Atlantic begins preparing for its fifth season today, but in many ways the
Owls are starting over.
"We will have to go out and use this time to work on blocking and
tackling," coach Howard Schnellenberger said.
The camp will be heavy on fundamentals, as FAU needs to replace 26 seniors.
Owls expect to have 43 redshirt and true freshmen
on the field for the first practice this afternoon. "And a lot of them
will have to play," Schnellenberger said.
Many key positions are still open, and Schnellenberger
expects competition for some spots to continue through the season as the Owls
FAU went 9-3 last season, its last as an independent and first year of its
two-year transition from Division I-AA to I-A.
This year the Owls join the Sun Belt Conference and play a full I-A schedule,
including games against Louisville, Kansas, Minnesota and Oklahoma State.
Schnellenberger has been walking a fine line when
talking about this season, guaranteeing that FAU will play hard, while at the
same time warning fans that it could be difficult.
"We have to be realistic and understand we are preparing for the
future," Schnellenberger said.
All preseason rankings have FAU at or near the bottom of the 119 I-A teams
because FAU lost so much.
The Owls will replace four-year starting quarterback Jared Allen with Danny Embick. But aside from senior tight end Dantson Dareus, the picture is
At wide receiver, none of the contenders has caught a pass in a game. Junior
Casey McGahee and freshman Frantz Simeon have the
edge at the moment.
At running back, sophomores B.J. Manley and Dominic Walker will begin atop
the depth chart, with redshirt freshman Charles
Pierre in the mix.
The offensive line has limited experience but appears set, with juniors Nello Faulk and Stetson Wilson and sophomores Brandon
Jackson, Jarrid Smith and Antes Perkins.
The defense has three returning senior starters -- linebacker Shomari Earls and defensive backs Willie Hughley and Lawrence Gordon -- and a lot of questions.
The defensive line is wide open, especially since
senior Jason Pugh was injured in weight training and is out for the season.
That leaves sophomore Josh Pinnick as the most
experienced player, with freshmen E.J. Jones, Jervonte
Jackson and Vinnie Henderson and sophomore Josh
Jenkins competing for starting spots.
Earls will anchor the defensive line at middle linebacker, but will find two
rookies beside him. Senior Kinyumba Mutakabbir has had an injury-plagued career, and
sophomore Cergile Sincere has seen most of his
action on special teams.
Hughley and Gordon are solid, but safety became a
concern when starter Taheem Acevedo dislocated his
ankle in a spring scrimmage and will probably miss all of this season. FAU
had also expected Christian Amaya to return, but he
ran out of eligibility and is appealing to the NCAA.
Despite the inexperience and tough schedule, Earls is excited about this
"We'll miss those guys who laid the foundation, but we are going to
build on that. There is a lot of talent here," said Earls.
FAU will practice at 3:30 p.m. through Friday, with the first of four
three-a-days Saturday. All practices are open to the public.