Appalachian State football coach Shawn Clark has made a flurry of moves over the last couple weeks.
Since his first month of the job mainly consisted of navigating the early signing period and a bowl game victory over Ala.-Birmingham in New Orleans, he has been able to line up some of his personnel as of late.
With a few more decisions to make, his first App State football staff is really taking shape.
A look at who’s gone, who will be back, and what’s left to do before Appalachian starts laying the groundwork for spring practices in the coming months.
Who is gone?
Most recently, App State learned last week that safeties coach Greg Gasparato is expected to take a similar position at Army. The move reunites Gasparato with his former Wofford coach and boss, Nate Woody. Woody, the App State defensive coordinator from 2013 to 2017, is now the defensive coordinator at Army.
And just to jog memories, three assistants from last season followed Eli Drinkwitz to Missouri. Defensive backs coach Charlie Harbison, special teams coordinator Erik Link and outside linebackers coach (and Mountaineers alum) D.J. Smith are all now at work in Columbia.
Former Mountaineers defensive coordinator Ted Roof was picked for a similar job at Vanderbilt after a season with App State. The school has also seen defensive line coach Anwar Stewart take the same position at Kentucky, his alma mater. That hiring was made official on Friday.
On top of the three assistants, former assistant athletics director of football operations Andy Lutz is also at Mizzou. Former football strength and conditioning coach Jeff Jones opted to move on from App State as well, with his next destination undecided.
Who has been hired and retained?
App State has announced three hirings and one retention.
Clark picked Nolan Jones to be his director of operations, announced Jan. 3. He also made two more hires last week: Brad Bielaniec is the director of athletic performance and will also oversee football’s strength and conditioning, and James Rowe was picked up as a defensive assistant. Both of those moves were announced on Thursday.
Jones was last at Ole Miss in 2019 as director of football ops, holding similar positions at Kansas (2016 to 2018) Kent State (2015 to 2016) Michigan (2013 to 2014), Kentucky (2011 to 2013), Northwestern (2005 to 2011) and Princeton (2004 to 2005). He and Clark worked together at Kent State in 2015.
Rowe comes to Boone after three seasons as assistant defensive backs coach with the Washington Redskins. He was also the defensive coordinator at Division II Valdosta State in 2016.
Bielaniec was at Marshall last season as head strength and conditioning coach. He was at App State in the previous season as an assistant strength and conditioning coach under Mike Sirignano, who’s now at Louisville.
On top of all that, Justin Watts has been the only announced retention from last year’s staff as of Friday. Watts has been with App State since 2015. He was wide receivers coach through 2018, switching to tight ends last year. He has been the program’s recruiting coordinator since the 2018 season.
What’s next, and who will be back?
Barring anything unexpected, the assistants remaining from last year will be retained as well. That includes offensive assistants Garrett Riley and Pat Washington. Riley will be the Mountaineers’ offensive coordinator after serving as the play-caller for App State during its New Orleans Bowl win.
On top of that, the return of Dale Jones is a foregone conclusion. Yet to be announced, Jones spent 22 years in Boone before following Scott Satterfield to Louisville after the 2018 season. He will return in some capacity for the 2020 season.
That leaves Clark five spots to fill on his staff. But with the way things have shaken out, Clark will have no returning defensive assistants from last season. Jones, as of right now, is the lone connection to the 3-4 defense Woody installed when he arrived in Boone in 2013. That defense has led App State to become one of the top units in the Sun Belt and the nation for the last half of the decade.
During his time at App State, Jones has overseen defensive line, linebackers and even special teams. He also served as a defensive coordinator in two separate capacities: first as outright D.C. from 2010 to 2012 under Jerry Moore, then as co-defensive coordinator with Bryan Brown in 2018.