East Tennessee State Appalachian State football

Appalachian State head coach Eli Drinkwitz is congratulated by defensive back Josh Thomas after the Mountaineers' 42-7 win over East Tennessee State, Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019 at Kidd Brewer Stadium in Boone, N.C. 

The biggest news from Coach Eli Drinkwitz’s press conference on Monday came in regards to a stud wide receiver.

Corey Sutton, a redshirt junior, is eligible to play against North Carolina on Saturday, according to Drinkwitz.

“Ready to roll,” Drinkwitz said when asked about Sutton’s availability for this week’s game.

Sutton missed the first two games of the season -- a 42-7 win against East Tennessee State on Aug. 31 and a 56-41 win against Charlotte on Sept. 7 -- due to a violation of team rules. Sutton was charged with marijuana possession in June.

Sutton caught 44 receptions and 10 touchdowns in 2018, totaling 773 receiving yards.

Here is the transcript of Drinkwitz’s press conference:

Opening statement

"Had a great bye week. Felt like our guys did a great job of focusing on improving in a lot of different areas, whether it was the fundamentals of blocking, tackling, catching, lining up correctly. So was proud of the work those guys put in. Excited for the challenge this week, obviously we’re playing a very strong ACC opponent, (who’s) 2-1 with wins against an SEC squad and a Miami squad. They’ve got a lot of really good players on their football team. They’ve got an outstanding head football coach who’s well respected. They’ve got great schemes on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball. Special teams, really good football coaches and some really good players. Went back and looked at the recruiting rankings in the past three or four years and they consistently rank in the top 25 in recruiting. So we know they got a lot of really good players and really good coaches. So it’s going to be a heck of a task and a challenge for us, and we’re excited about the opportunity. So with that, we’ll open it up for questions."

On self evaluation during the off week

"You’re hopping for a coach-me-coach attitude that says how can i improve, how can i get better, what are the little things that if I do this it will improve my game. And as a competitor, as a guy who wants to be the very best, you realize you’re only as good as your last performance and you’re only as good as the small improvements you make on a daily basis. So we’ve got a lot of really good competitors on our team. We’ve got a lot of guys who want to achieve their personal best, and that starts with being humble and hungry and trying to improve every day."

On keeping focus in a big matchup for App State and his return to the Triangle

"It’s just the way we approach every day around here and how we approach the game. You know, regardless of what the outcome is on Saturday, we still have nine games left. It’s a non conference football game. Our goal is to win the Sun Belt Conference championship and a bowl game with class, integrity and academic excellence. This is a great game for us as far as a program and an opportunity to play an ACC opponent at their place, so obviously that’s a lot of fun. But at the end of the day, it’s one of 12 opportunities to play the game. For our team, our mindset, everyday is as important as the next day, and every game is as important as the next game.We’re not trying to make one game bigger than the rest. We’re making each game important and again, small daily improvements is the key to long term success. We’re just trying to be better today than we were yesterday, and we’re trying to be better Saturday than we were the previous Saturday."

On North Carolina’s defensive identity

"Havoc-creating defense. They’re very sound but unconventional. They line up in unique fronts. They blitz in a lot of varieties. They play unique coverage structures, whether it’s showing you a two-high structure but rotating to man. Whether it’s showing man-to-man and it’s a trap structure to the field with the backside safety trying to get over the top. So they’re trying to create confusion and havoc. I think they lead in a lot of negative plays. They try to get you behind the sticks and force you into third downs. I think they’re one of the top 25 or 26 in the country of third-down defense. That’s what they’re trying to do, and he does a really good job of it. He’s got an outstanding staff. And he’s been a good football coach for a long time. He’s been around this state for a while. So he does a really good job."

On if Drinkwitz helps the defensive staff scout the opposing team’s quarterback

"Yes."

On team health, outside of Cam Peoples (season-ending injury) and Willie Edwards (out four-to-six weeks), and team availability

"No health wise, other than Cam and Willie, there’s no long-term injuries. We should be back to full speed and ready to go, rocking and rolling."

On the status of Corey Sutton for this week

"Ready to roll."

On how Drinkwitz and potentially use of running backs coach Garrett Riley (who played in an Air Raid offense while at Texas Tech) help the defensive staff scout:

"I don’t get the offensive coaches involved. Offensive coaches have a job to do, which is coach offense. I do it because I need to be up to speed on every facet of the program. You know, I want to make sure I understand what they’re looking at. And if I see something I feel like can be beneficial, then I’ll share it with them. Sam (Howell) is a tremendous quarterback, a guy that I recruited when I was at N.C. State. . . But he is a true freshman. And he’s played well above his age, and he’s a really good football player. He’s got a strong arm. Can make plays with his feet. Scrambles. Has a really strong grasp of their offense from what I can tell watching it. So I don’t really go in there and say, ‘If you do this, you’re going to get this.’ It’s ‘this is my assessment of this quarterback. He’s pretty good. We can’t let him beat us with some things we’re just aren’t going to be able to do, because if we do, he’ll dissect us.” That’s really all I do. It’s not like I have some magic pill that says ‘if you do this, he’ll forget how to play quarterback.’"

On Howell’s late-game performances and how he puts together fourth-quarter drives

"Sam’s got a confidence level and a confidence in his own ability. Like I said, he understands the offense. He played pretty well in the first quarter versus Miami, so he’s a really good football player. He’s got a really strong arm. He’s got all the arm talent and ability in the world. And they’ve done a good job surrounding him with some really good players. I mean, they’ve got a huge offensive line that does a good job running the football. They’ve got two really good running backs. I think Michael Carter Jr. is a phenomenal running back. They’ve got some really unique weapons at wide receiver. Dyami Brown from North Meck, I mean we recruited him when we were at N.C. State. He had offers from everywhere in the country. He’s got elite, world-class speed. So I mean he’s surrounded with some really good players, but he understands what he’s supposed to do with the ball in his hands and he’s done a really good job with it."

On the extra week of practice

"I mean, anytime you get a chance to practice, you get a leg up. You get to repeat some days, so we had the base gameplan in Thursday and we were able to take that Friday night game and digest it on Saturday and finalize some gameplan stuff for yesterday’s practice. And you feel like you’ve got extra rep. I feel like the biggest key in a game is for your guys to play comfortable, and in order to play comfortable, they have to have reps at what you’re asking them to do. Ultimately Saturday will be a tell in whether or not it paid off for us. But I felt good about it. It was good. Our guys had great attitudes and it was enjoyable to be on the football field."

On his relationship with Mack Brown

"I’ve definitely met him. When I was at Boise State, he did our Virginia game as a broadcaster. It was a Friday night game, and I got a chance to meet him there. And we spoke in February at the high school coaches clinic, but that’s as far as my interactions."

On if coaching against UNC last year helps now

"No I mean, it’s new schemes, new players, new energy. I have a tremendous amount of respect for those players. I mean, we beat them in overtime but it was a very difficult game but those guys play hard. Myles Dorn’s been playing for a long time there. Their safety, I think he’s a tremendous player. Jason Strowbridge, didn’t play for them, was injured last year. I mean, he’s an NFL D-lineman and is a really good player. Aaron Crawford, another NFL defensive lineman. I don’t know if it helps other than to understand to understand how good of football players they are and exactly how big of a challenge it is for us to go play and compete against them."

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