BOCA RATON – As young as FAU offensive coordinator Travis Trickett is – he’s 32 – he does hail from a family with a rich football history.
Still, the only time he can recall an offensive unit being as decimated by injuries as the Owls’ offensive line currently is occurred when he was “a young pup.”
In 1998, when Trickett’s father Rick served as offensive line coach alongside quarterbacks coach Jimbo Fisher under Terry Bowden at Auburn, the younger Trickett remembers his father employing seven different centers throughout the course of the season.
“We just had a whole bunch of (injuries) and the same thing, a lot of freshmen had to play,” Travis said. “It paid off for them the next year but my dad wasn’t there the next year. They actually got let go after the 98 season with Terry.”
Trickett says he hasn’t consulted with his father about how to handle the Owls’ current situation.
“There’s not a magical play or magical types of plays,” Travis said. “You’ve got to do what you’ve done from Day I, which we did. We simplified for the guys.”
In one way, FAU is fortunate. The Owls’ injuries haven’t been to one position. They’ve been spread out across the line.
Starting left tackle Reggie Bain was lost for the season near the end of fall camp following a motor scooter accident. Starting right tackle Kelly Parfitt was injured in the season’s second game. Starting right guard Antonyo Woods missed the opener with an undisclosed injury. Starting guard/center Roman Fernandez missed the last two games after suffering an undisclosed injury against Miami. Matt Weiner started in place of Woods in that first game, but didn’t play in the next two games because of an injury. Now guard Tarrick Thomas is lost for the year to an apparent knee injury.
“It’s forced me to become a lot better coach now,” offensive line coach Garin Justice said. “We have to do a lot of teaching, multiple guys, multiple positions, and really bandage together an offensive line week by week.”
Amid the carnage, there appears to be some good news.
Fernandez returned to practice and appears ready to return this week. Parfitt may be right behind him.
“Roman was able to run around a little bit today and Kelly’s close,” Justice said.
Assuming Fernandez remains healthy, he’ll fill Thomas’ spot at left guard, lining up between center Dillon DeBoer and new left tackle Antonyo Woods.
Woods, who began the season at right guard, moved to right tackle immediately following Parfitt’s injury.
“I remember the Miami game when Kelly went down, without any hesitation and without even practicing reps at the tackle position, Antonyo says ‘I got it’ and steps in and really played really well,” Justice said.
Last week Justice asked Woods to move to left tackle – a critical position considering it would be Woods’ job to protect quarterback Jason Driskel’s blind side.
“You saw some nervousness in him in the beginning of the week but then by the end of the week he played a very solid game – graded over 90 percent in the run game and did well for a start at left tackle,” Justice said.
Justice expects Jakobi Smith to start once again at right guard. If Parfitt can’t make it back for Saturday’s Shula Bowl, Weiner and Bryan Beck, who started at Kansas St., should rotate at right tackle.
The Owls hold a full practice on Thursday. Friday is usually a walk-through.
Even if Parfitt doesn’t practice all week, Justice is still likely to use him on Saturday if the redshirt senior is physically able to play.
“Him being a fifth-year senior, just because he has so many reps built up in his career, what he’s seen is still going to be more valuable than, say, a Matt Weiner or a Bryan Beck, who has only started one college football game [at tackle]. Plus, there’s always a trust level – just the trust level for a guy that you know has been in the wars and been in the fights. As soon as we can get him back we’ll get him back and get him ready to go.”
All coaches involved said the Owls’ front five took a big step forward in Saturday’s loss to Ball St. They also add that there’s a long way to go. Getting Fernandez and potentially Parfitt back against FIU would give the Owls four of the five players on Saturday’s starting offensive line they expected to start the season opener.
“What coach Justice is doing is nothing short of a miracle with just handling what’s happening with that group,” Trickett said.