as to say he wanted the 2013 ASU defense to be more aggressive in terms of its blitz schemes.

In years past when the ASU defense was directed by longtime defensive coordinator John Wiley, the ASU defense relied heavily on its front four to apply pressure, especially at the two defensive end positions, to get pressure. In rare cases, ASU was able to get big sack numbers from its linebackers, but athletes like Dexter Coakley don’t come around but every so often, so the approach was more conservative with ASU’s linebackers in past regimes. Even with recent players like All-American Jeremy Kimbrough, the Mountaineer coaching staff was reluctant to blitz with its linebackers as much as some might have liked them to do.

The mentality of this defense will change back to what it was in some of the pre-spread era under the direction of Woody in my opinion. Being more aggressive defensively will be a theme of Woody’s defenses rather than the exception, which has been the case since 2004 for ASU defensive units.

With the exception of the 2005 and ’06 defensive units, which featured the likes of Jason Hunter and Marques Murrell as Buck Buchanan Award candidate defensive ends, the Mountaineers have lacked that physical edge on the defensive side of the football that some of those Mountaineer defenses featured in the early-mid 1990’s, and even in some of the latter years of that decade, as well as the early years of the 2000’s.

Guys like Adam Neiheisel, Chuck Payne, Dexter Coakley and Justin Seaverns from ASU’s scroll of late 90’s and early 2000’s all-star defensive scroll would have been great fits in Woody’s defenses. Over the years, its been the outside linebackers that have been really the key cogs in Woody-coached defensive units during his time at Wofford. ASU will remember one of those OLBs for all the wrong reasons of course from the 2003 meeting, which was one that saw ASU see its chance for a SoCon title slip through its hands on a sunny, late-October afternoon in Spartanburg, and would eventually propel the Terriers to their first SoCon crown as a league member.

On a zone blitz play, a scheme which has been authored and perfected by one Woody’s mentors, in LeBeau, the Terriers were able to confuse young Richie Williams, who was under center for ASU that afternoon after not starting the game, as Williams didn’t see the outside linebacker on the near side of the field dropping into coverage to try and bracket DaVon Fowlkes.

That outside ‘backer was Jim Freland, who stayed at home to intercept the pass  and end a crucial ASU drive and returned it deep into Mountaineer score in what proved to be a 10-point swing, as the Terriers would cap the game with a short TD drive to escape with a 24-14 win over ASU. Teddie Whitaker, another outside linebacker, also had a linebacker had a 41-yard INT return for a score earlier that afternoon.

More recently, the Terriers have been able to recruit tremendously athletic players at outside linebacker, and a player like Alvin Scioneaux, who finished the season with 14.0 TFL, seven sacks and forced a pair of fumbles just goes to show how vital this position is to this scheme and to Woody’s plans for the ASU defense in the future.

The future for the ASU defense looks bright, and a return to the old, physical style of defense Mountaineer football fans were accustomed to back in the past appear to be on the way back under the league’s top defensive coordinator now in Boone. Please stay tuned to SaturdayBlitz.com for a follow-up article on the Woody and the ASU defense in the coming weeks, as well as a full run-down of the 2013 signing class for ASU coming up next Wednesday.


Tags: Appalachian State Mountaineers Football

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