> Everyone always wants to read about L.A.T. (Life After Tebow) or L.A.B.B. (Life After Bobby Bowden) so I thought I’d switch it up and give some love to one of the smaller schools in the state of Florida, Florida Atlantic. Despite finishing 5-7 last season, the Owls can look to build on winning three of their final four games. In fact, they were two two-point losses to Louisiana-Monroe and Wyoming from finishing 7-5 and qualifying for their third ever bowl.
Offense - There were some bright spots for last year’s offense, as well as some not so bright spots. Games that saw the team score 35 (Arkansas State), 44 (North Texas) and 51 (Louisiana-Lafayette) were offset by games where they scored three (Nebraska) and 16 (South Carolina). Luckily for coach Howard Schellenberger, many key pieces return for the 2010 season.
The Owls bring back the most important player on the offense in quarterback Jeff Van Comp. Van Comp saw plenty of action last year, playing in 10 games. In those 10 games, he completed nearly 60 percent of his passes, while throwing for 1,372 yards and 12 touchdowns and throwing only two interceptions. David Kooi will have to fight off three other quarterbacks on the roster to earn the backup spot. He is the only one who has seen any game time, however, as he appeared in three games.
The team also returns last year’s starting running back in Alfred Morris. Morris led the team in rushing with 1,392 our of the team’s 1,829 rushing yards and 11 of of 17 touchdowns.
Unfortunately for Van Comp, his receiving unit will essentially be all new, as they lose their top six receivers from 2009. But luckily for the Owls, the three receivers from last year all saw playing time. The top returning wideout is senior Avery Holley. Holley caught 22 balls in 2009 for 224 yards and a touchdown. Tight end Darian Williams also returns after coming up with 14 receptions for 214 yards and two touchdowns.
Defense - Like the offense, the defense had quite the uneven season and will have to improve their points per game average of nearly 34 points given up per game. The team did cause 17 turnovers last year though.
The defensive backfield returns as the strongest part of the 2010 defense. Safety Marcus Bartels was last year’s leading tackler and he returns for his junior year. He finished last year with 112 tackles, an interception and three passes broken up. His safety-mate, Ed Alexander, also returns after finishing last year fourth in tackles with 66 and a team-high five pass breakups. Corner Tavious Polo had 47 tackles, four for loss and an interception. Brantely Harstad led the team with two interceptions from his free safety spot.
While the secondary might be the top defensive unit, the linebackers are not far behind. Senior Michael Lockley returns after finishing second on the team in tackles. The middle linebacker had 97 tackles, seven and a half for loss and two fumble recoveries. Malik Eugene also returns as a linebacker after being in on 34 tackles, four for loss and three fumble recoveries, a team-high. David Hinds backs up Lockley and put up 24 tackles, two for loss and a sack as a true freshman.
The front four returns three starters from the 2009 squad, led by end Kevin Cyrille. Cyrille finished last year with 40 tackles, a team-high 11.5 for loss and tied for the team lead in sacks with three. Dino Cox started 10 games on his way to 24 tackles, five for loss and three sacks. Daniel Joseph had 23 tackles, four and a half for loss.
Recruiting - The Owls bring in a small class, signing only 12 student-athletes. Of those 12, it is of seven offensive and five defensive players. Steven Curtis comes in as potentially the quarterback of the future (one of two QB signees) after a stellar career in South Carolina. He threw for 6,765 yards and 76 touchdowns, while rushing for 1,071 yards and 29 scores during his three-year career. Cortez Ash will continue the line of successful safeties. As a senior, he recorded 92 tackles, six sacks, two interceptions and eight blocked punts. Defensive tackle recruit Jerome McClain might challenge for playing time right away, as he comes to FAU after a senior year where he had 88 tackles, eight sacks, one interception and a touchdown.
Schedule - The Owls go on the road for their first two games, traveling to UAB and playing Michigan State in a neutral site game in Detroit. After the two road games, the team jumps right into conference play as it hosts North Texas. The team will then take a break from conference play to travel to Tampa and face the Bulls of South Florida. Unfortunately after the USF game, three of the next four games, all conference games, are on the road. Back-to-back road games at Louisiana-Monroe and Arkansas State are followed by a home game against FIU and a road game at Western Kentucky, followed by a home game against Louisiana-Lafayette. The Owls then go into Austin to face the University of Texas, before ending their season with a conference road game at Middle Tennessee and a season-ending home game against Troy.