Florida Atlantic Scouting Report

This is not your Florida Atlantic Owls of yesteryear, or even last year. The reason is simple; they have grown up. They have nine starters returning on offense that played in the 48-8 loss to the Cowboys in 2006, and five of those played against the Cowboys at Dolphins Stadium in 2005. On defense, there are 10 returning starters from last season, and nine played against OSU in Florida in 2005.

On special teams they have two returning starters. Experience alone makes these Owls a better team, but confidence also plays a factor. Since losing to the Cowboys last season the Owls are 6-4 with five of those wins, including the season opener against Middle Tennessee, coming in the Sun Belt Conference.

Oklahoma State is 4-7 since beating Florida Atlantic in the third game of 2006. To be fair, Middle Tennessee coughed up the football four times in the ballgame to help the Owls huge in field position.

Offense: Head coach Howard Schnellenberger is a classic old-school coach that likes to run the football and throw the ball downfield with pocket passing. He has his runners in chunky speedster Charles Pierre (5-9, 195) and B.J. Manley (5-9, 190). The pair combined for 161 yards of the 216 yards in the season-opening 27-14 win over MTSU. Pierre had 95 yards on 16 carries for 5.9 yards per carry.

Out of the I-formation, gun, and one-back, Rusty Smith (6-5, 212) has size and a strong arm. In the opener he completed 12-of-26 for 195 yards and two touchdowns, including a 42-yarder. He threw no interceptions which was progress after throwing eight last season. Schnellenberger says he has a good mind for the game and managed the opener well.

The receivers have some speed and Cortez Gent (6-2, 170) has some size. Jason Harmon came up big in the opener with two receptions for 57 yards and a touchdown. The tight ends are pass receiver types with 6-4, 225-pound size. The offensive line is small with center Nick Paris (6-1, 290) being the biggest. The line averages 265 pounds across with left guard David Matlock at 6-2, 239 pounds.

Defense: This may be the side of the ball that has come the farthest for the Owls. Middle Tennessee is no jaugernaut, but FAU allowed only 18 rushing yards for an average of 0.6 a carry in the opener. Overall, they allowed just 217 yards and one of the MTSU touchdowns came courtesy of a blocked punt.

The defensive line is solid with end Robert St. Clair (6-4, 250) coming up with a sack and a half -- out of the four the Owls had last week. Strongside linebacker Andre Clark is the most active defender with eight tackles in the opener along with a sack and another tackle for loss. Middle linebacker Joseph Frantz (6-1, 229) matched those numbers right down to the sack and extra tackle for loss.

Weakside linebacker Cergile Sincere (6-0, 215) is a speedy backer that makes things happen and is the defensive team leader. The secondary is also solid with strong safety Kris Bartels (5-10, 200) being a leader. All have good size except pint-size right corner Tavious Polo (5-10, 146).

Special Teams: LeRoy Warley is a dependable kicker that hit two of his three tries in the opener with the only miss coming beyond 40 yards. He was 9-of-14 last season. Punter Keegan Peterson averaged only 37.4 yards on five punts, but Mickey Groody got one chance and banged a 40-yarder. Remember, the Owls had a punt blocked. The return game was average in the opener, but Avery Holley has the reputation of being an outstanding returner on kickoffs. Last week Cardayle Brantley handled punt returns and Willie Floyd had the only kickoff return. The cover units, while quick, can be exposed.

Florida Atlantic Head Coach Howard Schnellenberger quotes: "It's not hard for even fans to follow a young team and watch them grow. Last year we were predominately sophomores and freshmen and this year we are predominately sophomores and juniors. For the first time since we were back in I-AA, our first and second year, do we have an experienced team. We have 44 players now that have 24 games of experience over the last two years. Of course, we had to pay dearly for that losing the four games we call the advanced training games, what we call our non-conference schedule, but we ended up with a 5-7 record with four of those wins coming in the Sun Belt Conference and that is what is really important to us right now."

"Last year we moved the ball reasonably well against (Middle Tennessee) but they beat us 35-14. We made a lot of mistakes like a kickoff return for a touchdown and giving up a couple of long touchdown passes. This year they were not as good. They were breaking in a new quarterback and our quarterback is in his second year, Rusty Smith, who I think is going to be a big leaguer. We have some receivers, running backs, a couple of tight ends, and some experience in the offensive line. We're not near in the classification of Oklahoma State yet, but I think we'll give them a better game than we did last year. That's what we are here to do is develop a football team and if we can win the Sun Belt Conference then we will have a great year regardless of what happens here in the non conference schedule."

"Rusty is in his sophomore year and I started him in the Clemson game last year and that was a terrible mistake in that he was not ready. I can see why I did because he has the natural talent to be a great one. I thought maybe I could hasten the time line. He is 6-6, 225, and has a great arm. He has a good mind for the game and reminds me of (Bernie) Kosar in his delivery and his stature."

"Charles Pierre is a short stocky running back that has good quick action, good quick moves. He will get what the line blocks and then will get some additional yardage. He is so intent at getting through the hole that he doesn't survey the situation before that last cut."

"I have yet to beat them (OSU) whether when I was at Oklahoma or here. They sure have a lot better football team then when I was at Oklahoma. The only film we get to see from this year is the Georgia game, and Georgia is certainly a fine football team and playing behind the hedges is no place for the faint hearted to go in and play a game of football. Even though they didn't win they certainly got a great deal of experience and did a lot of great things in the game. Their secondary is sound that they play a variety of things back there. This new zone blitz thing they are employing is the wave of the present and the future and certainly gives a team that likes to throw the football trouble. The days of knowing when they blitz and when there is one-on-one coverage is over and that makes it tough for those of us that like to throw the football. Offensively, I haven't looked at a lot of tape, but they sure had a good running game against us last year."

Florida Atlantic QB Rusty Smith quote:"They're (OSU) gonna be bigger, faster, and stronger. So we're going to go into this game prepared to play harder to play stronger and to play bigger than this past week."

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