BOONE — Former Northwood long-snapping great Jake Mann is on the move.
After spending his freshman season with the Oklahoma Sooners in 2021, Mann made the decision in June to take his talents 1,000 miles east from Norman, Okla., to Boone, where he’ll suit up for the Appalachian State Mountaineers in 2022.
“It was a great experience,” Mann told the News + Record when asked about his lone season in Norman, which saw the Sooners end the year with a 47-32 win over Oregon in the Valero Alamo Bowl. “It took a little while to adjust because it was my first time being really far away from home. I really enjoyed it, but obviously, things just didn’t work out there. So I’m really excited to be going to (Appalachian State), closer to home.”
Mann’s choice to enter the NCAA transfer portal on Dec. 9, 2021, came just 11 days after Sooners Head Coach Lincoln Riley announced his decision to step down from his post at Oklahoma and accept the head coaching role at the University of Southern California, a move that stunned players and fans alike.
Riley’s announcement triggered a string of departures for the Sooners, including both of the team’s star quarterbacks, Spencer Rattler (who entered the portal on Nov. 29, 2021 and is now at South Carolina) and Caleb Williams (entered portal Jan. 3 and is now at Southern California).
While Oklahoma’s coaching change undoubtedly played a role in Mann’s departure, he said the move was primarily fueled by a lack of playing time.
During the 2021 season, Mann saw the field just once, his lone appearance coming in a 76-0 blowout victory over Western Carolina in the second game of the season.
But when he was being recruited by Oklahoma, Mann said that the current long snapper, super-senior Kasey Kelleher, was planning on leaving after the 2021 season, which would’ve put him in a prime position to start for the Sooners his sophomore year.
“With the coaching change and everything, (Kelleher) decided to come back for another year,” Mann recalled, “so when he decided that, I was like, ‘I’ve got to make a decision for myself. Do I want to pay another year of out-of-state tuition and have to sit another year or go somewhere that I can play?’ And that’s when I decided to leave.”
During his six-month journey through the transfer portal — which he described as being a little bit different for long snappers than it is for quarterbacks or wide receivers — Mann got a plethora of offers from prominent Division I programs, including Coastal Carolina, East Carolina, Louisville, Memphis, and N.C. State, many of which were schools he chatted with during his recruiting process.
In the end, however, it was Appalachian State that caught his eye more than the others.
“There’s a good chance I’ll get to play right away (at App. State), which is, essentially, what I want to do — and most people want to do — is just get on the field,” Mann explained. “Another big part of the decision was it just being two hours and 45 minutes from home. Now, my family can come to the games pretty easily. It’s pretty convenient. If we have a weekend off, I can just drive home. … It just felt like the right decision.”
Mann joins fourth-year junior and All-Sun Belt second-teamer Christian Johnstone as the only other long snapper on the Mountaineers’ roster. But with Johnstone nursing a back injury, Mann is preparing to step into the starting role during fall training camp, which begins on Friday, and eventually battle for the starting job.
The Mountaineers are coming off of a 10-4 season in 2021, where they finished 7-1 in the Sun Belt Conference and made an appearance in the conference title game — a 24-16 loss to the Louisiana Rajun’ Cajuns — and earned a berth into the Roofclaim.com Boca Roton Bowl against the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers, resulting in a high-scoring 59-38 defeat.
After a fruitful offseason that’s seen Mann take part in plenty of player-led workouts with the Mountaineers, he said he believes he’s ready to give it his all once fall camp begins this week.
“I’m just going to do my job so the kickers and punters can do their job,” Mann said. “Hopefully, they don’t have to worry about me and nobody knows my name because that’s always a bad thing (for long snappers).
“I’m really excited,” he continued. “Obviously, it’s not Power Five football, but if you didn’t know that and you were just kind of around Boone or involved with the team, you wouldn’t feel that. … They definitely love their football there.”
Appalachian State opens its 2022 season at home on Sept. 3 against the North Carolina Tar Heels.
Reporter Victor Hensley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @Frezeal33.
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