BOCA RATON — From Jenson Stoshak and Lucky Whitehead to Devin Singletary and Buddy Howell, there’s no doubt that FAU has had playmakers at the wide receiver and running back postitions over the past few seasons.
On the other hand, the tight end unit has mostly remained quiet – but under new head coach Lane Kiffin, that could change.
“It’s one of our better groups,” Kiffin said. “They can kind of do everything and it’s a good thing to have. We’re looking at some multiple tight end sets because of that. We’re going to need to utilize those guys.”
FAU tight ends combined for 30 catches a season ago, 20 of those coming from former Wake Forest quarterback Tyler Cameron. Since Rob Housler’s graduation after the 2010 season, only one FAU tight end has at least 30 catches in a season; Nexon Dorvilus had 30 receptions in 2012, the first year of the Carl Pelini era.
Now with Kiffin and Kendal Briles in town, the tight end could get more attention in the passing game – and they’re definitely enjoying the change in play style.
“We’re embracing it because it’s different,” tight end Dustin Bowens said. “I think it’s efficient and the team is really liking it. I feel like it’s going to make a big difference and I’m a believer.”
Known as more of a blocking tight end in his first two seasons with the Owls, Bowens grabbed his first collegiate reception – a 27 yard catch from Jason Driskel – in last year’s 77-56 loss to Middle Tennessee.
Harrison Bryant, a true freshman last year who caught six balls for 63 yards, is also enjoying the change of pace that the tight end unit is seeing under Kiffin.
“Now that we’ve gotten a lot more reps with the practice style, it’s a lot easier to get more looks and more plays in,” Bryant said. “We’ve had a pretty good spring camp so far.”
During his time with Alabama, Kiffin’s offense allowed tight end O.J. Howard to become a dangerous playmaker and a likely first-round pick in next month’s NFL Draft. Because Kiffin is now mixing and matching his offense with the scheme offensive coordinator Kendal Briles brings over from Baylor, there will be changes to what is asked from the tight ends in 2017.
“Kendal’s system doesn’t run as many formations as we did [at Alabama] but when you go really fast, you can’t run a lot of formations,” Kiffin said. “They’ve got to be able to block in the system whether it’s one [tight end] on the field or two on the field.”
Bowens is unsure yet of what his specific role in FAU’s offense will be when the season starts. Given that Kiffin said that the offense plans to be a hybrid of both his and Briles’, Bowens could very well be asked to block one play and go for a pass on the next.
Regardless of what his primary role ends up being, the goals that Bowens has for himself and the rest of the tight end units remain the same.
“Championships, wins, things that we haven’t done since I’ve been here,” Bowens said. “I’ve been here for four years so I know that everybody is eager to kiss the ring and go places that we’ve never been!”