BOONE, N.C. — Frank Ponce, who helped App State win three straight Sun Belt Championships during his first tenure in Boone, is returning to serve as the Mountaineers’ offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, head coach Shawn Clark announced Friday.
Ponce was App State’s co-offensive coordinator (passing game) and quarterbacks coach for six seasons from 2013-18, and Clark worked closely with him as the Mountaineers co-offensive coordinator (running game) for the final three years of that stretch.
“I’m very excited to welcome Frank back to our coaching staff and give him control of our offense,” Clark said. “He is an amazing teacher of quarterbacks, a great recruiter, and most importantly, a good role model and mentor for young people. He loves App State, and we’re glad to welcome him and his wife, Christine, back to the mountain.”
“I am thrilled to be returning to a place that is filled with traditional values, a wonderful coaching staff and the greatest fans in college football,” Ponce said. “I am humbled that Coach Clark would entrust me with this wonderful opportunity to lead the team as the Offensive Coordinator and can’t wait to experience this season with the Mountaineers.”
When Scott Satterfield left App State to become Louisville’s head coach, Ponce joined the Cardinals’ staff. He was Louisville’s quarterbacks coach and passing game coordinator for each of the last two seasons.
After helping lead App State to a 48-16 record and three consecutive Sun Belt championships during his five FBS seasons in Boone, the detail-oriented Ponce oversaw the 2019 development of Louisville quarterback and new full-time starter Malik Cunningham, who set the school record with a passing efficiency rating of 194.45 — a number that would have ranked No. 2 nationally with one more pass attempt.
Cunningham threw for 4,682 yards with 42 touchdowns, rushed for 1,091 yards with 13 touchdowns and completed 63.6 percent of his throws in his two seasons with Ponce, becoming the only Louisville quarterback to ever have four touchdown passes of at least 75 yards.
Three-year App State starter Zac Thomas was a relatively unknown commodity replacing record-breaking quarterback Taylor Lamb back in 2018, and Ponce helped Thomas make an immediate splash as a first-year starter who developed into the Sun Belt’s Offensive Player of the Year with 2,039 passing yards, 504 rushing yards, 21 passing touchdowns, 10 rushing touchdowns and just six interceptions during an 11-2 season.
The Mountaineers will have a new starting quarterback again in 2021, and Ponce rejoins several familiar faces at a program that maintained success on both sides of the ball in 2020 with top 25 rankings in total offense and total defense even though App State had its third head coach in three years, third offensive coordinator in three years and fourth defensive coordinator in four years. Clark was the only first-year FBS head coach to win at least nine games in 2020.
Working on the staffs of highly respected offensive minds such as Satterfield and Mario Cristobal, who has also made the successful climb to Power Five head coach as the leader of Oregon’s program, Ponce has been part of teams with winning records in eight of the last 11 years.
Ponce excelled as a high school coach in his home state of Florida from 1992-2006 before joining Cristobal’s staff at FIU as the wide receivers coach from 2007-12, with Satterfield working alongside both of them from 2010-11 as FIU’s offensive coordinator. When Satterfield became App State’s head coach in 2013, he hired Ponce to coordinate the Mountaineers’ passing game and coach quarterbacks.
Under Ponce’s mentorship, Lamb finished his App State career as the school and Sun Belt record holder with 90 touchdown passes. The only FBS quarterbacks in 2017 with career totals of at least 9,000 passing yards and 2,000 rushing yards were Lamb, Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett and Louisville’s Lamar Jackson.
With 27 touchdown passes and six interceptions as a senior, Lamb had the third-best season for an App State quarterback in terms of touchdown-to-interception ratio, and he led the conference in passing efficiency during three of his four seasons.
As a first-year App State assistant, one season before Lamb became the starter as a redshirt freshman, Ponce directed the Southern Conference’s second-ranked passing attack (271.8 yards per game). He helped quarterback Kameron Bryant set a school record for single-season completion percentage (71.2) and throw for 2,713 yards even though Bryant came into the season with just 13 snaps under his belt.
Ponce is also renowned for his recruiting ability, as he was named the Sun Belt’s top recruiter by ESPN.com in 2010.
He coached six of the top 10 receivers in FIU history during his six seasons with the Golden Panthers. His most notable pupil at FIU was three-time All-American T.Y. Hilton, now a standout with the Indianapolis Colts.
Prior to FIU, Ponce was one of the top high school coaches in football-rich south Florida, serving as the head coach and offensive coordinator at tradition-laden Miami Senior High from 2004-06 and the head coach at Coral Reef High from 2002-03. He began his coaching career with stints as an assistant at La Progresiva Presbyterian School (offensive coordinator – 1992), Coral Gables High (quarterbacks/wide receivers – 1993-96), Miami Northwestern High (quarterbacks – 1998), Miami Central High (offensive coordinator/quarterbacks – 1999-2000) and Miami Killian High (offensive coordinator – 2001). As a coach at Miami Central, he mentored Willis McGahee, who went on to become an All-America running back at the University of Miami and a two-time NFL Pro Bowler.
A native of Miami, Ponce enjoyed a decorated playing career as a quarterback at Miami Senior, where he was the team MVP and a finalist for the 1988 Miami Herald Hispanic Athlete of the Year Award. He went on to become the starting quarterback for two years at Arizona Western College, where he earned an associate’s degree in arts in 1990. He earned a bachelor’s degree in physical education from Florida International in 1997.
Ponce and his wife, Christine, are the parents of two daughters, Isabel and Leah, and a pair of sons, Frankie and Lucas.
1992: La Progresiva Presbyterian School (Offensive coordinator)
1993-96: Coral Gables H.S. (Quarterbacks/Wide receivers)
1998: Miami Northwestern H.S. (Quarterbacks)
1999-2000: Miami Central H.S. (Offensive coordinator/QBs)
2002-03: Miami Coral Reef H.S. (Head coach)
2004-06: Miami Senior H.S. (Head coach/Offensive coordinator)
2007-12: Florida International (Wide receivers)
2013-18: App State (Co-Offensive coordinator, Passing game/QBs)
2019-20: Louisville (Passing game coordinator/QBs)
1989-90: Arizona Western (QB)
Alma Mater: Florida International, 1997
Hometown: Miami, Fla.
Birthdate: April 3, 1971
Sons: Frankie, Lucas
Daughters: Isabel, Leah