FAU's secondary needs some second-guessing

Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Sunday, August 28, 2005

BOCA RATON Florida Atlantic coach Howard Schnellenberger has said the 2005 schedule will prepare the Owls for what they will face next season and beyond.

While FAU has its eye on getting better in the future, it still needs to be competitive this season. And a recent rash of injuries has made planning for anything beyond this season difficult.

Several freshman are listed on the two-deep chart and probably won't be able to use 2005 as a redshirt season.

FAU also has moved freshman receivers John Jones and Terence Hall to running back.

And Schnellenberger had several freshman receivers demonstrate what they could do at defensive back recently for a possible move from offense to defense.

The Owls have depth in the secondary, but nearly every player on the two-deep chart is a senior. By moving younger players to the defense, FAU is creating an opportunity for more experience at the position next season even though some of the freshmen could contribute at receiver in 2005.

"We are going to have to put three of them on defense," Schnellenberger said. "We don't know which ones. We're doing a study and they look like they play better on offense. We have to be thinking down the line a little bit. There aren't very many freshman and sophomores there and we have to prepare."

It hasn't been determined which players might move over, but it's a clear sign the Owls are thinking about 2006 and beyond instead of just this season.

"We are just trying to get as deep as possible," said senior cornerback Quincy Skinner. "We need some open competition back there."

With a opening stretch of games of Kansas, Oklahoma State and Minnesota, even the optimistic Schnellenberger has warned fans that the Owls probably won't have a perfect season.

"In all probability we aren't going to win the national championship season, but we'll try to do the next best thing and win the Sun Belt Conference," Schnellenberger said.

The players know what they are up against.

It's been a long time since the Owls were concerned about anything but the season at hand.

For the past four seasons, FAU's immediate concern was developing players as fast as possible. The plan worked as the Owls went 20-6 through the past two seasons. However, FAU did little to develop young players in that span.

As a result, the Owls will take the field for their opener Sept. 3 against Kansas as one of the least experienced teams in Division I-A.

"It's amazing what a 2-9 season can do for you if you work hard and understand why you aren't ahead when the whistle goes off," Schnellenberger said. "We went 'rough it' in 2002 and without that season we never would had done the things we did here the last two years."

Noteworthy: FAU senior linebacker Shomari Earls, a Palm Beach Gardens graduate, has been named to the watch list for the Butkus Award, given to the best linebacker in college football.