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With Charlie Partridge at the helm, Florida Atlantic is recruiting like a program that’s ready to be competitive. Now they just need some tangible results to go along with those recruiting numbers.
Jaquez Johnson should be one of the top quarterbacks in the conference, and barring injury he will be the top running quarterback and the most exciting. For a scrambling quarterback, Johnson did a good job of protecting the football last year. He only turned the ball over eight total times, and produced 24 touchdowns and over 2,800 yards.
Johnson should also have a solid group in front of him to keep him from getting hit too frequently. Both guards and LT Reggie Bain have twelve or more starts, and C Joe Gold started six games last year as a true freshman. UCF transfer Kelly Parfitt is expected to step in and start immediately. He was highly thought of coming out of high school and it’s an encouraging sign that he was named the starter in the spring.
If the Owls are going to take a step forward though, they will need more production from the other skill guys. Jay Warren was the feature back last year, but he had the same number of touchdowns as fumbles lost (2). He has to do better than that or sophomore Greg Howell, who had 5.1 yards per carry as a freshman, to replace him as the primary back. True freshman Trey Rodriguez is also a potential impact freshman in the backfield.
Similarly, the receiving corps was devoid of big play receivers, and the Owls lose their top possession receiver, Lucky Whitehead. Jenson Stoshak returns and should at least be a viable downfield threat.
Florida Atlantic was miserable against the run last season, but there is reason to believe in improvement. How much/if they improve will probably be one of the bigger determining factors in how many games the Owls win. DT Trevon Coley and DE Trey Hendrickson are two of the biggest, literally and figuratively, reasons for optimism. They combined for 15 tackles for loss and 9 sacks last year, plus an interception for good measure.
Andrae Kirk was far and away the most productive linebacker in Boca Raton last year, and he’s gone, but Robert Relf and Jerrad Ward are experienced replacements that played in almost every game last year anyway. To help them out, expect young guys like Kris Harris and Jaye Miner to step in and play immediately. Both of these freshmen (Harris a redshirt) were three star recruits out of high school.
Secondary was easily the strength of this team last year, and despite some turnover, that will likely again be the case. Cre’von LeBlanc picked off two passes last year at cornerback and was third on the team in tackles (leading returner). Sharrod Neasman and Raekwon Williams also appeared in every game last year, and Neasman also managed two interceptions. There’s also a myriad of young guys waiting in the wings with seven freshmen or redshirt freshmen in the secondary who were three-star high school recruits.
With Tulsa, Buffalo, and Charlotte all on the September schedule, Florida Atlantic has a great chance to start 3-1, and if they do, that momentum could push them past this prediction. However, if they only go 2-2 or 1-3 entering October it might be a long season. Most of the Owls easiest games come on the road this year, but FAU was poor away from home last season. If they can improve on the road, then bowl eligibility isn’t out of the question.
Credit Cover Photo to Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY Sports