Football: Cox tabbed as preseason Doak Walker candidate

App State sophomore Marcus Cox is one of 53 official preseason candidates for the 2014 Doak Walker Award, the PwC SMU Athletic Forum announced on Thursday, July 17. The Doak Walker Award is presented annually to college football’s top running back.

Cox is one of only nine underclassmen among the 53 candidates and one of just four from the Sun Belt Conference, joining Arkansas State junior Michael Gordon, Louisiana-Lafayette senior Alonzo Harris and Texas State junior Robert Lowe. Cox is also the only candidate from the six NCAA Division I FBS programs in the state of North Carolina.

Cox set App State freshman records with 1,250 rushing yards and 21 total touchdowns as a true freshman in 2013. He also tied the school’s freshman record with 15 rushing touchdowns and piled up 1,809 all-purpose yards en route to finishing second in voting for the Jerry Rice Award, given to the NCAA Division I FCS Freshman of the Year. He also earned a spot on 247Sports’ Freshman All-America team and was the only FCS representative and one of just three players from non-BCS conferences on that prestigious list.

App State opens preseason practices on Aug. 1 in preparation for its FBS debut on Saturday, Aug. 30, at Michigan.

Baseball: Crespo named Frontier League All-Star

Former App State baseball standout Hector Crespo was the starting second baseman for the West team in the 2014 Frontier League All-Star Game, which was held Wednesday, July 16, in Sauget, Ill.

Crespo, who played at App State from 2010-13 and is the program’s all-time leader in stolen bases (101) and games played (225), is in his first season as a member of the Frontier League’s River City Rascals, an independent organization located in O’Fallon, Mo.

Crespo has started all 50 games at second base for the West Division-leading Rascals (32-18 overall team record), and is hitting .302 with 11 doubles, two triples, a home run, 18 RBI, 34 runs scored and a league-leading 23 stolen bases.

Crespo was selected in the 34th round of the 2013 Major League Baseball Draft by the New York Yankees and rose to as high as triple-A in the Yankees’ farm system before joining the Rascals in 2014.

On a related note, Crespo will soon be joined by former App State teammate Tyler Zupcic, as Zupcic has reached an agreement to join the Rascals after the All-Star break. The professional contract is the first for Zupcic, who wrapped up his collegiate career in May.

Crespo and Zupcic are among eight former Mountaineers currently in the professional baseball ranks.

Bender named App State Director of Basketball Operations

Bryan Bender has been named as the new director of Basketball Operations for Appalachian State University men’s basketball, head coach Jim Fox announced on Monday, July 14.

“Bryan comes to Appalachian State with an impressive background. He has had he opportunity to work with Tubby Smith at Minnesota and USA Basketball under Bob McKillop,” Fox said. “Bryan is a jack of all trades with a tremendous work ethic. He has already made his mark on our program and we are very fortunate to have him as part of the App State family.”

Bender joins the Mountaineers after one season as an assistant coach at Missouri State University-West Plains. In his lone season he helped direct a squad that put West Plains on the map as a perennial recruiting hot bed. MSU-West Plains had over 100 NCAA Division I coaches from 70 different programs witness a game or practice last year. Five players signed National Letters of Intents with Division I institutions and the Grizzlies produced three NJCAA (National Junior College Athletic Association) all-region selections, including two of the top-50 junior college players in the nation; Justin Jamison and Devaugntah Williams, who both signed with Texas Tech this spring.

On top of watching his players have success being recruited to the highest level, Bender gained valuable recruiting experience while helping rebuild a full roster in one year. Bender and the rest of the West Plains coaching staff signed 16 players from all over the United States and Europe. The recruiting class had players from Minnesota, Maryland, Florida, Ohio, Tennessee, Georgia, Massachusetts, Texas, Pennsylvania, Serbia, Poland and the United Kingdom.

In addition to helping guide the Grizzlies to 18 victories on the court, he also guided the program to success in the classroom. As the study hall coordinator Bender’s student-athletes set a record for highest team GPA in school history his first semester on campus and six players earned their associates degree from West Plains. Bender also served as a per-course faculty instructor and dorm director in his time in West Plains.

Prior to his time at MSU-West Plains, Bender spent eight seasons at the University of Minnesota in a variety of roles with the Golden Gophers. During his last three seasons, he served as Minnesota’s video coordinator, overseeing film exchange, student managers and all video duties. He aided in numerous aspects of the program including practice planning, recruiting, academics and scheduling. Prior to being the video coordinator, he spent four seasons as a student manager with the program, including two as the head student manager and film coordinator and was a graduate assistant during the 2009-10 season.

During Bender’s tenure at Minnesota the Gophers made six postseason appearances including three trips to the NCAA Tournament and three more to the NIT. During the 2012-2013 season, the Gophers spent 14 weeks ranked in the top 25, including three weeks in the top 10, and capped off the year with a win over UCLA in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

Bender also gained valuable experience as part of the support staff for the 2008 USA Basketball U18 Junior National Team, where he worked for Davidson head coach Bob McKillop, and also served as assistant director of the Tubby Smith Basketball Camps for six years.

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