BOCA RATON – FAU didn’t do many things well last year, but the Owls did enjoy one of the best seasons of any team in the nation returning kicks.
Of course, the downside to ranking high in that stat is that it usually means the team allowed plenty of scoring. Alas, that held true for the 2016 Owls.
Only two players nationally rolled up more kickoff return yards than Kerrith Whyte’s 1,002. His 25.7 yards per return was ranked No. 19 nationally.
Whyte is back for his redshirt sophomore season and there doesn’t seem to be much reason to replace him as the Owls’ primary kickoff returner. With a crowded backfield that features Devin Singletary and Buddy Howell ahead of him, special teams may be Whyte’s only opportunity for consistent playing time.
That doesn’t mean the Owls won’t tinker with kickoff and punt returners.
Singletary also returned kicks last season, but there’s a strong case to be made for keeping him on the sideline for kickoffs as a means of limiting injury potential.
To replace Singletary, FAU could turn to one of several speedy newcomers, giving them the opportunity to contribute early.
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Greg Joseph, 6-1, 210, Sr. Joseph needs only four points to tie Mark Myers’ 231, the most in FAU history. Joseph is also one PAT and one FG behind Myers in those categories. He should be rewriting the FAU record book early this season.
Landon Scheer, 5-9, 175, R-Jr. A huge disappointment since FAU touted him as the best kicker in the nation coming out of high school, Scheer has yet to see the field in three injury-plagued seasons. With Lane Kiffin needing to clear some scholarship space to make room for incoming players, could Scheer become one of the casualties?
Ryan Rickel, 6-0, 190, R-Sr. Served as the pooch punter to Dalton Schomp’s booming leg in 2014 and 2015 before redshirting last year with the idea that he would be the lead punter this season. Eighteen of Rickel’s 28 career punts have been downed inside the 20.
Patrick Trepcos, 5-8, 185, R-Fr. Walk-on could also become the back-up place kicker should the Owls elect to move away from Scheer.
Casey Winner, 5-10, 235, Jr. Winner enters his third season as the Owls’ long snapper. Has yet to record a tackle in his college career.
John Clancy, 5-11, 235, R-So. Enters his third season as the back-up at this spot.
Kerrith Whyte, 5-10, 200, R-So. FAU has never returned a kickoff for a touchdown. Whyte took one back 63 yards last season. He has the speed and the moves to go all the way.
Marcus Clark, 5-8, 190, R-Sr. Given the opportunity, Clark always seems to find a way to make plays. Like Whyte, those touches may come mostly on special teams this season.
Devin Singletary, 5-9, 200, So. Tallied 284 kick return yards last season as a true freshman. Singletary’s a threat any time he touches the ball, but do the Owls want to risk injury here?
Denzel Houston, 6-0, 185, Fr. Houston accounted for more than 6,000 yards and 80 touchdowns during his high school career. He’s an athlete who’s both fast and elusive. Returning kicks would be one way to get him on the field early.
Jalen Young, 5-11, 185, Sr. Young led the Owls with 36 punt return yards last season. He’s sure-handed back there and is tough enough to do more, if asked.
Henry Bussey, 5-9, 180, Sr. Bussey was the only other player to record positive punt return yardage for the Owls last season. He actually returned two more punts than Young did, but only managed 2.1 yards per return.
Dalton Schomp – His average dropped a bit in full-time duties last season after leading the nation in punting two years ago. Schomp drilled some of the longest punts in program history and is currently trying to land a job on an NFL squad.
Zyon Gilbert, 6-1, 180, Fr. He’s a defensive back by trade, but Gilbert has good ball skills and plenty of speed. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him get a shot as a returner.
Tyrek Tisdale, 6-2, 200, Fr. Tisdale figures to begin his FAU career at running back, which puts him in pretty much the same position as Whyte and Clark. FAU coaches like what Tisdale can do in space. Maybe this is where he shines as a freshman.
Willie Wright, 5-8, 155, Fr. Players are raving about Wright’s performance in 7-on-7 drills. He’s fast and elusive. Wright should figure into the wide receiver rotation. This would be another way to get the ball in his hands.
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