Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
BOCA RATON — Florida Atlantic receiver Cortez Gent was always confident he would emerge as a big-play receiver for the Owls.
But even Gent, a sophomore, didn't know it would happen this season.
Before training camp began it was thought that Gent would battle for a starting spot with two returning wideouts from last season.
Instead, Gent has emerged as the Owls' best receiver.
"I kept hearing that I was a year or two away," Gent said. "But I knew I was brought here to make plays and that was my job. Is it shocking to me? No. Is it shocking to some people? Yes."
Gent leads the team with 564 yards receiving and has five touchdowns.
"Gent is a big-time receiver," said FAU coach Howard Schnellenberger.
"He's very equipped to handle it mentally and I'm not surprised he's taken the lead on this."
Gent had 79 yards on seven receptions last season, but with 2006 starters Frantz Simeon and Chad Wilkes returning this season, it was thought Gent was going to play a supporting role.
However, when Simeon was declared academically ineligible and Wilkes hurt his hamstring in pre-season training camp, Gent became the receiver with the most experience almost overnight.
At 6-feet-1, 180-pounds, Gent is quick and athletic enough to get open easily. Gent came to FAU from Chiefland High School where he played football, basketball and baseball.
"He kept a ball in his hands all the time," said Gent's grandmother, Bernadine Gent, who along with her husband, Willie, raised Cortez from when he was a baby.
"My father was in trouble with the law and I don't even know the situation with my mother, but my grandparents adopted me and raised me and they are the world to me," Gent said.
It may not have been easy for his grandparents to raise young Cortez, but it was rewarding for them.
"He had lots of energy when he was growing up, but he was such a joy to have in the house," Bernadine said.
Gent missed the Owls' game vs. Oklahoma State this season when Willie Gent died on Sept. 5 at 86 after a long illness.
"He was a great person and him and my grandmother are the reason I'm where I am in my life," Gent said.
Gent attributes his success on the field to three years of practicing with Owls quarterback Rusty Smith, who is also a redshirt sophomore.
Smith and Gent not only have worked together for the past two seasons, but they took redshirt seasons in 2005 and practiced together on FAU's scout team.
"After three years we are on the same page," Gent said.
"He knows what route I'm going to run and I know he's going to throw a tight ball and it's just taking off. We've been doing it for so long, I don't even consider us underclassmen."
Owls have long bye-bye
Because the Owls' season extends to Dec.'1, they faced the unusual situation of having two bye weeks this season. Last week was FAU's second idle week since Oct. 13. For a team like FAU, it helps. The Owls' biggest problem is depth and having some off time helps starters get healthy.
Polo off pace
Freshman cornerback Tavious Polo hasn't had an interception since the Sept. 29 game vs. Kentucky, but that doesn't mean Polo has lost his touch. The word is out on Polo and lately teams are doing their best to not throw to his side of the field. Polo still leads the nation with seven interceptions.
Defense fired up
The Owls' defense has been giving up big yardage and big plays recently, but Saturday it faces a team it has dominated. Arkansas State has scored three total points in two games against the Owls, including last season's 29-0 loss to FAU when the Indians threw five interceptions. This could be exactly the kind of game the Owls' defense needs to regain its confidence.