By Craig Haley, FCS Executive Director
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - It is hard to imagine that there are bigger shoes to fill in the FCS than what Appalachian State's starting quarterback faces in replacing Armanti Edwards this season.
What Jamal Jackson and DeAndre Presley are doing, as their neck-and-neck competition goes into fall camp, is to let everybody else do the imagining. They're not focused on the difficulty of the task at hand.
"I try not to look at it that way, I just try to play my game, be the best player I can for my team," Jackson said. "It's there, everybody knows it's there. But thinking about it too much is not going to make you a better player, it's just going to hold you back. I really try not to think about it; everybody knows what he's done. Now it's time just to play."
"To be truthful, any quarterback that comes in here after Armanti is going to have pressure," Presley said. "Everybody is going to say he has big shoes to fill. And, to be honest with you, I look at it as that's only something for fans, really, (and) people who look at it as we have big shoes to fill. We know Armanti was a great quarterback, and by all means I tip my hat off to him, and I really thank God that I was blessed with the opportunity to learn behind him. But, at the same time, he's not here anymore. With that being said, we have to continue to move on."
But if the Mountaineers look too far back, they won't move toward their goal of winning the program's fourth national title. They reached the FCS semifinals while going 11-3 last season, winning the Southern Conference title along the way.
Neither Jackson nor Presley could shake the other during spring practices. Jackson has the better size at 6-foot-3, 195 pounds, and four remaining seasons of eligibility. Presley, 5-11, 170, has more experience in the offensive system, including as the backup to Edwards in 2008, when he threw for 379 yards and rushed for 415 yards and seven touchdowns. Both right-handed throwers will be 20 years old during the season.
Spring practices, "went pretty good, I made a lot of progress," Jackson said. "Spring for me was a time to learn and also be able to show my playmaking ability, be able to show some leadership, let the coaches know and my teammates know that I can step up."
"When you come in, you learn a lot. They throw a lot at you in the fall. But during the season in your redshirt year, you kind of step down and help out the defense down there on the scout team. The springtime is a learning process, coming back, really grasping (the offense). It's like starting over from the fall, getting the timing of the offense together and to make sure you have all the right calls.
"I can do both, throwing and running. I guess it's just that play, whatever situation I'm in. I try to use what I think is going to get me out of the situation the best way possible. Just be a playmaker."
Presley, whose skills are similar to Jackson's, said, "I'm a balanced quarterback. I love running, but, at the same time, I love spreading the ball around and using the ability that God gave me of throwing. Honestly, it's just making myself a threat. That's my main goal.
"The only thing for the summer (fall camp) really is to just limit turnovers and just have fun once again. I look at it as if I put pressure on myself, then it's not going to do any better for the team. So I feel like I must come in relaxed, I must come in calm and I must come in focused, and just work hard - every day.
The new QB's transition to the No. 1 role will be eased by the fact that Appalachian State lost only one other starter besides Edwards, left tackle Mario Acitelli. The Mountaineers will return four starting linemen, one of the FCS' top running backs, Devon Moore, and the nation's deepest group of receivers, led by wideouts Matt Cline (85 receptions), Brian Quick (61), Blake Elder and CoCo Hillary, and tight end Ben Jorden.
With the return of seven defensive starters, the Mountaineers have an impressive 10 players who earned honors on the SoCon coaches all-conference team last season. So there's plenty to look forward to this season.
Besides, at one time, Armanti Edwards also had to replace an outstanding quarterback in Richie Williams. He led App State to the FCS title the year before Edwards took the field.
"We push each other to make each other better," Jackson said of Presley. "I'm going to try to make a big play; he's going to try to make a bigger play. And it goes like that constantly. But, at the same time, if we see something that the other doesn't see, we'll point it out. Even though it's a competition between us, we're still trying to make the team better."
"If we continue to look in the past, it's not going to do anything for us while we're trying to make a run for a championship," Presley said. "We look at it as, whoever is the quarterback, whether it's me or whether it's Jamal, for everybody else, we've got to rally around him, help him out, play as a team and just win."