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App State football dealt with 'a couple' of positive COVID cases but staying on healthy course

App State football dealt with 'a couple' of positive COVID cases but staying on healthy course

Around the time he was hired as Appalachian State’s head football coach, Shawn Clark mentioned often that he kept a notebook during his coaching career. He wrote down ideas and thoughts, figuring it would be helpful when the time came to take over a program.

That notebook has been mainly useless to the first-year Mountaineers coach while trying to navigate an offseason in the thick of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Every day, something’s new,” Clark said Thursday. “The pendulum moves every day of what we’re expecting.

“I know we have a plan for an August 6th start (for fall camp), we have a plan for a September start, and we have a plan for an October start. And we have a counter in case there’s a spring start. But we’re doing all we can right now to make sure we’re on time.”

Clark shared a few updates. First and foremost, he mentioned that only “a couple” of players had tested positive for COVID-19.

“We were on those very quick,” he added. ”We followed the university guidelines and did what we had to do to quarantine our players.”

According to the university's coronavirus tracker, App State currently has 10 active COVID-19 cases in students as of Thursday night. That site, however, doesn't different how many of those are student-athletes.

Secondly, he mentioned that by Friday, approximately 90 football players would be back in Boone. This week was also the staff’s first back in the athletics building. But as of right now, he and his assistants aren’t allowed to be around players during the voluntary workout phase.

App State brought football players back in waves, groups of 22 players each time, Clark said. The athletics department announced last month that players would come back on June 15, June 22 and July 6 for voluntary workouts. That followed a small group at the start of June who dealing with injuries.

On Monday, the NCAA plan allows football programs to shift into the next phase. Clark said it lets coaches have two hours a week of film sessions, plus six hours of workouts. Should that hold, programs can go up to 20 hours a week on July 24, which allows for walk-throughs and team meetings.

Players are currently allowed to interact with training staff. Clark said groups of nine players work out together at a time, under the supervision of one strength and conditioning coach. They wear masks inside the building at all times.

Keeping those players in those small groups, which are in line with the state’s Phase Two guidelines of 10 people or fewer inside the same space, helps limit the spread of COVID-19, Clark said.

Clark has stayed in regular communication with Brad Bielaniec, App State’s director of athletic performance for football. He said Bielaniec has been impressed by the players’ strength and conditioning.

And currently, the Mountaineers are running in their indoor facility while the field in Kidd Brewer Stadium is getting new turf. Clark said he hopes the field will be completed by July 31.

App State’s 2020 schedule took a hit Thursday, with the Big Ten’s announcement of conference-only competitions for fall sports. That move canceled the Mountaineers' trip to Wisconsin on Sept. 19.

Clark spoke earlier in the day, before the Big Ten’s decision, but he said that health and safety guidelines need to be followed strictly for App State and the rest of college football to potentially salvage its seasons.

“It’s very important and we try to do our jobs as coaches and mentors to educate our players,” Clark said. “. . . We need to stop the spread. But again, you’re dealing with 18- to 22-year-old kids, and we can talk till we’re blue in the face sometimes, but it’s our jobs as coaches and leaders to make sure we’re on the forefront to make sure we’re doing everything that’s possible to make sure a season goes on.”

ejoyce@wsjournal.com

@EthanJoyceWSJ

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