BOCA RATON – Largely absent from the Owls’ offense all season, running back Jay Warren may yet make an impact for FAU.
That play, however, may not come with the ball in his hands.
“Jay’s going to make a play for us this year that’s going to help us win a game, no question,” FAU offensive coordinator Travis Trickett said.
Warren is considered the best blocker among the running back unit and Trickett says the Owls intended to utilize more two-back sets against Marshall, with one of those backs being Warren. But when the Owls experienced early success with one-back, two-tight end sets Trickett elected to stick with the two-tight end formations.
FAU rushed for 281 yards on the evening, none of them came with Warren carrying the ball.
“The two-tight end package ended up being so good for us so we just stayed with what was going good rather than just trying to get everything in,” Trickett said.
A senior who started games in each of his first three seasons in Boca Raton, often as the feature back, Warren has only one carry in 2016, gaining one yard – and that came in the season-opener against Southern Illinois.
It’s a shocking total considering that during fall camp Warren looked like the second part of a one-two punch led by Buddy Howell.
But an unspecified injury late in camp slowed Warren, who’d rushed for 1,361 yards and seven touchdowns over the previous three season, and he hasn’t been able to work his way back into the offense.
A few weeks ago running backs coach Jared Allen said the coaches were starting to see Warren’s missing burst return, but that hasn’t resulted in more game opportunities. Warren is credited with playing five games this season, which would remove the final opportunity to apply a yet-to-be-used redshirt season.
In the meantime Howell solidified his role as a true No. 1 back, averaging 5.2 yards per carry and leading the Owls with nine touchdowns. In recent games true freshman Devin Singletary has demonstated the kind of production many expected from Warren. He’s averaging 5.1 yards per carry and has scored twice in the past three games, including a 48-yard TD run against the Thundering Herd.
And Singletary’s 13 receptions thus far this season are four more than Warren has in his career.
Change-of-pace back Kerrith Whyte has 40 carries on the season, including a controversial fourth-and-1 call against Marshall where the redshirt freshman slipped down, losing three yards.
“I love Jay Warren because he’s a guy that’s about FAU, not about himself,” Trickett said. “He mentors those young guys. He’s helped (Singletary) out and he’s there for Buddy and all those guys.”