BOCA RATON – FAU received a bit of an unexpected boost on Tuesday with Conference USA’s ruling that Jacob Douglas’ targeting penalty against Rice on Saturday wasn’t warranted.
As such, the conference lifted the suspension that would have forced Douglas to sit out the first half of Saturday’s game against UTEP.
“He’s played a lot of football in a year and a half,” defensive coordinator Roc Bellantoni said. “Obviously the most experienced (middle linebacker) we have, it’s nice to have him back. I thought he played a really good game on Saturday.”
A sophomore, Douglas started on Saturday in place of Nate Ozdemier, who is lost for the season after injuring a foot two weeks ago against Western Kentucky. He recorded seven tackles, with the final one, coming in the game’s final minutes, drawing the targeting call.
NCAA rules dictate that a player who draws a targeting call in the second half of a game must sit out the first half of the following game.
Game officials checked replay and confirmed the targeting call. After the game FAU appealed to the conference, sending the NCAA a video that showed the hit from a different angle.
A Conference USA spokesperson said that video provided the reasoning for overturning the suspension.
FAU and Douglas learned the suspension had been lifted prior to Tuesday’s practice.
“He had a good practice today,” Bellantoni said.
If the suspension hadn’t been overturned, the Owls would have likely turned to Jerrad Ward, a junior who’s played in every game this season but has not started one. He did, however, start multiple games at middle linebacker as a true freshman walk-on.
The progress of true freshman outside linebacker Rashad Smith also gives the Owls the freedom to move sophomore Khantrell Burden to the middle. Both Smith and Burden started games at outside linebacker this season.
“We’ve got some depth there, but it’s nice to have Jacob back,” Bellantoni said.
Safety Andrew Soroh also returned to the practice field on Tuesday. He left early in the Rice game after rolling an ankle.
FAU played several safeties against Rice, but it was little-used redshirt freshman Richie Kittles who made plays in the second half, breaking up one pass, intercepting another and recording a tackle for loss.
Bellantoni said the Kittles continued a breakthrough that first appeared in game action the week prior.
“When he went in for Jalen [Young] when Jalen was sick in the Western Kentucky game, that was one of the bright spots,” Bellantoni said.