Of course, all that certainty proved to be false promise, as the Owls, picked to repeat in 2018 as Conference USA East Division winners, faltered repeatedly once the season began.
Some of the questions from last year, and the year prior for that matter, linger into this fall camp. Others are specific to some of the newer players on the Owls’ roster. With that in mind, here are the five questions the Owls’ offense will attempt to answer over the course of the next month in preparation for their Aug. 31 season opener at Ohio St. We’ll post the defensive questions on Thursday.
Five FAU Offense Fall Camp Questions
1. Who will play QB?
Stop us if you’ve heard this one before. Three Lane Kiffin fall camps, three quarterback battles. This one has a little different flavor to it, even for Kiffin. Incumbent starter Chris Robison missed all of spring because of a suspension stemming from a night of underage drinking and drug use that led to a sexual battery allegation – later withdrawn – against him. Robison is back with the Owls, but he’ll battle former Indiana quarterback Nick Tronti and former Kent St. signal caller Justin Agner, both of whom had their moments in the spring. Kiffin won’t simply be handing the starting job back to Robison.
“The quarterback competition, I think it’s a very unusual one, with Chris being the returning starter but yet missing all of spring so its almost like you’re not the returning starter because you weren’t there,” Kiffin said.
2. Will Calvin Ashley be eligible?
The big transfer from Auburn is slated to be the Owls’ starting right tackle, but first the NCAA has to approve Ashley and FAU’s appeal for immediate eligibility. The Owls actually thought they’d have an NCAA ruling by the start of camp but that hasn’t happened yet. If the NCAA doesn’t grant immediate eligibility, the Owls offensive line as a whole becomes a huge question mark. Redshirt freshman Marquice Robinson would likely retain the starting left tackle spot he occupied in the spring. And while the Owls would still have a solid amount of experience among the offensive line starters, there’s precious little game experience among second stringers.
“You’ve got some returners there, but you’ve really got to develop some depth,” Kiffin said of his offensive line. “There’s not a lot of numbers there.”
3. Who’s going to catch the passes?
Between players declaring early for the draft (Jovon Durante), underclassmen transferring (DeAndre McNeal, DeSean Holmes), academic ineligibility (Kyle Davis), quitting FAU (signee Adrian Bryant) and injuries (too many to mention) the Owls nearly ran out of wide receivers during the spring. Kiffen added several wide receivers on signing day, with Eyin Cole already drawing praise, and Glover Cook and Xavier Roberts-Donaldson expected to report on Thursday. Transfers Deangelo Antoine (USF) Terique Owens (JUCO) and Rasaan Lewis (UCF) made plays during summer 7-on-7 drills. The Owls need projected starters John Mitchell, Pico Harrison and Willie Wright to remain healthy. Fall camp will be about building depth behind them. Kiffin notes that FAU had a lead at some point in each of its final 11 games but struggled to hold those leads.
“A big part of that was the depth at receivers, not having the ability to rotate them where they tired out, especially in a fast offense,” Kiffin said.
4. Who will replace Devin Singletary and Kerrith Whyte?
Though it’s important to identify a running back or two, and there will be plenty of outside focus on this position, Kiffin and the Owls are far more confident that they have the pieces in place at the running back position than they are at wide receiver. James Charles enjoyed a strong spring. If former Alabama ball carrier BJ Emmons doesn’t emerge from fall camp as the starter he’ll at least get plenty of carries. Malcom Davidson can run away from anyone. Tyrek Tisdale is a big back who showed promise before injuries. And newcomers Kelvin Dean and Larry McCammon are already drawing raves.
“A lot of talent, but not a lot of proven production,” Kiffin said of the position.
5. Will Lane Kiffin make any key roster additions?
Early in last year’s camp Kiffin didn’t like the progress of his quarterbacks, so when SMU QB Rafe Peavey became available Kiffin made him an Owl. FAU has one available scholarship to give, but don’t look for the Owls to add another quarterback. Should Kiffin decide there’s an immediate need that requires filling, it would probably be at wide receiver. If the NCAA denies Ashley’s appeal for immediate eligibility, Kiffin could opt for an offensive lineman, should one come available.