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App State has its replacement for Zac Thomas: a two-time ACC quarterback grad transfer
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App State has its replacement for Zac Thomas: a two-time ACC quarterback grad transfer

It didn’t take long for Appalachian State to find its quarterback for 2021.

A day after three-year starter Zac Thomas officially announced he would not use his extra eligibility, the Mountaineers secured the commitment of grad transfer Chase Brice, who announced the decision on Twitter.

Brice has played for two ACC programs, spending his first two seasons at Clemson before becoming the starting quarterback at Duke this season.

The addition of Brice is a needed bridge from Thomas, who threw for at least 20 touchdowns and 2,000 yards a season under three different playcallers, and the future of the position.

The Mountaineers signed two quarterbacks in the 2021 recruiting class: DC Tabscott and Andre Goodman. They also signed two in the last class as well with Navy Shuler and David Baldwin-Griffin, the latter of whom opted out this season and is not longer part of the program.

Shuler hasn't taken a snap for App State yet. So Brice will bring some welcomed experience to the room. 

Brice, a native of Loganville, Ga., joined Clemson ahead of the 2017 season. After redshirting that year, he appeared in 25 games over the next two seasons (2018 and 2019) as the primary backup to Trevor Lawrence. Brice’s most notable Clemson moment came in the 2018 season, when he went into a game against Syracuse for an injured Lawrence and fought off the Orange's bid to upset the No. 2 Tigers.

He helped author a 13-play, 94-yard drive to secure the 27-23 victory, which kept the Tigers on course to win the national championship that season.

In his lone season as starter for the Blue Devils, the 2-9 team struggled. Duke led the nation in turnovers with 39, and Brice is connected to 21 of those. He had 15 interceptions and six fumbles to go along with 2,162 yards and 10 touchdowns. Brice played behind an offensive line that gave up the fourth-most sacks in the nation with 37.

He’ll face a better situation in Boone, which could improve still pending which seniors decide to return for the free year provided by the NCAA. Brice will join a backfield that features a strong running backs group in Cam Peoples and Nate Noel who shined during the season, as did Daetrich Harrington before an injury sidelined him for the second half of 2020.

Brice will go to App State as a premier target returns to the program. Corey Sutton, who caught 17 touchdowns during a two-season span, opted out of the 2020 season. The wide receiver room will also gain Jacoby Pinckney, who transferred from Virginia Tech to App State and sat out the season due to NCAA rules. Thomas Hennigan, Jalen Virgil and Malik Williams haven’t announced their decisions to return or move on.

The Mountaineers offensive line will feature new starters regardless. Cole Garrison started most of the season at left tackle and will be going on to medical school at Alabama-Birmingham. Anderson Hardy started in the spot for the last two games of the season, and three overall. Left guard Ryan Neuzil announced he will pursue the NFL, and four-year starter at center Noah Hannon has announced his college career is over also.

Cooper Hodges, a redshirt sophomore, will return as the starter at right tackle. Baer Hunter, the team’s right guard and a West Forsyth alumnus, has yet to announce his eligibility decision also.

Brice recently walked in Clemson’s graduation ceremony, and he was pursuing a master’s degree in management studies at Duke.

His first game with App State will take place in Bank of America Stadium, when the Mountaineers play East Carolina in Charlotte on Sept. 2 as part of the Duke's Mayo Classic. Appalachian also plays at Miami (Sept. 11) and hosts Elon (Sept. 18) and Marshall (Sept. 25) in the 2021 non-conference schedule.

App State finished 9-3 this season, winning its sixth consecutive bowl game with a 56-28 victory against North Texas in the Myrtle Beach Bowl on Monday.

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@EthanJoyceWSJ

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