BOCA RATON – The first day in full pads brought a little too much tackling for FAU coach Lane Kiffin’s liking.
“No matter how much you talk about it, guys staying up and practice the way you want to, we struggled with that – too many guys on the ground getting hurt,” Kiffin said.
None of those injuries appeared serious and Kiffin understands the 2017 version of the Owls needs to be a significantly better tackling team than they showed last season.
He’s looking to strike a balance that ensures his players are both healthy and hitters.
“We talked about it last night, we talked about it this morning, we had to stop practice today at one point,” Kiffin said. “Guys just, they don’t get it. They think, If I go knock the crap out of this guy and I knock him over it shows that I’m tough. It’s not what we’re looking for. We’re looking for guys who understand how to practice and teach them how to practice, because it may be foreign for them, too.”
Defensive end Ernest Bagner says the problem is that not tackling goes against a defensive player’s instincts – especially now that everyone’s wearing pads.
“It’s just natural for us,” Bagner said. “It’s something you have to hold back, but we’re dogs out here.”
HARD KNOCKS at the OX: Tuesday’s practice Report
Making Plays: It’s not often an offensive lineman appears here, but guard Brandon Walton released five yards down field to block linebacker Kris Harris, allowing De’Andre Johnson to complete a touchdown run. …Linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair batted down a Jason Driskel pass during seven-on-seven drills. …Raekwon Williams broke up a pass in the end zone with a jarring hit that caused James Brunson to drop the ball. …Herb Miller snatched a wayward Driskel pass before it hit the ground during red zone drills. …Playing with the second team, Josh Kendall registered a sack. …Anthony Bennett and Khantrell Burden combined on a sack of De’Andre Johnson.
Tracking the Depth Chart: The spring switch from wide receiver to cornerback seems to be fitting J’Quan Napier, who worked mostly with the second team on Tuesday. …Wide receiver Bobby Mitchell played with the first team and made the best catch of the day, hauling in a Driskel pass amid tight coverage from Raekwon Williams for a 25-yard gain.
QB Battle: Both Driskel and Johnson consistently overthrew receivers on Tuesday. It’s actually been a problem much of camp. “We don’t want overthrows because a guy can’t catch an overthrow,” Kiffin said. “At least underthrows you have a chance to make a (pass interference call) or go up and get it.”
Newcomer Watch: Playing with the second team, safety James Pierre knocked down a Driskel pass at the goal line. …Freshman Willie Wright made a leaping catch in the end zone.
On the Road: FAU will practice at Hadley Park in Miami on Saturday starting at 3 p.m. The following Saturday FAU will return to Carter Park in Fort Lauderdale, a field where the Owls have practiced in each of the past two springs, for a practice that is also scheduled for 3 p.m. Both practices are open to the public.
Instant Message: “Our secondary is definitely ball hawks. I feel comfortable having them behind me knowing that when a pass is in the air it could be picked off on any play.” – FAU DE Ernest Bagner