FAU's younger players ready to take control

Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

BOCA RATON Before the first practice of the 2005 season Monday, Florida Atlantic's players ran past a new monument at the Tom Oxley Practice Fields built to honor the more than 30 players from last year's senior class.

Gone are former four-year starters such as quarterback Jared Allen and linebacker Chris Laskowski.

While the Owls certainly could use those players who helped build the program when they open their season Sept. 3 against Kansas, FAU did its best to move on and prepare for life without them.

"If we have any lingering memories of them, then we haven't done what we have asked the rest of them to do," Owls coach Howard Schnellenberger said of the former players who were noticeably absent Monday. "We can remember their accomplishments in the still of the night, but we need to think about the work at hand."

In the place of those seniors, some of whom played in every game in FAU history, are 53 freshman who at this time last year were going through high school practices.

In one year, Florida Atlantic has gone from the most experienced team in college football, to one of the least experienced, with just 17 seniors coming into camp this season.

"Everyone is a competitor out here," freshman receiver Cortez "Snoop" Gent said of his first practice in a FAU uniform. "I know nothing will be just given to me. I think I worked hard over the summer and I think it's showing off."

The next wave of FAU players will be required to leave their own mark.

The players already have noticed a difference in intensity and urgency this year, without the former players.

"We'll bring them along as fast as we can and as slow as we must," Schnellenberger said of the younger players.

But the older players, especially the six returning starters, are ready for the challenge.

"We're going to miss them a lot, but there are other guys out here now to look up to," said senior linebacker Shomari Earls, a Palm Beach Gardens graduate.

Noteworthy: Running back Roderick Ferguson, linebacker Christopher Goff and defensive lineman Eldrid Jones did not report with the rest of the freshman. Ferguson, considered to be one of the top recruits of the class, likely will play for a junior college while Goff and Jones could still play this season if their academic issues are cleared up.... Starting senior defensive tackle Jason Pugh tore a chest muscle lifting weights last week and will miss this season.... The career of defensive back Christian Amaya, who was projected to be a starter, is over after the NCAA did not grant him a sixth year of eligibility