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Posts from April 2011

Sunday's Daily Briefing: Dolphins, Seahawks considered Jean in the final round

Even in the closing minutes of Saturday's NFL draft, Lestar Jean still believed he might get chosen.

That thought was more than just wishful thinking from a player envisioning and NFL career.

As the seventh round unfolded, Jean said he received calls from Seattle and Miami representatives informing him that their clubs were considering him for their final pick.

Both teams, however, passed on the former FAU wide receiver.

“I'm not mad,” said Jean (photo by Ralph Notaro). “I was expecting to be a free agent.”

In a  normal year, being a free agent wouldn't be a worst case scenario. Jean could try to match his talents to the team that could use them the most. That's not the case this year – at least not yet.

The current lockout will keep NFL teams from signing free agents. That leaves Jean and former FAU teammates Jeff Van Camp and Michael Lockley in limbo.

“You really don't know as far as free agents go. Because of the lockout, teams can't really talk to you,” Jean said. “We just have to wait and see.”

Jean now has to wait for the labor dispute to work its way through the courts, or for a miraculous quick settlement between the two sides. On Friday the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals temporarily ruled in favor of the owners, reinstating a lockout that had been ended only days prior by another court decision. Should the latest stay be lifted, free agency could begin immediately.

The sooner the better for Jean, who worries that a lengthy lockout which drags into the summer could make NFL teams reluctant to sign free agents.

“If it was a normal year then it would be different,” Jean said. “(This year) some teams might just go to camp with the players that they have.”

While he waits, Jean said he might look to see whether any local high schools need an assistant football coach.

“I always felt like I was good enough to play in the NFL,” Jean said. “I proved that this year.”

Incidentally, Jean said he didn't watch the draft on Saturday (he was at the Universal Studios theme park in Orlando), but he did tune in on Friday in time to see Arizona select Rob Housler.

“I saw they talked about him and everything,” Jean said. “It was exciting to see someone you played with get drafted.”

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We were at the ballpark on Saturday to see the completion of Friday's rain-interrupted game against Troy (an FAU loss) and the regularly scheduled game (a win). Here's our recap.

We also told FAU fans that Baylor center Dragan Sekelja committed to transfer to FAU – 90 percent of the way, anyway. Let the Year of the Dragan begin! (Yes, I will beat that to death.)

Other linkage

The University Press covered the baseball games as well.

 

Baylor center Sekelja commits to transfer to FAU

Baylor center Dragan Sekelja says he told FAU coaches that he plans to transfer to Boca Raton provided his family is OK with the decision.

“Basically I am like 90 percent sure that I am going to play there when I am playing again,” Sekelja said on Saturday night.

Sekelja made an official visit to Boca Raton this weekend.

The Croatian center played in 23 games over the past two seasons for the Bears, scoring 32 points and grabbing 19 rebounds. He believes FAU's style of play will be a better fit for his skill set.

“Baylor is more running up and down,” said Sekelja, who considers himself to be more of a traditional post player. “We had some plays but it was kind of too wild. Basically, at Baylor you could only score if you got an offensive rebound.”

Sekelja said he felt comfortable with the current FAU players – especially when joining them for a pick-up game.

“I can score and I can pass real well out of the double team,” he said. “I'm mobile for a big guy. ...I think it might be a great fit for me over there.”

FAU first recruited Sekelja while he was still playing internationally. Prior to coming to the US, The Dragan averaged 19 points and 10 rebounds while leading Cirbona Zagreb to a third place finish at the Croatian Junior National Championships.

Sekelja said he chose Baylor over schools like Duke, Maryland and Connecticut. Since receiving his release from Baylor, Sekelja says he's received interest from Clemson, N.C. State and Providence.

Next week Sekelja plans to return to Croatia. Should he stick with his decision to transfer to FAU, Sekelja would return to Boca Raton for the second summer semester but is expected to have to sit out the 2011-12 season due to NCAA transfr rules.

Sekelja would be the fourth, and likely final, member of FAU's 2011 recruiting class, joining Omari Grier, Kelvin Penn and Julien Sargent. Sekelja is the lone transfer from a four-year school. Sargent comes to FAU from Miami Dade College.

Of the four, Kelvin Penn is the only player believed to have sent his completed National Letter of Intent  to FAU.

Saturday's Daily Briefing: Owls get another break from rain

Last season a rain delay on Friday night of a key Sun Belt series  had a big part in turning around FAU’s season as a spring storm delayed a game against league-leading Western Kentucky.


After that, ahem, eventful rain delay last season the Owls rallied to defeat the then No. 19 Hilltoppers 10-3 in the series opener and then went on to sweep the series, giving FAU the momentum it needed to win the Sun Belt Conference championship. 
 

This year, a rainy Friday night also could help the Owls – and some of the similaraities are eerie.


Like the Hilltoppers, the Trojans are also leading the Sun Belt and ranked No. 19 in the nation.
 

The way the rain could help the Owls today isn’t quite the same, however. After Friday’s game started 90 minutes late due to the rain, FAU fell behind early after starter Ryan Garton (pictured) was shelled, giving up six runs in the second inning.
 

Against Troy ace Tyler Ray that can be a death sentence. However, when the rain fell later, Ray was removed from the equation as the game was suspended in the top of the fourth inning with FAU trailing 6-3.
 

When the Owls and Trojans resume play at 1 p.m. Saturday, Ray likely won’t be able to return to the mound.
 

While the Owls were starting to reach Ray, who entered the game among the nation's leaders at 9-0, that’s a big break for FAU.
 

Could it be enough for the Owls to come back and win the game and possibly win the series? There is a lot of baseball to be played between now and Sunday afternoon, but the rain at least gives FAU a much better shot.
 

Owl Links

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FAUOwlAccess.com talked with FAU tight end Rob Housler shortly after he was drafted and had this story on the eventful day for Housler.

Other linakge

More on Housler: Miami Herald / Palm Beach Post / Tucson Citizen

Also the Miami Herald's recruiting guru Larry Blustein had a nice piece on the Owls' recruiting

Breaking News: Housler selected in third round of NFL draft

Former FAU tight end Rob Housler will make his new home in Arizona.

The Cardinals drafted Housler in the third round of Friday's NFL draft. He was the 69th pick overall.

Housler becomes the highest drafted FAU player in program history, supplanting quarterback Rusty Smith who was selected by Tennessee in the sixth round of the 2010 draft.

The 6-foot-5 Housler caught 39 passes for 629 yards and four touchdowns as a senior. Two of those touchdowns came at Texas, Housler's home state.

Arizona was among the teams that worked Housler out prior to the draft. He is the first Sun Belt player chosen this year.

Here is Housler's draft profile.


 

Friday's Daily Briefing: Scheffler's return could boost defense, too

If FAU has any hopes of winning the Sun Belt regular season title, taking two of three this weekend from Troy is a must. The RPI boost from two wins could go a long way toward helping the Owls nab an NCAA at-large bid, should that become necessary.

Just before the big series, which begins today at 6:30 p.m.  FAU received a big dose of good news with the possible return of first baseman Dan Scheffler.

Scheffler's return to the lineup, be it for the first game of the series or later this weekend, will do more than add some punch to FAU's offense. It should also help the defense, too.

Sean Bukovich, Mike Spano and Mark Nelson have filled in at first over the past couple weeks. Normally a catcher, Spano (photo, left, congratulating Scheffler) looked surprisingly good over there, and Bukovich snagged some throws I doubt Scheffler would have pulled in.

Look for Bukovich to head back over to third where he's a better than average glove.

Bukovich and Joey Burkhalter had been platooning at third for much of the season. Burkhalter doesn't wield the glove Bukovich does but has been swinging a good bat, recording hits in seven of nine at-bats before going hitless on Sunday at Arkansas St.

At least for this weekend, look for McCormack to keep Burkhalter in the lineup as a DH. McCormack explained Burkhalter's recent streak by saying, “He's been a lot more aggressive.”

Spano, a lefthanded hitter, could also see some time at DH against righthanded pitching. I watched him take BP on Thursday and was once again impressed by the pop in his bat.

While the Owls' hitting and fielding may be about to receive a boost, their pitching suffered a blow last weekend when reliever Glen Troyanowski took himself out of a game with a sore elbow.

A former closer for FAU, Troyanowski was appearing in his fifth game of the season. He missed the beginning of the season, and most of last year, rehabbing from labrum surgery.

McCormack said Troyanowski spent Thursday undergoing an MRI and other tests. The skipper wasn't sure he'd have the results before Monday, but said he'd be “shocked” if Troyanowski pitched in another game this season.

FAU does catch somewhat of a break against Troy by not having a midweek game next week, which will allow midweek starter Jake Meiers to be available out of the pen in this weekend's all-important series.

Owl Links


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We attended baseball practice on Thursday to see Scheffler swing and talk to him about what to expect in his return. Here's the preview of the Troy series.

In case you missed it, toward the end of the day our Owl Things Considered blog told FAU basketball fans that the Year of the Dragan may be coming.

Other links:
The Sun-Sentinel offered this preview of the weekend baseball series. ..Titans QB Rusty Smith just got some competition after the Titans drafted quarterback Jake Locker.
 

FAU could be approaching the Year of the Dragan

By the end of the weekend, FAU basketball fans might be able to start looking forward to the Year of the Dragon.

To be more precise, it would be the year of Dragan – as in Dragan Sekelja. The former Baylor center  expects to transfer over the summer, and one of his top destinations is Florida Atlantic.

The Dragan is making his official visit to Boca Raton this weekend.

A 7-footer from Croatia, Sekelja played in 23 games over the past two seasons for the Bears, scoring 32 points and grabbing 19 rebounds.

Prior to coming to the US, he averaged 19 points and 10 rebounds while leading Cirbona Zagreb to a third place finish at the Croatian Junior National Championships.

Unlike some other players who have transferred to FAU, The Dragan may not be the reclamation project that his previous college stats may indicate. Sekelja played behind Perry Jones this season, who averaged 14 points and seven rebounds. Golden State selected Ekepe Udoh, the Bears center two seasons ago, with the sixth pick of the 2010 NBA Draft.

Perhaps more importantly, FAU pursued Sekelja before he signed with Baylor, which would seem to indicate that the FAU coaching staff believed he'd be a good fit in their system.
 

Thursday's Daily Briefing: A Lestar is reborn

With the NFL Draft finally upon us we here at FAUOwlAccess.com have made a choice: From here on out, say hi to Lestar.

More than a few FAU fans have asked why they keep seeing FAU wide receiver Lester Jean referred to as “Lestar Jean” in pre-draft articles. The answer is simple – that's his real name.

Even since he was in elementary school people have looked at the name and assumed it was supposed to be “Lester,” so teachers, classmates and friends called him Lester.

“People just used to think it was a typo,” Jean said. “I got tired of correcting people.”

That carried all the way through to his FAU career, where Jean (right, photo by Kelsey Hamilton) estimated that only a couple of his teammates knew his first name was really Lestar (emphasis on “STAR”).

At one point before the start of the season we even asked him which one he preferred, and he told us we might as well stick with Lester.

We figured that would work while he's still an Owl, but now that Jean is about to be an NFL player we're making the change. That's why he was Lestar Jean in yesterday's draft preview, and we changed his Draft Profile to Lestar.

We're not going to go back through all the stories we've written about Jean over the past few years – for Owl fans he will forever be Lester. Football fans across the country, however, are about to be introduced to Lestar.

And for those of you who may be just now learning about Jean or perhaps want to stroll down memory lane, be sure to check out that Lestar Jean Draft Profile. We also have a Draft  Profile for Rob Housler, Michael Lockley and Jeff Van Camp. These pages contain stories, videos and statistics on each player. Some pretty cool stuff there.

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In the draft preview mentioned above we talked with Rob Housler, Lestar Jean, Michael Lockley and Jeff Van Camp about the draft and how the NFL labor unrest could affect them.
 


Other linkage

The Orlando Sentinel reports FAU offers a player known as the Tonga Terror
 

Wednesday’s Daily Briefing: Wilbert catches a break, no break in fingers

FAU dodged its first bullet of the 2011 season when it received word on Tuesday that an X-Ray of Graham Wilbert’s fingers on his throwing hand showed no breaks.

As FAU coach Howard Schnellenberger himself Tweeted the fingers were “badly bent” but that beats broken any day and the good news is that means Wilbert will not have to undergo surgery like he did last season when he broke his thumb and missed the last two months of the season.

Instead Wilbert will have his hand in a splint and be out for 4-6 weeks during the period of the year when players are largely taking a break anyway to deal with those pesky exams and then taking a break before summer school.

FAU’s voluntary workout program is on hiatus until mid May, meaning Wilbert could be returning a few weeks after they start.

Not the best, but it could be much worse.

Wilbert was "bummed" about the events on Saturday after he hurt his hand in the Spring Game when his hand hit linebacker David Hinds' hand on a follow through. He told me “I don’t like any setbacks” in his battle – which he was winning – with David Kooi to be the starter.

Well, missing any time is indeed not good, but the news that there was no break in the fingers, is a lucky break for Wilbert.


Owl Links

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We had this exclusive report from FAU's Junior Pro Day as the soon-to-be seniors worked out for NFL scouts for the first time. Our members get the story on the 40-yard dash times. The video is free for all to enjoy.

 

Tuesday’s Daily Briefing: McCall leaves big shoes to fill for FAU

After news broke out of Gainesville that FAU assistant coach Matt McCall was indeed heading back to the Gators bench, I spent a large portion of the day trying to remember when an FAU basketball assistant made such a leap.
 

I couldn’t come up with one, but that isn’t surprising. The FAU basketball program has never been on stable footing like this before, and McCall had plenty to do with that.

McCall was a solid recruiter, who had great relationships with coaches throughout the state. Of course, he was instrumental in landing two products from the Gainesville area – guards Greg Gantt and Dennis Mavin.

McCall’s departure will create a void, but the opening likely will be filled by another qualified coach. After all, Jarvis isn’t just a shrewd evaluator of players, he also has an eye for developing coaches. McCall worked his way up at UF from student manager to director of basketball operations, but it was Jarvis who made McCall an assistant coach and sent him out on the road recruiting for the first time.

Three years later, McCall will be an assistant in the SEC.

So who is the next FAU assistant?

Rest assured there will be plenty interested in this job. Early names I am hearing are Pete Gash, FAU’s current Director of Basketball Operations, and former FAU guard Earnest Crumbley, who is coaching at Redlands Community College.

Jarvis wants to have his staff set quickly, so he may not venture too far outside the family for this one.

No matter who it is, due to McCall’s solid work the last three seasons, they will be stepping into a good situation.

Owl Links

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We talked to FAU coach Mike Jarvis about McCall's departure for this story.

Other linkage

More on McCall: OnlyGators.com / Gainesville Sun / Orlando Sentinel / Jacksonville Times-Union

Also, FAU tight end Rob Housler has quite a fan club in Buffalo. Who knew?

 

Monday's Daily Briefing: Huge weekend for FAU softball

We’re going to put football on hold for a brief while – or at least until the results come in from the X-Ray of the injured hand of quarterback Graham Wilbert.


Yes, with the fate of the 2011 football season hanging in the balance (not quite, but a significant injury to the defacto starting quarterback might be worth a mention) I’m going to take this opportunity to give readers an update on…wait for it…softball.


The FAU softball team may not have the following of some of the other sports on campus, but what the Owls accomplished this weekend is worth a mention.


FAU softball swept No. 17 Louisiana-Lafayette in three games in dramatic fashion, There were two extra-inning games on Saturday, including a walk-off home run in the nightcap. Sunday it was a two-hitter by Rose Gressley (photo by Stuart Browning) in a 6-2 FAU victory played under protest by the Ragin’ Cajuns after an obstruction call that led to an FAU run.


Yep, just an average day at the ballpark for the Owls, which also won a game on a walk-off homer vs. FIU last week and are 30-22 overall and 15-7 in the Sun Belt.


I’m not going to pretend to be an expert on college softball, but I do know these victories were huge and are on the lips of everyone at the Oxley Center today as coach Joan Joyce is congratulated over and over again.


ULL essentially owns the Sun Belt Conference – and has for some time. This was just the second time in program history ULL has been swept in a three-game Sun Belt series. This sweep is big news down in Cajun Country where softball is a BIG deal.


Here, maybe not so much, but the program definitely  deserves some attention - at least until Wilbert’s X-Ray.
 

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The FAU baseball team lost to Arkansas State 7-3. Here is our recap. …We had some breaking news on our blog, Owl Things Considered, as Kansas announced it will play host to FAU on Nov. 30.
 

Kansas announces Jayhawks to face FAU on Nov. 30

You may remember that we reported a few weeks ago that FAU was going to play Kansas in basketball next season.

Well, KU made it official and announced that FAU will face the Jayhawks on Nov. 30 at Phog Allen Fieldhouse.

Here is the official release from Kansas, which announced its non-conference schedule.

It will be FAU's second visit to Lawrence, Kan.

In the 2007-08 Rex Walters took the Owls to his alma mater and lost 87-49.

 

Sunday's Daily Briefing: Spring has mixed results for Owls

With the conclusion Saturday’s Spring Game, FAU’s spring drills are over.


What did the Owls learn during the last month?


Well, the question of who will be the starting quarterback looked like it might have an answer, until an unfortunate injury to the hand of starting quarterback Graham Wilbert made the picture a little murkier.


The play of the defense was perhaps the biggest pleasant surprise this spring as it showed a new aggressiveness that is sure to continue as the players become more comfortable with the new 3-4 scheme.


Much like the Spring Game itself, when it can be difficult to see if one side of the ball is good or if the other side is just bad, the spring was a mixed bag for FAU.


But what can’t be denied is that both sides of the ball showed improvement for the spring as a whole and that’s a good sign heading into the off-season and get ready for training camp in August.


Owl Links

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Complete coverage of FAU Spring Game. Recap, video highlights, stats and more can be found here. ...FAU defeated Arkansas State to even the series at 1-1 on Saturday. Here's a recap.

Other linkage

The Spring Game means the region's two daily newspapers were there. Here's stories from the Sun-Sentinel and The Palm Beach Post. Also check out the coverage from Fly Like an Owl.

 

 

 

QB race takes another twist when Wilbert hurts hand in Spring Game.

FAU quarterback Graham Wilbert, who appeared to have an advantage in the race with David Kooi to be the starting quarterback in 2011, hurt his throwing hand during the Owls’ spring game and expects to miss some time before pre-season training camp starts in August.

Wilbert said he suffered the injury when his hand hit another hand on his follow-through (pictured)
After the game, Wilbert had his first two fingers taped and said he would have the hand X-Rayed soon.
After receiving the injury, Wilbert did not return and spent the late part of the game watching with his jersey off.
“I lost reps today which I am pretty bummed about,” Wilbert said. “I don’t like any setbacks and I won’t be able to workout or throw for a while, but we’ll see what happens.”
Wilbert said the injury was not as bad as the injury he received last season when he broke his thumb following through on a pass attempt against USF and didn’t play the rest of the season.
“I’ll be fine,” said Wilbert, who entered the spring in near dead-heat with Kooi to replace Jeff Van Camp, "It’s not nearly as bad. I’m not going to need surgery, but it’s probably too early to tell.”
Saturday’s Daily Briefing: Floyd expected to return to help struggling FAU receivers

This spring has not been the best for the FAU receiving corps, with enough drops to cause concern.
 

But it appears there is help on the way.
 

FAU has received preliminary approval from the NCAA for an extra year of eligibility for Willie Floyd.
 

And the plan for the fall is for Floyd (pictured last season) to be used more as a receiver than a running back, a transformation that began last fall.
 

Gaining the services of Floyd, who missed most of 2007 and all of 2009 with injuries, should help the Owls’ inexperienced receivers unit. Only two receivers - DeAndre Richardson and Byron Hankerson - have played in a college game and while the coaching staff believes Marcus Cunningham has potential, he hasn’t taken off this spring the was some had hoped.
 

Floyd, who had knee surgery in the off-season and could return for the beginning of training camp, could make an immediate impact upon his return.
 

Floyd had 12 catches for 141 yards and also led FAU with 738 yards on 34 returns.
 

Just a little something to keep in mind while you watch the Owls’ receivers in today’s spring game – it may look a lot better in the fall.
 

Owl Links
 

FAUOwlAccess.com

We get you ready for the Spring Game with a look at tight end Alex DeLeon, who could see a lot of playing time in the scrimmage – and in the fall. …We also have a recap of FAU baseball’s 2-1 loss to Arkansas State on Friday.

Other linkage
 

The Sun-Sentinel had this preview

Friday's Daily Briefing: Retirement success is in the cards

Like a lot of people during this economic downturn, I've become increasingly concerned about my retirement plan.

Since the whole lottery ticket regimen doesn't seem to be working (it's as though the odds are stacked against me), I've been forced to re-think my strategy.

Good news, though. I found my sun pass through the easy street toll.

See, I got a guy. Can't tell you his name, but he gets me some really good stuff. Yesterday he slipped me a rare, one-of-a-kind item that's going to force me to hire mob muscle to guard my safety deposit box, which may or may not be buried under a tree in a Maine hay field.

The scar-faced  big dudes in shiny suits will ensure no one messes with my newest treasure – the first football cards for Rob Housler, Lester Jean and Jeff Van Camp. No, you can't have hold them. They are mine.

Remember how much those rookie cards of Hall of Famers turned out to be worth? Well these are pre-draft cards, yo!

You know what that means: Bank!

A company called SAGE Collectibles created these bad boys, and I'm told that some of the packs they are selling contained cards autographed Housler, Jean and Van Camp. I can't even begin to think about how set I'd be if I had one of those, but if any of you three are reading this, I already have a yacht on layaway. Can you help a poor hack out?

I mean, I see why you wouldn't to do it. Simple economics. You want to create scarcity because demand elevates value. That's why Craig Angelos had you sign a few of his, then told you it was a violation of some sort to sign for other people. I see right through his plan to put those cards on E-Bay in a couple years to help finance the stadium.

Regardless of Angelos' dastardly plan, I'm still thinking I'll come out on top. These cards I now own are so freakin' cool that I'm going to make copies to carry around in my wallet. When I'm out on weekends, I'll pull them out to impress the ladies. “Yeah, I know these guys. Another round of Pabst if you dance on the table...”
 
The good life is coming.

I'll never have to wait for a cab again.

If I ever get pulled over, I'm not going to ask the cop if he knows who I am. I can say, do you know who I've got a picture of?

They will be my new passport photos.

And don't even get me started about making it rain at South Beach – or Hallandale Beach, as the case may be.

Before today I felt as empty as a bottle of scotch sentenced to the passenger seat of Miguel Cabrera's car. Now, I'm the scotch. Don't believe me? Check out my kilt. Cue the bagpipes.

Most kidding aside, I have to admit I'm pretty envious. These cards really look cool. You can't tell me when you were a kid you didn't dream of having your own trading card. I don't care if these cards ever become worth more than what I paid for them, they will be kept safely in my possession for many years to come.

But Rob, Jeff and Lester, if you are reading this, feel free to go out and have Hall of Fame careers. That should at least get me a scooter...

Owl Links

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Thursday is OwlTalk with Brian Rowitz day. With football's spring game quickly approaching, the show focused on football. Take a listen. Also, the baseball team is in Jonesboro, Ark. Here's a preview of the weekend series with Arkansas St.

Other linkage
Graham Wilbert, Alfred Morris and David Hinds are making national news. Yahoo! Sports college football writer Matt Hinton featured FAUOwlAccess.com's video of the trio talking about how they would attack the current stadium's construction-filled field, adding on some humorous observations of his own.

Thursday's Daily Briefing: More NFL teams showing interest in Lockley

With the NFL Draft beginning a week from today, it's not uncommon for many future pro players to wish next Thursday would hurry up and get arrive.

Not Michael Lockley.

“This whole time of the year is just fun. It's exciting. Anytime that people actually want you to play football at the next level, it is exciting,” Lockley said.

The past week has seen a few more teams kick the tires on the Lockley Mobile, which, those who've seen it, can attest is quite a ride.

In recent days the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings made inquiries. Last week Lockley (photo, 45, by Ralph Notaro) had kind of an unusual workout with the Jacksonville Jaguars - unusual in the sense that he didn't really do anything physical.

“I was under the impression that they were going to work me out, but we ended up just talking for six hours,” Lockley said.

Jacksonville linebacker coach Mark Duffner talked some football with Lockley - seeing if he could relate FAU defensive schemes to what the Jaguars do – and a little about life in general.

Duffner also met with Defensive Coordinator Kurt Van Valkenburgh about Lockley. The fact that the Jaguars spent so much time talking with Lockley caught Van Valkenburgh a little off guard.

“I  was surprised it was that long – probably a good thing, I guess,” Van Valkenburgh said.

Remember, to get the full story about Michael Lockley be sure to check out his FAUOwlAccess.com Prosepect Page, which includes stats, articles and videos.

Owl Links
FAUOwlAccess.com
We looked at the strong spring performance by backup running backs Damian Fortner and Travis Jones, and delivered a practice report that included a photo gallery here.

Wednesday's Daily Briefing: Football players provide plan of attack for current stadium

As a rule, ceremonies don't produce the greatest videos.

Yesterday was a bit of an exception. After some of the FAU football players finished serving the stadium construction workers lunch they took a look inside what will be their new home.

All were impressed with look of the stadium. After they took pictures and videos with their camera phones, we set about trying to figure out what kind of plays would be run if they could go down and play a game on the field right then.

Their answers are hopeful, in some cases comical, and part of this video.

Also, thought you might enjoy a couple more nuggets from the afternoon:

  • While hurricanes are always dangerous, one of the foremen told me that the stadium is now at a point that it shouldn't suffer significant structural damage should one hit. He also said its built to be 15 times more hurricane resistant than Central Florida's stadium, which was completed in 2007. Maybe that's why they removed the word “Golden” from their Knights nickname.
  • There are 212 steps from the base to the top of the towers.
  • Glimpses of the ocean can be seen from as low as the first level of the boxes. The Atlantic can be seen clearly from the top, but the beaches are obscured by condos.
  • FAU AD Craig Angelos said that all of the loge boxes have been sold, and there is now a waiting list. Impressive.
  • Now that they've reached the topping out point, workers transition from working with concrete and steel to adding glass, trim, drywall and amenities. Hard to believe that there will be games played there in less than six months, but the people I talked with seemed extremely confident the stadium will be ready, saying this kind of quick paced construction is becoming more common.


Fun and educational afternoon. The only thing missing from the day was Mickey Groody explaining how he would would coffin corner a rugby kick between steel girders. Or maybe Michael Lockley single-handedly lifting that final steel beam into place...

Owl LinksArticles of interest to FAU fans.
FAUOwlAccess.com
The story and main video from the Topping Out Ceremony can be found here. Also the baseball team lost – pretty badly, actually - to UCF. Here's that story.

Others:
The Palm Beach Post looked into the draft prospects of tight end Rob Housler.

The Sun Sentinel had this baseball game story.

Tuesday’s Daily Briefing: Send your thoughts and prayers to former FAU assistant football coach Fred O’Connor and his family

When we ride the FAU team charter for away football games, all media members sit together in a block of seats.

And I’m always happy when my seat is next to Fred O’Connor. Technically O’Connor is a media member as the team’s color analyst for radio broadcast, but to me and many others, he is still a coach.
In 1999, O’Connor (pictured at an FAU fuund-raiser in 2009) was coaxed out of semi-retirement to help get FAU’s program off the ground and coached running backs, receivers and quarterbacks for the Owls from 2001-04.
When he left the staff, he moved over to the FAU radio booth where he breaks down the action next to Ken LaVicka or Dave Lamont each game.
Sitting next to O’Connor means learning a little about football from someone who coached the game at its highest levels. But I’m also going to learn much more about life as he talks about his grandchildren.
On Monday, O’Connor and his wife, Marge, announced he has lymphatic cancer. The O’Connors plan to beat the disease and be at the opening of the new stadium in October.
I’m hoping not only that the O’Connnors are in attendance for that game, but O’Connor will make it to some away games. I still have a lot to learn and there is no one better to learn about life from than Coach O’Connor.
Please join me in sending prayers to Coach O’Connor in hopes of a speedy and full recovery.
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Football practice was cancelled, but we still had a preview of the baseball game vs. Central Florida.
Penn commits to FAU basketball

Kelvin Penn didn't wait long to make his decision.

One day after returning to Virginia following this weekend's official visit to Boca Raton, the 6-foot-7 forward committed to play his college basketball at FAU.

“It seems like it's a growing program,” Penn said. “Coach (Mike) Jarvis seems like he has the program heading somewhere. It just seems like a good fit for me.”

Penn (shooting in the photo) will come to FAU after spending a year at Massanutten Military Academy in Virginia, where he averaged 12 points and 10 rebounds as a power forward. Prior to that he played mostly center for Steilacoom High School in Washington state, where he was the Nisqually League's Class 2A MVP as a junior and senior at in Washington.

He chose to play a year of prep school to improve his footwork.

“I've come a long way from the beginning of the season,” Penn said.

Penn is the third player to commit to FAU this year, joining Maine Central Institute guard Omari Grier and Miami Dade College center Julien Sargent.

Like Sargent, Penn can provide a physical presence for the Owls in the post – something they lacked last season.

“I like to knock people out sometimes if they get on my bad side,” said Penn, referring to the blindside picks he enjoys setting. “I'm pretty physical sometimes.”

A formidable rebounder who can also block shots, Penn was also being pursued by Ohio University and Alabama-Birmingham.

He expects to sign his National Letter of Intent in the coming days.

“It's great,” Penn said. “I'm excited about the whole thing.”

Monday’s Daily Briefing: Stadium construction ‘tops out’ on Tuesday

Those who check on the progress of the FAU on-campus football stadium have spent the last few months marveling at how fast it has risen from the ground.

Starting this week, the stadium will reach its highest-point and will hold a brief “topping out” ceremony on Tuesday when the last beam is placed at what will be the top of the stadium.
The highlight of the day is that FAU plans to give sandwiches to the construction crew as a goodwill gesture.
Those workers certainly have been diligent in their work on the project which is right on pace to be open by Oct. 15 when the Owls play Western Kentucky in their first game on campus.
A few weeks ago members of the media were able to get a glimpse of the progress from the inside and here is our video (with some useful narration from Howard Schnellenberger)
The progress has been amazing and we at FAUOwlAccess.com offer our congratulations to everyone involved with the project.
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We were on hand as FAU completed the series sweep against ULM.
Sunday's Daily Briefing: FAU's offense shows improvement

During Florida Atlantic’s second scrimmage of the spring on Saturday, the Owls had touchdown plays of 1, 3, 12 and 1 yards.

Those plays aren’t exactly going to make you a winner in your Fantasy Spring Football league.
No, big plays were not the order of the day, but even short scoring plays mean FAU was able to cap four 60-yard touchdown drives.
In FAU parlance, offensive coordinator Darryl Jackson refers to big plays as “explosive plays” and perhaps the Owls weren’t as incendiary as most would have liked as the offense won 24-18.
However, let’s put it in perspective. A year ago – even a few months ago – FAU couldn’t handle the intricacies of the center-quarterback exchange.
Fresh off a six-turnover performance quarterback Graham Wilbert (Winning!) had another solid outing and the FAU running game was solid, even without running back Alfred Morris, who may be shut down for the rest of spring with a sore back.
The Owls’ offense still has a long way to go, but it looks like it is moving in the right direction.

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Long day for us. Of course here that means covering FAU’s spring football scrimmage and then the Owls baseball game, as Paul Davis pitched a complete game in a 4-3 victory. 
Other linkage
The Sun-Sentinel covered the scrimmage.

 

 

Saturday's Daily Briefing: Can offense take advantage of FAU injuries?

The offensive may have a much needed advantage in today's scrimmage when it goes against a banged up defensive line.

Jamere Johnson and Jimmy Jean are expected to be held out of the scrimmage with a concussion and foot injury, respectively. Andrew Stryffeler, who returned to full contact on Friday after being limited in the past six workouts, will see how he feels in the morning before coaches determine whether he will play.

When the Owls' first-team defense takes the field, it will probably be with Kevin Cyrille, Jarvis Givens and either Stryffeler or David Baptiste. Even if Stryffeler plays, that spot could go to Baptiste, a walk-on.

“Baptiste has actually been doing real well to earn that spot,” defensive line coach Johnny Frost said.

No one on defense is playing better than Cyrille this spring, Multiple coaches have told me he's made the biggest jump of any defender. Cyrille won't say that himself, though.

He's actively avoiding the media.

“Kevin said he doesn't really want to talk about (playing well), he wants to do it,” Frost explained.

Faithful readers will recall that last week we named five relative unknowns who could break out in the first spring scrimmage. Two of the five, running back Damian Fortner and cornerback Christian Milstead, scored touchdowns.

That must mean either running back Franklin Thompson, tight end Alex Deleon and wide receiver Jabyes Cross will have a big day today.

Want a couple more more under-the-radar players who could make a play or two in the second scrimmage? Here you go:

LB Toney Moore (44) – Yourhighness Morgan missed much of the week and it seems unlikely he'll dress for the scrimmage. His absence has elevated Moore to the first team. A red-shirt sophomore, Moore blew out his knee during his senior season at The King's Academy, causing major schools to back away. He ultimately chose FAU over Syracuse on Signing Day. Effects of that injury lingered into last season, and at one point Moore had decided to transfer only to be accepted back onto the team. He's got the physical tools and coaches say Moore is starting to grasp the system.

S Brian Sirmans (49) – With Marcus Bartels missing spring action following surgery, several young defensive backs are getting a chance to prove themselves. FAU fans already know Anthony Rodriguez and Brentley Harstad. Demetrius Williamson played some safety last season. Redshirt freshman Cortez Ash may miss the scrimmage to deal with family issues. Sirmans, a redshirt sophomore, is one of the three fastest players on defense and is being given many chances to prove he deserves playing time.

The scrimmage is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. Refreshments will be available, but be sure to bring that bottle of sun screen. See you there.

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On the gridiron side, Austin Jensen talked to us about the announcement that he will not be able to play football game.

On the diamond, we were in the ballpark to see Ryan Garton deal his way through eight innings and lead the Owls to a 4-1 victory over Louisiana-Monroe.

Friday's Daily Briefing: Penn making official visit to FAU this weekend

FAU basketball picked up two commitments for its 2011 recruiting class over the past couple days. If all goes well this weekend, the Owls could add a third.

Six-foot-7 forward Kelvin Penn will be making the trip from Virginia to Boca Raton for his official visit this weekend. The Washington state native averaged 12 points and 10 rebounds for Massanutten Military Academy in Woodstock, Va. this past season.

“I'm really looking forward to the trip,” said Penn, adding that there is a  “very good chance” he could commit following the visit.

Penn, shown blocking a shot in the photo, already holds offers from Maryland-Eastern Shore, North Carolina A&T and Southern. UAB and Ohio University are also showing interest.

He was the Nisqually league's Class 2A MVP as a junior and senior at Steilacoom High School in Washington, where he played center. After graduation Penn chose to spend a year at Massanutten to expand his skills away from the basket.

Penn said the Owls are looking for him to play power forward.

“Rebounding, that's what I'm known for,” said Penn. “I can block shots, also.”

Should Penn commit he'd join Maine Central Institute's Omari Greer and Miami Dade College's Julien Sargent, who are expected to sign their Letters of Intent in the coming days.

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Brian Rowitz was talking football on OwlTalk with Brian Rowitz, which included an interview with quarterback Graham Wilbert. Be sure to check out the podcast. Also, we highlighted shortstop Nick DelGuidice's string of 150 consecutive games played in our preview of this weekend's FAU vs. Louisiana-Monroe baseball series. And here is our information about Julien Sargent. We broke the news yesterday that he will sign with FAU.


Other links

The Monroe News Star provided this preview of the weekend baseball series. ...Florida Today reports that Eamon Ryan will join FAU's football team as a preferred walk on.

FAU basketball's recruiting class grows when Sargent commits to Owls

Miami Dade College center Julien Sargent has chosen to play his college basketball at Florida Atlantic.

“He is fully committed and will sign within the week,” said Matt Eisele, Sargent's coach at Miami-Dade.

Sargent, a 6-foot-10, 245-pound post player, is a defensive specialist who will add bulk to FAU's inside game. He averaged 5.2 points and 6.0 rebounds this past season, though coaches said that average was closer to a double-double during the final 10 games of the season.

Siena was among the multiple mid-major schools that recruited Sargent. Staying in Florida was a motivating factor for Sargent's choice of FAU. He played his high school basketball in Clearwater.

“I think he wanted to try to stay within the state,” Eisele said. “I think coach (Matt) McCall did a fantastic job recruiting, and (Sargent) was very impressed with the way they built the program.”

Sargent is the second player to commit to FAU for its 2011 recruiting class. On Wednesday Omari Grier, most recently of Maine Central Institute, pledged to take his talents to Boca Raton. Like Sargent, Grier expects to make it official by signing his Letter of Intent in the coming days.

Wednesday marked the first day of the NCAA's signing period for basketball.
 

Thursday's Daily Briefing: Kosar predicts stadium is "really going to help" with recruiting

Add Bernie Kosar to the rapidly growing list of people impressed by the speedy construction of FAU's new on-campus football stadium.

“That stadium looks nice,” Kosar said. “It looks like it's bigger than 30,000 seats. The set up for on-campus recruiting with the dorms there and the swimming pools, that's really going to help.”

Kosar, the former University of Miami and NFL quarterback, spent the afternoon watching FAU football. He slipped away from practice in the opening minutes to tour the stadium construction site, but made it back to the Oxley Center in time to see the second half of practice.

Upon returning Kosar had ditched the shirt he'd been wearing which featured the logo of the Cleveland Gladiators – an Arena Football team he has a financial stake in – and donned an FAU shirt.

“I figured I'd surprise him and look good,” Kosar said.

The “him” Kosar referred to was, of course, FAU coach Howard Schnellenberger. For those a little young, Kosar quarterbacked Schnellenberger's 1983 national title team at Miami.

“It's always nice to have one of your good friends and former players stop by and view your practice, and see if the old boy still has it in him,” Schnellenberger said.

On the field, Kosar spent plenty of time talking with players and coaches about the plays they were running and football philosophy. The photo shows him with another Schnellenbeger protege, former FAU quarterback Jared Allen, who is now the quarterback coach.

Kosar, who played with Cleveland, Dallas and Miami in his 12-year career, had a simple message for the players.

“The stuff coach Schenllenbeger taught me still works in college and the fundamentals of it are in every pro system,” Kosar said. “So, if you learn what he's coaching here - the techniques and concepts - it will always stick with you. Teams in the league, they use the stuff that he teaches as a core. If kids get it, they can talk any football system, any language to these pro coaches.”

Kosar said he was impressed with the intensity and athleticism of the linebackers in the new 3-4 defense, but thought the offensive line dealt with the new defensive scheme pretty well. He didn't offer his opinion on the quarterback batter.

Schnellenberger and Kosar talked for about 10 minutes after practice at the far end of the field before heading their separate ways.

“He's like my father,” Kosar said while walking to his car. “I love him to death.”

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FAU Basketball earned a commitment on Wednesday from shooting guard Omari Grier. We talked to Grier last night to find out why he chose FAU.

We were also the lone media outlet at the Owls' football practice. Here's the practice report, which details the progress of wide receiver Marcus Cunningham.

Omari Grier commits to play basketball at FAU

Shooting guard Omari Grier committed to play basketball at Florida Atlantic today and canceled a scheduled visit to Arkansas-Little Rock.

The NCAA's basketball regular signing period began this morning, and Grier doesn't expect to formally sign with the Owls for another day or two.

“I just decided today that I wanted to come to this school,” said Grier, who made his official visit to Boca Raton last weekend. “It's just  a place where anyone would love to go. For the sake of myself, I think I would be very successful there.”

Grier (shooting in photo) comes to FAU after spending a year at Maine Central Institute, where he averaged 13.9 points per game while leading the school to the New England Prep League tournament title.

The 6-foot-4 shooting guard connected on six three pointers in the opening round of the tournament, including one in the closing seconds that sent the game to overtime.

Grier averaged better than three 3-pointers per game at MCI.

Prior to heading to prep school, Grier averaged more than 17 points as a junior at Philadelphia's Episcopal High School, garnering All-Main Line and All-InterAc honors.

Grier spent his senior season at the Impact Basketball Academy in Las Vegas, averaging better that 20 ppg. while running the point. He expects to be primarily a shooting guard at FAU.

“I'm  a two-guard who can get to the basket and shoot the ball pretty well,” Grier said.

Grier expects to fit in well within the Owls' scheme.

“They get up and down the court really well,” Grier said. “Everyone had a lot of chemistry. I feel like I could learn some things from those guys and I hope they can learn something from me too.”

Wednesday’s Daily Briefing: FAU finishes with final RPI of No. 115

When the basketball season comes to an end, it’s always interesting to see where FAU finished the season compared to other schools in the nation.

After UConn beat Butler last week to win the NCAA title, the official RPI’s as released by the NCAA became final.
With its 21-11 record, FAU finished with a final RPI of 115.
It should be no surprise that the Owls had the highest RPI in the Sun Belt. North Texas was second with an RPI of 137.
You can check out the official RPI from the NCAA by clicking here.
The site RPIRatings.com also has ratings for each conference as a whole and the Sun Belt’s ranking is not so good, finishing 23rd in the nation just behind the Big South and even behind FAU’s old conference, the Atlantic Sun, which was No. 17.
The statistical rankings are also final for the 2010-11 season.
Individually, Brett Royster finished 11th in the nation with 3.0 blocks per game.
As a team, FAU finished No. 29 in the nation with just 11.3 turnovers per game and No. 30 with 4.9 blocks per game.
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FAU baseball defeated Central Florida 3-2 on Tuesday night with some late-inning heroics by Sean Bukovich, Here’s our recap.
Other linkage
The Palm Beach Post had this story on the FAU quarterback race. …The Sun-Sentinel was at Tuesday’s game. …Here’s coverage of the game from the UP.
Tuesday's Daily Briefing: FAU hoops expected to play Kansas next season

Florida Atlantic's basketball team took a huge step forward this past season by claiming the Sun Belt Conference's regular season title. Now it looks like the Owls will test themselves against some of the best teams in the nation next year.

FAUOwlAccess.com has learned that Kansas will likley join Florida on FAU's 2011-12  basketball schedule. The Jayhawks and Gators will comprise two of the three guarantee games FAU expects to play.

FAU has played Kansas once before, losing 87-49 in 2007. The Owls have lost all three games against the Gators, most recently falling 79-66 in a tighter-than-expected game this season.

There is still a possibility that the third game will be Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, N.C., but that game is less likely with the addition of a trip to Phog Allen Fieldhouse on the schedule. It is believed the Owls would like to play a team at a similar level to Mississippi State – an SEC school that the Owls beat on the road this season.

Kansas and Duke were No. 1 seeds in this year's NCAA tournament; Florida was a No.2 seed. If FAU doesn't play Duke in the coming year, there is still a strong possibility the schools could meet in 2012-13.

Remember, FAU assistant coach Mike Jarvis II was the director of player development there under Coach K a few years back.

For now, FAU basketball fans will have to make due with a trip up the turnpike and a flight to the wheat fields.

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FAU football was back on the practice field for spring practice on Monday. Here’s a story on the progress of linebacker Randell Johnson and the practice report. …FAU baseball returns home to face a good UCF team with outfielder Andy Mee in the leadoff slot.

Other linkage
Here’s the Sun-Sentinel’s preview of the baseball game.  

 

Monday's Daily Briefing: McCormack putting eggs in Sun Belt basket

While talking with FAU coach John McCormack following the Owls' series clinching victory over South Alabama on Sunday the conversation turned to Tuesday's game against Central Florida.

I asked him how important it would be to the Owls' NCAA resume to beat the Golden Knights, a team that already holds victories over traditional powers Florida and Rice this season.

McCormack gave a surprising, yet rational answer.

“In the grand scheme of things, for us to get into the NCAA Regional, unless we catch fire we need to win the Conference title,” he said.

McCormack's reasoning is that there aren't enough quality teams left on the Owls' non-conference schedule that would allow them to cause the selection committee to overlook poor conference play down the stretch.

After Tuesday's game, FAU only has three more midweek games on the schedule – at UCF, at Florida Gulf Coast and at Miami. All three are good teams, and it's not as if McCormack doesn't want win all of them. He's simply realizes that Sun Belt play will determine whether FAU returns to the NCAA tournament, and believes the NCAA holds the Sun Belt in high enough regard to reward the regular season champion with a bid should it lose in the conference tournament.

He's also guessing that if the Owls don't win the regular season title – or come extremely close – FAU will need to win the conference tournament to make the NCAAs.

With a month and a half remaining in the season, FAU is 19-13 with an RPI  hovering near 100. In conference play, the Owls are in third place at 7-5, three games behind Troy and one behind second place Western Kentucky. The Owls still have series coming up with both those schools.

McCormack's assessment of the situation indicates that he will continue to manage the midweek games with an eye toward preparedness for the weekends. That likely means multiple pitchers on Tuesday, including Jake Meiers, Glen Troyanowski and Andy Mee.

It also suggests that McCormack will be trying to settle some unexpected midseason position battles at center field, first base and DH.

For the first time this year McCormack gave Nathan Pittman the center field start in the first two games of a weekend series. Pittman had two hits on Saturday and made some big plays in the outfield. Of course, the man he replaced made the most of his lone start of the weekend. Colby Gratton hit two home runs and drove in six on Sunday.

“There and DH have been two spots we haven't gotten much offense out of,” McCormack said.

To try to spark offense from that designated hitter spot, McCormack also platooned left handed hitting Mike Spano and right handed Eddie Cassidy, looking for lefty-righty match-ups. That move wasn't as successful. The pair combined to go 2-for-11 with an RBI and run scored.

The first base spot is a little different because the person who fills that role should only do so on a temporary basis. Dan Scheffler is scheduled to return from his facial surgery shortly before the end of the regular season. The Owls did get four hits from their first basemen this weekend. They will need more to win future series.

“We've got to  get a little bit more production offensively and defensively out of whoever we put at first base,” McCormack said.

McCormack hopes the mid-week games will help determine the answers to these positional questions. Of course, a win against former conference foe UCF on Tuesday would give the Owls a little more confidence - temporarily, at least, placing a band-aid over another problem area in recent weeks.

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  • The baseball team jumped out to an early 8-0 lead and held on to take the game and the series from South Alabama. Here is the story.

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Sunday’s Daily Briefing: Give early edge to Wilbert

This spring, FAU coach Howard Schnellenberger doesn’t like to tip his hand to which quarterback he thinks is doing better. He says Graham Wilbert and David Kooi are about even.

But only one can take the first snap, so I thought it was important that Kooi lined up under center for the first series in Saturday’s scrimmage.
It turns out I was wrong.
Schnellenberger said he is rotating Wilbert (pictured) and Kooi to keep the snaps even and it just happened to be Kooi’s turn.
Schnellenberger got me again.
However, it’s obvious who had the better scrimmage and although there is still a long way to go in the most recent FAU QB Derby, Wilbert definitely took the lead on Saturday.
Here’s the stats:
Wilbert 14-23-0-119 2 TDs
Kooi 4-11-1-62
The stat that is the most important is that Wilbert led the Owls on three touchdown drives to Kooi’s none.
"He was more productive, but was unproductive too," Schnellenberger said of Wilbert.
Don’t think that Kooi won’t be feeling a little pressure this week to make something happen in practice and maybe this is just the motivation he needs.
We will see this week in practice starting Monday as, like usual, things should get a little more interesting after a scrimmage.

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What if there was one link that would take you to our recap, video highlights, photo gallery and statsof the scrimmage? Ask and you shall receive. Click here for our complete coverage of Saturday’s scrimmage. ...FAU baseball snapped a five-game losing streak with a 7-3 victory vs. South Alabama.
Other linkage
The Sun-Sentinel was also at the scrimmage and provided this recap. ...The Mobile Press-Register was at the baseball game. 
Saturday's Daily Briefing: Who could break out in Saturday's scrimmage?

If you are like us, you've been eagerly awaiting today's first spring scrimmage. Anyone who follows FAUOwlAccess.com regularly already knows the key position battles to watch (QB, WR, and DB) and the major trends (switch to a 3-4 defense).

We are also always on the look for breakout players. Guys who do well in key time during the first scrimmage often see their time increase significantly throughout the spring. There's always at least one player who leaves fans walking away from these scrimmages asking, Who was that guy?

Since we've spent a good part of the spring covering all those changes and position battles in detail, Marcus Nelson and I figured we'd take a shot at letting FAU fans know who some of those lesser-known guys are before they make a big play or two later today.

TE Alex Deleon (84): The redshirt freshman is next in the line of good looking tight ends. Deleon has good size and has shown fantastic hands during the spring. And with the long hair sprawling from underneath his helmet as he sprints down field, Deleon is tough to miss. Darian Williams appeared to injure his hamstring during Friday's practice, so nearly all the tight end work is expected to fall to Deleon and Nexon Dorvilus. We figured those who follow FAUOwlAccess.com have seen plenty of Dorvilus during the 3-2-See summer 7-on-7 videos and game highlights. Starting today, FAU fans will know Alex Deleon, too.

 

 

 

RB Damian Fortner (22): When spring practice began, Fortner was behind Travis Jones on the depth chart, but has had a solid spring, showing some nice cuts and some explosiveness. Toward the endof last season he was returning kickoffs, but with Jeff Blanchard and Willie Floyd joining Alfred Morris in the backfield and Fortner coming off a pre-season camp injury, it was hard to get carries. Morris won't carry the ball much today. Fortner racked up the “Flushes” the past two seasons in the Toilet Bowls and is ready to do it in the fall.
 

 

 

CB Christian Milstead (39): We didn't know too much about Milstead before the start of spring practices. Then he started making plays. Now we no longer have to look at our rosters when No. 39 in white breaks up a pass or picks one off. We've come to expect a pick or a play from the Camden County, Ga. product. He won't be a starter today – Keith Reaser and Treon Howard will get the first shot to replace Tavious Polo and Tarvoris Hill. Milstead, a walk-on, is playing with the second team and is working his way toward a scholarship. Could he break out with a pick-6 today?

 

 

 

WR Jabyes Cross (80): Cross was already poised to have a solid scrimmage before DeAndre Richardson went down with a foot injury. Now with Richardson likely to miss some time, Cross can step in sooner rather than later and make a name for himself. Cross has really helped his cause in the weight room during the off-season. At 6-foot-2 and 205 pounds, the redshirt freshman walk-on presents himself as an intriguing target for the quarterbacking quartet.
 

 

 

 

RB Frank Thompson (31): The walk-on played option quarterback at Maynard Evans High School in Orlando and was athletic enough that he caught the eye of David Serna, who recruits there area. When Thompson, a redshirt freshman, made the team last year FAU coaches weren't sure which position he'd play. Serna quickly grabbed him as a running back and he spent the fall on the scout team. Thompson simply looks like an athlete. He's having a good spring, and we wouldn't be surprised if he had a couple good runs near the end of the scrimmage.

A few guys didn't qualify for the list because we thought they might be a little too familiar to FAU fans. Brian Sirmans or Cortez Ash (or both) to make a play from the safety position. Injuries kept both from seeing playing time last season. Wide receiver Paul Moore could also have a good day, especially since DeAndre Richardson won't play. Like Sirmans and Ash, an injury kept Moore off the field in 2010.

And, of course, we're anxious to see whether Xavier Stinson can make a big play on offense and defense. For those who've yet to see Stinson play linebacker, you could be in for a treat. It's fun to watch.

The scrimmage is slated to start at 2 p.m. There will be refreshments available, including hamburgers and hot dogs. Be sure to bring extra sun screen.

See you fans out there. Enjoy the show.

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Keith Reaser will be counted upon to be a solid corner come the fall. Here's a look at how he's progressing. Also, the Owls' baseball team lost their fifth straight on Friday, falling 5-3 to South Alabama.

Without Scheffler, where will FAU find power?

FAU first baseman Dan Scheffler underwent successful surgery on Thursday to re-align the bones in his face after being hit by a fast ball above the eye on Saturday at Louisiana-Lafayette, an FAU official said.

Scheffler's absence for the next five weeks leaves a gaping hole it an FAU lineup already struggling to put together big innings against quality pitching – a major reason the Owls have lost four straight.

FAU coach John McCormack would like to see Mark Nelson take over the role, but after a strong fall and preseason camp, Nelson has struggled to a .162 average in 37 at-bats. Plus the sophomore has been affected by cold-like symptoms over the last week or so.

With Nelson not feeling 100 percent and Sean Bukovich starting at third, McCormack gave Mike Spano (photo) his first collegiate start at first base  in the Owls' loss to Florida Gulf Coast on Tuesday. Normally a catcher, Spano has shown some pop in his bat during batting practice and scrimmages, but that has yet to translate consistently into his game at-bats.

Add the recent struggles of Andy Mee and Eddie Cassidy, McCormack is left to wonder where the power will come from.

“You think Spano is going to be the guy, and he's just been OK,” McCormack said. “Mark Nelson has struggled. Eddie Cassidy and Andy Mee are two seniors that have really not performed yet. They  have really, really struggled.”

After the FGCU loss, McCormack seemed particularly perplexed about Cassidy's struggles – to the point where there could be given an extended seat in the dugout if the designated hitter doesn't start designated hitting.

“You take a guy like Eddie Cassidy,  he's hitting .211 with a fair amount of strikeouts,” McCormack said. “Do you say, OK Eddie, we've given you (enough) at-bats, it's time to move on - your role is now changed? Or with his track record, not only last year but his whole life, do you say, he'll come out of it? At what point to you make the change? Or do you say, Hey, he's our guy, we just have to live with it.”

FAU does have 17 home runs this year, which places them fourth in the conference. After hitting five in the Sun Belt opening series against FIU (two by Scheffler), the Owls went homerless in their next two conference series, though.

And what worries McCormack even more than the recent power outage is that bad approaches at the plate are keeping the Owls from putting together multiple hit innings. He'll readily substitute a couple of six-hit innings for two solo home runs, especially considering that South Alabama pitchers have only allowed eight homers all year – least in the Belt.

“At some point we have to stop feeling sorry for ourselves and really, excuse my language, get pissed off and start playing hard,” said left fielder Alex Hudak, who broke the Owls' home run drought with a line drive off the right field foul pole on Tuesday. 

“I think what hurts the most right now is knowing how talented we are as a team. When you have high expectations like we do, any loss is gut-wrenching inside because we know as whole we are better than that. ...We are going to have to come out and make a statement as a team this weekend against South Alabama.”

Friday’s Daily Briefing: Sun Belt expansion talk heats up

The Miami Herald had an interesting story in Thursday’s edition that reported the Sun Belt Conference is looking to add another team by 2012 and could be doing so in the next couple of weeks.

The criteria for the Sun Belt is that the team be in the geographic footprint and be an existing member of the FBS.
Almost immediately the speculation began that the team the Sun Belt has been talking to is Louisiana Tech, currently in the WAC. I have seen this report being dismissed from many corners, but I suppose we’ll see who was right following the Sun Belt meetings in Destin next month.
Let’s hope the Sun Belt is taking a more proactive approach when it comes to expansion and is tossing out its old “wait and see” playbook.
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FAU baseball heads to Mobile, Ala. looking to snap a four-game losing streak against South Alabama this weekend. Yes, we indeed have a preview.

 

Thursday's Daily Briefing: Basketball bringing in two players for visits

With signing day for basketball quickly approaching, it appears Florida Atlantic is brining in a couple of players this weekend for visits.

Shooting guard Omari Grier is one of the players expected to be in Boca Raton for an official visit beginning today. The 6-foot-3 Philadelphia-area native spent the past season at Maine Central Institute prep school, where he averaged 13.9 points.

“He's a very good good catch and shoot guy,” MCI coach Dave Campbell said.

Grier could also visit Arkansas-Little Rock before making a decision, Campbell said.

Miami-Dade College center Julien Sargent (pictured) is also believed to be making a visit this weekend. A 6-foot-10, 255 pound center, Sargent averaged 5.2 points and 6.1 rebounds during his sophomore season.

Sargent was a second team All Southern Conference selection. He would add bulk and toughness underneath the basket for the Owls.

FAU is looking for four players in this year's class, with one of them being a transfer.

The signing period for basketball begins April 13 and runs through May 18.

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Running back Alfred Morris returned to contract drills on Wednesday for the first time this spring. We were there with this story.

Wednesday's Daily Briefing: More workouts with NFL teams in the coming weeks

When Jeff Van Camp and Rob Housler stopped by the FAU spring football practice on Monday they were doing more than checking on the young Owls. After the field cleared of current players, the duo ran through some routes, hoping to stay sharp for some upcoming NFL workouts.

Housler planned to head to Minnesota on Tuesday for a team workout with the Vikings. He also has an upcoming workout scheduled with the Oakland Raiders.

After Minnesota, Housler will return to South Florida, where he will join Van Camp, Lester Jean and Michael Lockley for the Miami Dolphins local workout on April 8.

Lockley will also be in Jacksonville next week to audition for the Jaguars.

As the NFL draft draws closer (April 28-30), we figure there will be plenty of interest in these four players. That's why we took some time to assemble a page devoted to each player, containing their stats, the stories we've written about them, and videos – some of which are available to non-FAUOwlAccess.com subscribers for the first time.

Click on the name to see the pages for:


Enjoy the videos and archived stories. And next time a friend from across the country needs more info on one of these guys, simply send them the link.

Owl Links Articles of interest to FAU fans

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People have been asking how fullback Xavier Stinson has looked at linebacker. Rather than tell you, we showed you in this video that includes Stinson causing a fumble. We were also on-hand to see FAU coach John McCormack's frustration following the baseball team's loss to Florida Gulf Coast.
 

Tuesday’s Daily Briefing: Don't be surprised if UM looks at Jarvis

With Miami coach Frank Haith’s departure to Missouri, an area team that desperately needs to develop a fan base is looking for a head coach.

Today that school is in Coral Gables.
In a few weeks could it be the school in Boca Raton?
While I wouldn’t say it’s likely, there is no doubt it is possible that FAU coach Mike Jarvis could be interviewed, offered and accept the job at Miami.
After all the jobs are similar – except when it comes to salary and the prestige of playing in the ACC.
There was plenty of speculation on Monday about Jarvis, but it appears to be just that – speculation as we could find no credible source that would say Miami has interest in Jarvis, at least yet.
But , as long we’re just speculating, I’ll go one further. I believe Jarvis will indeed interview with Miami before all this is said and done.
Why not? Jarvis showed this season what he can do for a team on the court, but off the court as well as he, along with the help of a some hard-working students, turned The Burrow into a lively, energetic place when his Owls were playing. If he can do that with a non-existent fan base, imaginne what he could do with a program that brings North Carolina and Duke to town each season.
Not only did Jarvis create a fan base out of scraps, UM knows about what he did, when he mobilized FAU Nation enough to make Hurricane fans squirm when they created a home-court advantage in Miami’s gym in an NIT game a few weeks ago.
I don’t know enough about what Miami is looking for, although it appears that UM has its sights on Kansas State’s Frank Martin, Alabama’s Anthony Grant who are both Miami natives, but I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if UM quickly turned its sights to Jarvis should it not be able to land one of those two.
Until Jarvis lands an interview with UM, there really isn’t anything to worry about. But if I’m FAU AD Craig Angelos, I probably wouldn’t sleep too well if Jarvis does indeed meet with Miami officials.
While I don’t believe Jarvis is in a hurry to leave Boca Raton, a shot at coaching in the ACC without having to leave the area he seems to like, might be just too good to pass up.
  
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Spring football continued with another practice and we had this report. …FAU baseball returns for a home game today against Florida Gulf Coast and we had this preview.
Other linkage
The Sun-Sentinel poses the question if Mike Jarvis could be a candidate at Miami. ...FAUOwlAccess.com correspondent Alyssa Barbieri also has this football practice report at her web site, Fly Like an Owl.
Monday’s Daily Briefing: It’s a bunch of B-ULL that Jarvis didn’t deserve Coach of Year Award

A few weeks ago I heard some rumblings that Louisiana-Lafayette fans were not happy with the selection of Mike Jarvis as Sun Belt Conference Coach of the Year over ULL coach Bob Marlin.

I figured the animosity had subsided and that our friends in Cajun Country had come to their senses that Jarvis clearly deserved the award voted on by coaches and media members for leading FAU to its first regular-season conference title.

Well, along comes something called collegeinsider.com to stir up the ULL faithful. You (along with just about everyone else) may have missed it last week when the staff of collegeinsider.com named Ragin’ Cajun coach Bob Marlin as its Sun Belt Conference Coach of the Year.

Instead of taking pride in the high honor and the free oil changes that come with being the collegeinsider.com Sun Belt Coach of the Year, the folks down on the Bayou got fired up again that their man was snubbed by the conference.

I found this piece by veteran Sun Belt Conference reporter Dan McDonald, who I usually agree with, but in this case may have had too much hot sauce before  he sat down at his laptop.

McDonald’s main point is that ULL was 3-14 at one point in January, but rallied to finish the regular-season 14-14.

Says McDonald: “His team didn’t have the gaudy record that others, including FAU had. But no team in the league was better in the final two-thirds of the conference season, and that’s where those honors should be judged.”

Hey, I’ll give a tip of the hat to Marlin for ending the season with chicken salad although like FAU, ULL bowed out in its first game of the SBC Tournament. However, unlike FAU, that brought ULL’s season to an end with a sub. 500 (14-15) record.

If you look closely – or from far away, for that matter – the award is for Coach of the Year. Not half the year.

Early in the year while Marlin was stumbling through losses to McNeese State and Texas College, Jarvis was beating Mississippi State and South Florida.

Kudos for Marlin for raising the level of play of his team - after losing to the NAIA Steers, could it have gone any other direction?  - but the Coach of the Year is the one that had his team playing well throughout the season. And that means the entire season.

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FAU baseball finished a rough weekend in Lafayette, La. falling to ULL 5-2 on Sunday.

Other linkage

The Lafayette Daily Advertiser was at the game and provided this account

 

Sunday's Daily Briefing: Scheffler hit in face again

Update: Dan Scheffler is said to be in good spirits and will be able to travel back to Boca with the team. Doctors still appear to be unsure about whether any bones are broken. coach John McCormack will talk about Scheffler on today's pregame game, which begins at 12:15 p.m., so tune in early for more details.

Original: If the Owls are going to avoid a sweep at the hands of Louisiana-Lafayette on Sunday, they will have to do it without first baseman Dan Scheffler.

For the second time in two weekends a pitch hit Scheffler in the face. The effects of this one appear to be more severe.

Unlike last week, Scheffler needed stitches above his eye. As of midnight doctors still had concerns about potential broken bones and/or a concussion.

The Owls had two runners on base in the first inning when Joe Zimmermann's pitch struck the senior first baseman. Scheffler began bleeding almost immediately, and the game was delayed even after Scheffler left the field so that the grounds crew could clean up the batters box.

Zimmermann actually hit two FAU batters on the night. Andy Mee wore one in the back. Zimmermann, also walked four batters in 5 1/3 innings.

After hitting his first two home runs of the season two weekends ago against Florida International,  Scheffler missed the Saturday and Sunday games last week against Middle Tennessee following his first hit-by-pitch – this one above the lip.

He returned to the lineup for Wednesday's victory over Bethune-Cookman. Scheffler was 4-for-9 with three RBI in the two games prior to Saturday, including the double in the photo above.

Hopefully, Scheffler is able to return as quickly. We'll keep FAU fans up to date as soon as we learn more.

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On Saturday the football team donned pads for the first time this spring. We were there with complete coverage that included a story about Xavier Stinson potentially playing two ways this season. There is also a photo gallery and a video featuring one of Howard Schnellenberger's favorite parts of spring:  the Oklahoma Drill. ...We also had this recap of the baseball game.

Other linkage

The Sun-Sentinel had this report from football practice. ...Here's The Lafayette Daily Advertiser's report on the baseball game. 

 


 

Saturday's Daily Briefing: Can we kill the "co" in front of championships?

One of the reoccurring topics on this blog is the fallacy of the co-champion in the Sun Belt Conference.

We understand why the Sun Belt awards co-championships. It spreads the wealth and can help a team’s resume when it comes to making it to the NCAAs.

But still, it is tantamount to a youth league handing out trophies to all participants because “everyone is a winner.”

Our beef isn’t with the conference for handing out trophies like they are free samples at Costco, rather it’s the schools who know in their heart they are less deserving of being named co-champion than the others.

For example, most of the time, the sticky subject of deciding which of the co-champions is the real champion can be decided by the oldest and fairest of tie-breakers - the head-to-head record of the teams involved.

Need an example? Well, it’s funny you should ask.

FAU is playing at Louisiana-Lafayette this weekend and ULL is billing it as the series when the “2010 champions collide.” As everyone knows – especially in Cajun Country – the Owls and Ragin’ Cajuns tied atop the Sun Belt standings last season, however FAU won 2 of 3 from ULL in the season series.

For a few reasons, I can guarantee you if FAU won a co-championship but lost the season series to the champion, it would not be marketing the series in such a manner.

If I had to guess, I would think the players and coaches for ULL would prefer to take their co-championship rings and fly the banner with a bit of humility, because they remember what happened last season when they played FAU and know that not all co-championships are created equal.

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FAU returned to the practice field for spring football and FAUOwlAccess.com was the only media outlet at the Oxley Practice Fields. Here’s our report on the quarterback battle between Graham Wilbert and David Kooi. …We also had this report on FAU baseball’s loss to ULL.

Other linkage

Here’s the report from the Lafayette Daily Advertiser on the baseball game.

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Go watch college football in Boca. It's that simple. Support your local team and go have a good time!

Great article on Tyler Cameron. Let's put his skills to work with the QBs and make some plays. The Neighborhood fans are ready. Time to rally the...

Nicely done Jake. Great addition to Owl Access.

Then who do you think has the uper hand to be three yard directly behind the center.

Sorry, I read the above question wrong. Who will be UNDER center? No one. They will operate primarily from the shutgun.

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