Rose intercepted three passes and recovered two fumbles, returning three of them for touchdowns in 2015. Only two Owls scored more touchdowns than Rose both, not surprisingly, played offense.
But that success was somewhat of a fluke.
“The thing about Ocie when he was younger – we were all freshmen at the time – he would always make plays on the ball but his biggest (shortcoming) was the playbook, really,” defensive captain Azeez Al-Shaair said. “He wouldn’t really dial in from that aspect.”
Rose had a nose for the ball, but lacked an affinity for preparation.
Now a senior, Rose is embracing the FAU playbook, and it’s showing on the field.
“He knows what he’s doing now,” Al-Shaair said. “That’s the biggest difference to me.”
Rose began spring ball without a clear role. Last year under, the first under the Lane Kiffin regime, Rose moved from nickel to safety.
He still had a nose for the ball, intercepting a pass against Old Dominion, but with playing time limited he managed a career-low six tackles.
This spring, however, Rose is a different player.
Starting free safety Andrew Soroh’s move to linebacker opened playing time for several defensive backs. Initially Zyon Gilbert appeared to be a lock to claim the starting role.
In recent spring practices, however, Rose and Gilbert are splitting snaps with the first team.
“We’ve given him more opportunities, and when you are back there you are more of a space player,” Kiffin said. You probably have more opportunities to make big plays, where nickel makes more consistent tackles and stuff – not as many maybe big plays, big interceptions like you see (strong safety Jalen Young) make. I think that’s really helped him.”
A new, more aggressive, defensive scheme brought to FAU by coordinator Tony Pecoraro
along with a new position coach in Wes Neighbors also helped provide a fresh start for Rose.
“Sometimes as coaches we may see a guy as being better than another guy and then they kind of stay that way unless something dramatic happens,” Kiffin said. “When you get a couple new sets of eyes, they may see things a little bit different.”
Multiple times over the past year Kiffin referred to Gilbert as an NFL-type safety. Rose’s development, experience and physicality gives FAU another proven playmaker in that spot.
The longer, leaner Gilbert covers more ground at safety, but Rose, listed at 6-foot-2 and 190 pounds, packs more of a punch in the tackling department.
Throughout the spring Rose worked on perfecting his footwork, keeping his eyes focused on the right places and, of course, mastering the playbook.
“I’ve been getting a few reps with the ones, just focusing on my craft and trying to get better than what I was in the past years, and evolving as a leader on the team,” Rose said.
SpringFling: Thursday’s Practice Report
Making Plays: FAU’s defense owned the second half of the team scrimmage. Will Davis and Ernest Bagner enjoyed early sacks. Herb Miller intercepted a pass near the goal line. Charles Cameron engulfed running back Daniel Leconte for a safety. Moments later defensive tackle Stephen Leggett swallowed running back Gerald Hearns for another loss. Not long after that linebacker Rashad Smith planted Hearns on a screen pass. …Meanwhile on the second field, linebacker Akileis Leroy scooped up a fumble and returned it for a touchdown, that had the red shirts on that field celebrating. …Earlier in the morning Willie Wright beat Korel Smith on a red zone slant for a TD. …Wide Receiver DeAndre McNeal went over the top of defensive back Malik Vigille to snatch a De’Andre Johnson pass, then got his feet down in bounds in the end zone to complete the seven-on-seven portion of practice. …Vigille enjoyed a bit of revenge when he picked off a wayward Chris Robison pass to end the two-minute drill. …Wide receiver Dante Cousart took a short dump pass from Johnson and raced 70 yards before Zyon Gilbert ran him down.
Tracking the Depth Chart: FAU held running back Devin Singletary out of contact for the second consecutive practice. Singletary injured his hamstring during Saturday’s scrimmage.
QB Battle: Johnson and Robison continue to share time with the first team. Coming out of his own end zone, Robison bought time by scrambling to the right, then found Harrison Bryant wide open 25 yards down the field. During the same drill, Johnson’s attempt to escape pressure resulted in Bagner’s sack for a safety.
Instant Message: “There’s not anybody who matches that crazy except for me.” – Al-Shaair describing safety Jalen Young’s energy on the field.