Previewing Florida Atlantic

Fine, so Florida Atlantic didn't set the Sun Belt world on fire in the first season in the big leagues after going 9-3 in 2004.

Fine, so Florida Atlantic won't set the Sun Belt world on fire in its second season in the big leagues after going 2-9 in 2005 and with a boatload of young players needing to fill key roles.

It doesn't matter right now.

A team can go from the outhouse to the penthouse in a big hurry in the Sun Belt, and Howard Schnellenberger's program has the potential to be a champion very soon.

With the south Florida recruiting base to draw from and a recent history of success, at least, one year of success, FAU could quickly become a major thorn in the Sun Belt's side with enough good athletes and the solid coaching to become a yearly contender.

However, the team will have to go through some major growing pains this season with a ridiculously young defense and an offense that might not be a whole bunch better after only scoring 148 points last season. Call it a possible step back to take a giant leap forward.

The 2007 Owls will have experience and depth to burn just about everywhere.

The 2006 Owls have to find some semblance of a pass rush after generating six sacks last season. They have to get a more consistent passing game going despite losing the top two receivers and leader Danny Embick at quarterback. They also have to navigate their way through a brutal first half of the season with a defensive front seven that's among the smallest in the country, an offensive line with little depth, and special teams that were a nightmare last season and are in total disarray going into this year.

However, the cupboard isn't completely bare. The backfield has several good running backs to choose from, the safeties should be among the deepest in the Sun Belt, and there's more than enough quickness to go around.

Once again, it doesn't take much to make a big jump up in the Sun Belt, so the hope is for a bit of improvement by late October when the meat of the conference schedule kicks in.

The Schedule: Yumpin yiminy .... five straight road games to start the season. Seven road games in all along with a neutral site date with FIU. At Clemson, at Kansas State, at Oklahoma State and at South Carolina before starting the Sun Belt season at UL Monroe. Good luck with that. Things ease up over the second half of the year and there's a nice break getting last year's conference heavyweights UL Lafayette and Arkansas State at home. Going on the road to face MTSU and North Texas isn't a plus.

With the south Florida recruiting base to draw from and a recent history of success, at least, one year of success, FAU could quickly become a major thorn in the Sun Belt's side with enough good athletes and the solid coaching to become a yearly contender.
Best Offensive Player: Sophomore RB DiIvory Edgecomb. The quick sophomore can not only serve as the team's best running back, he can also turn into one of the team's best receivers if needed. The offense will find several ways to use his talent.

Best Defensive Player: Sophomore DT Jervonte Jackson. The safeties are among the team's best defenders with Taheem Acevedo, Kris Bartels and Greg Joseph all able to be big playmakers, but Jackson has the best upside. He's 280 pounds and quick enough to be a good interior pass rusher.

Key player to a successful season: Redshirt freshman QB Rusty Smith (6-5, 212). It was a quarterback derby between Frank Messina, Rusty Smith, and the speedy McKinson Souverain with Clayton the most experienced and steadiest. However it was the redshirt freshman Smith who was named the starter this week by Schellenberger. The offense was awful last season and won't be any better unless Smith becomes a playmaker.

The season will be a success if ... FAU wins four games. Forget about a win until October, but that's not to say the Owls can't pull off a few road wins in conference play and win a few home games to double last year's victory total.

Key game: Sept. 30 at UL Monroe. The Sun Belt opener will be the first game FAU has a chance to play someone its own size. After losing 28-21 in last year's conference opener to the Indians, the Owls could use the win to signal that 2006 could be a vastly different season.

2005 Fun Stats: * Sacks: Opponents 34 for 227 yards - Florida Atlantic 6 for 23 yards

* Third quarter scoring: Opponents 91 - Florida Atlantic 27

* Field goals: Opponents 13 of 21 - Florida Atlantic 4 of 10

The Last Time Florida Atlantic:
…played in a bowl game…never
…missed a bowl game…2005
…pitched a shutout…2004 (Illinois State)
…was shutout…2005 (Arkansas State)
…scored 50 points…2003 (Siena)
…went undefeated…never
…won a conference title…never
…had a 3,000-yard passer…2003 (Jared Allen)
…had a 1,000-yard rusher…never
…had a 1,000-yard receiver…2003 (Anthony Crissinger-Hill)
…had a first-round draft choice…never

CUTigers.com Top Stories