This is a transitional time for Florida Atlantic, as they are going into their first year under new coach Carl Pelini. Pelini, who becomes only the second coach in the schools 11-year program history, is replacing legendary coach Howard Schnellenberger. Pelini comes over from Nebraska, where he was defensive coordinator under his brother Bo.
Offense: Unlike many first year coaches, Pelini has the luxury of having top players from every position back for another year. The top three quarterbacks, led by Graham Wilbert, return for another year. Wilbert, David Kooi and Stephen Curtis all saw playing time last year, but it was Wilbert who got the majority of the snaps. He finished with 1,459 yards and seven touchdowns, but will need to cut down on his interceptions, as he threw 14 last season.
Possibly the running game is the one that is the most inexperienced, as last year’s top rusher, Alfred Morris has left. Xavier Stinson is the most experienced running back, but he is more effective as a receiver out of the backfield.
If the FAU spread offense is going to be more of a passing based one, they look to be set at the receiver position. Wilbert brings back x of his top receivers from a year ago, including top players DeAndre Richardson, Nexon Dorvilus and Marcus Cunningham. Richardson caught a team-best 32 balls for 269 yards. Dorvilus had 20 for 226 and a touchdown and Cunningham 18 for 257 and a score. In all, the Owls bring back seven of last year’s top 10 receivers.
Defense: The Owls are stocked at linebacker. Last year’s top three tacklers were linebackers. And all three are back this year. David Hinds had 110 tackles last season to lead the team. Randell Johnson had quite the year, as he racked up 92 tackles, including 14.5 tackles for loss, five sacks and four forced fumbles. The third linebacker is Andrae Kirk, who finished with 87 tackles and two fumble recoveries.
The secondary is pretty set, as well. Treon Howard had 46 tackles and two interceptions from one cornerback spot. Keith Reaser is at the other corner position after a 61 tackle, two interception and seven pass breakup season. Demetrius Williamson comes back at free safety, a year after racking up 63 tackles, an interception and five pass breakups.
Recruiting: FAU signed 23 players on National Signing Day, including six offensive lineman and five defensive. Denzel Whitfield starred on the defensive line as a senior, getting 101 tackles and 15 sacks. Josh Orsino had 85 catches for 1,739 yards and 17 touchdowns. The running game will get a boost with the addition of three running backs. Jarvon Anderson (102 carries, 1.034 yards and 10 touchdowns) and Jeremy Gaskin (1,300 yards, 12 touchdowns) come in with the top prep resumes.
Schedule: The schedule isn’t very kind to Pelini, as the third and fourth weeks of the season take the Owls to Georgia and Alabama. The last two games of the season, against FIU and Louisiana, are huge for the Owls.