Florida Atlantic Owls
FAU made some major waves when they hired controversial coach Lane Kiffin this off-season, and he has gotten to work doing what Kiffin does, as he has already offered a scholarship to at least one kid that is not yet in high school. Hiring Kiffin was a slippery slope for FAU, but they needed a big name with the hire of Butch Davis at FIU. This hire will create attention, if nothing more, but will it be enough to move the Owls up in the CUSA East?
What To Be Excited About: Offense
The run game is in solid hands with the return of both Devin Singletary and Gregory Howell, Jr. They combined for 1849 yards and 25 scores last fall, and will be one of the better combo sets at RB in the nation this fall. Expect the offense to center around the run game early, even if that is not what Kiffin normally would do.
Kalib Woods is back for his senior season at WR, and was the lone bright spot at receiver last fall, when he caught 68 passes for 934 yards and a score while averaging 5.7 receptions per game. Tavaris Harrison also returns, and caught 18 passes for 304 yards last fall, and he could be a big play threat if he can break through this fall. He averaged 16.89 yards per catch last season. Henry Bussey caught 24 passes last fall, and could be in a fight at the slot with Kamrin Solomon, who caught just 12 passes last fall.
The line should be a better unit this fall, as four starters return. Antonyo Woods made a switch from LT to C in spring ball, with Reggie Bain stepping into the LT job. Ramon Fernandez will be back at LG, Brandon Walton moves from backup LT to starting at RG, and Matt Weiner is back at RT. Jakobi Smith, who started at RG, will fight it out for the starting job at RG with Walton.
PK Greg Joseph was not perfect last fall, but he was solid enough when needed, as he hit 10/14 FG attempts.
What To Be Concerned About: Offense
Jason Driskell is back at QB, but he was hardly an All-Star last fall, as he passed for just nine scores in 12 games, while tossing 11 INTs. De'Andre Johnson, a sophomore, is in the lead for the primary backup spot, but has no experience.
The line is making a bunch of changes, despite so much talent returning. If the changes don't take, it could disrupt anything that is going good for the Owls as they head into a rather tough schedule, such as the run game.
The Owls also need to find more consistency at WR, and also must find a new starter at TE, if the passing game is to develop better than it has.
What To Be Excited About: Defense
The Owls have two of three starters returning at LB this fall in Ocie Rose and Azeez Al-Shaair. Al-Shaair is the star of the defense, as he led the team with 112 tackles last fall. Rose finished with 48 on the season. Al-Shaair also added 11 TFLs, two sacks, and two QB hurries.
The secondary will return intact in 2017. Shelton Lewis and Raekwon Williams will return at CB, while Andrew Soroh and Jalen Young will be back at Safety. Williams led the team with nine PBUs.
What To Be Concerned About: Defense
Losing Trey Hendrickson at DE is a tough loss, and would be for any team in the nation. He finished with 15 TFLs and 9.5 sacks last season, and it may take more than one player to replace that production. Shalom Ogbondo is also gone at DT. Haiden Nagel is back at DE, as is Steven Leggett at DT.
Dalton Schomp had a rock solid season at Punter last fall, but he is now gone, and a replacement must be found in fall camp. RS senior Ryan Rickel is the likely candidate for the job.
The biggest concern is overall production across the board, as the Owls allowed 39.8 points per game, 245.42 yards rushing per game, and 268 yards passing. That is about the worst total combo you can have.
2017 Schedule: 9/1 Navy, 9/9 at Wisconsin, 9/16 Bethune-Cookman, 9/23 at Buffalo, 9/30 at Middle Tennessee, 10/7 at Old Dominion, 10/21 North Texas, 10/28 at Western Kentucky, 11/3 Marshall, 11/11 at Louisiana Tech, 11/18 FIU, 11/25 at Charlotte
I am sure that everyone around this program is excited about the Kiffin hire, but he has largely not succeeded anywhere he has ever been before, and he will have far fewer resources at this job than he has ever had. I don't care about the buzz around him, this season will largely be a feeling out session for this football team to see where they are. I see the Owls as a four win team, and that is absolutely a best case scenario.