Additional Photos: Carter Park Scrimmage
FORT LAUDERDALE – After a slow start, FAU’s offense caught fire midway through Saturday’s scrimmage, held at Carter Park and open to the public, looking a little more like the team that sliced through Conference USA play last season.
“When the offense is in sync I think we are pretty much unstoppable,” quarterback De’Andre Johnson said.
The defensive line dominated early but as the run blocking improved so did the precision of FAU’s passing game.
The Owls used a mix of old and new to get the ball moving.
Conference USA MVP Devin Singletary didn’t play during the early tackling portion of the scrimmage, but once he trotted onto the field Singletary promptly began moving the chains,
FAU did receive a scare near the end of the scrimmage when Singletary went down holding his leg after being pushed out of bounds and into the adjacent sand box that serves as the landing area for the long jump inside the Carter Park track. The run covered 45 yards and Singletary eventually walked off the field clutching at the back of his leg.
Singletary did not return but following the scrimmage Singletary said his leg wasn’t a concern.
While Singeltary’s exploits on offense are well known, wide receiver Jovon Durante brought something new to FAU’s offense.
The wide receiver transfer from West Virginia found success catching passes from Johnson and Chris Robison in Saturday’s scrimmage, with his biggest play coming from the arm of Johnson. After catching a bubble screen on the left hash, Durante juked inside to evade Diashun Moss’ tackle and tiptoed his way down the sideline for a 30-yard touchdown.
Durante also made plays down the field, hauling in a laser throw from Robison on a deep post while being draped in coverage by Chris Tooley.
“When I am in a one-on-one situation nobody can match up with me.” Durante said.
Rising sophomore safety Zyon Gilbert turned in one of the biggest defensive plays. Early in the scrimmage a Johnson pass ricocheted off his receiver’s hands into the gloves of Gilbert for the first turnover of the day.
Up front, defensive end Ernest Bagner continued what has already been a breakthrough spring, crashing into the backfield on nearly every play.
Bagner went untouched from his backside defensive end position to blast Daniel Leconte in the backfield on a zone run to the right. On the ensuing play Bagner sped around the offensive tackle and closed in on the pocket for a sack of Robison.
“God blessed me with a quick first step and some [agility] and o-linemen just can’t handle it.” Bagner said.
A junior college transfer prior to last season, Bagner struggled to find a role during his first season in Boca Raton.
“Ernest has had a really good camp, has made a lot of big plays on third down rush situations and is playing the run a lot better, too, so he is doing really well.” Kiffin said.
SpringFling: Saturday’s Scrimmage Browser
Making Plays: Kevin McCrary powered past the line of scrimmage and blew up Hearns in the backfield to force a fumble. … Herb Miller de-cleated Chase Lasater with a crushing hit after the tight end caught a flat route from Robison. … Harrison Bryant snagged a seam pass from Johnson and dragged a bevy of defenders with him until he was finally dropped after a 20-yard gain. … Hunter Snyder sprung into the air to break up a would-be goal line touchdown throw from De’Andre Johnson to Bryant. … Korrel Smith was active against the run, constantly flying in from his nickel spot to bring down bigger running backs. … Johnson found Willie Wright in the back of the end zone on a 15-yard post pattern. …Midway through the scrimmage Reggie Bain power stepped inside and drove his defensive lineman into the linebacker’s lap, allowing Gerald Hearns to go untouched for a 30-yard touchdown run. …Robison fired a 30-yard vertical route to Ladante Harris on the right sideline who – while drawing a pass interference flag – maneuvered inside and leaped to bring down the pass at its highest point.
Tracking the Depth Chart: With Singletary not participating in the tackling portion of practice, Hearns earned the lion share of first-team carries. Kerrith Whyte also worked with the starters but was outshined by Hearns. …Leighton McCarthy not only played his customary defensive end position, he also lined up at linebacker with the second team. …Junior defensive end David Belvin spent time with the second team early in practice. …FAU held safety Jalen Young out of the tackling portion of Saturday’s scrimmage, but he did play during the non-tackling portion. Young said the move as precautionary and that he is not injured.
QB Battle: Kiffin said while both quarterbacks need to cut down on turnovers, they did a good job making plays on third and fourth down to keep possessions alive. Kiffin added that he has been thoroughly impressed by Johnson’s recent performance. “You could see him come alive and you could see why he was such a high-profile recruit.” Kiffin said.
Instant Message: “It is great that we get out so that people come see us a little bit easier but also for our kids the change of scenery, and I think it kind of cuts up the rigors of spring football.” – Kiffin on the benefits of Saturday’s off-campus scrimmage.