“Unfortunately he’s just never been the same since that hit,” FAU coach Lane Kiffin said. “I asked him yesterday and he said he still thinks about it. He’s just been a different player ever since that hit, which is a shame because he’s our most explosive player and he was one of the best players on our team at one point.”
Wright, listed at 5-foot-8 and 155 pounds, suffered a concussion on the hit to the head, which prompted a targeting ejection of Richard Dames and left the Owls receiver laying on the field for several minutes, but didn’t miss any games. He caught 10 of his 46 receptions during the three games that followed the hit, averaging only 6.7 yards per reception and without finding the end zone.
In two games this season Wright’s been worse than unproductive. His two catches the opening week, both jet sweeps, lost a combined 10 yards. He didn’t record a catch last week against UCF, dropping a deep pass at a point where the game was still competitive. And throughout fall camp defensive backs constantly knocked passes out of Wright’s hands.
“When was the last time he’s made a play?” Kiffin said.
As a true freshman, Wright burst into Lane Kiffin’s game plan, averaging 11.7 yards on his 56 catches, scoring six times.
“It’s unfortunate,” Kiffin said. “I feel bad for him. He’s a great kid. I don’t really have an answer for that.”
Wright’s disappearance is ill-timed for an FAU offense desperately searching for someone to catch passes. Over the first two games all FAU wide receivers combined tallied only 16 catches.
Former walk-on Dante Cousart appears to have passed Wright on the depth chart at slot. Kiffin is once again limiting oft-injured starting outside receiver Pico Harrison’s repetitions in practice in an effort to keep him healthy.
The Owls’ inability to consistently move the ball has limited their receiver rotation, so USF transfer DeAngelo Antoine, who ascended to a starting role at one point in camp in part because of injuries, has yet to record a catch.
A budding star early in camp, UCF transfer Rasaan Lewis has yet to see the field as an Owl.
“I think a lot of times with those kids, they get here, they have a really good first week or two of camp, and then all the stuff kind of compounds because of the install and not having any background in the system, so unfortunately you see most guys slide down a little bit,” Kiffin said.
The situation has gotten so dire that Kiffin is even considering DeAndre McNeal, who transferred to SMU over the summer to play defensive end before returning to FAU near the end of camp as a wide receiver, a potential solution for later in the season.
Eighteen of McNeal’s 24 career receptions came during the first four games of the 2017 season. He virtually disappeared after that. Listed as weighing 215 pounds on last season’s roster, McNeal arrived back at FAU weighing 260.
“We’ve been working on that because, obviously, he can’t play at that weight,” Kiffin said.
Another player who left FAU only to return during camp, 2019 JUCO signee Adrian Bryant, is likely to redshirt this season. And quarterback Javion Posey, who moved to wide receiver midway through fall camp, is still learning the position while working on the scout team.
“In your redshirt year as a quarterback you don’t develop a whole lot,” Kiffin said. “You really don’t do much. I think he’s going to be a really special quarterback. He’s going to be a quarterback here. Instead of just standing around, he is very talented so it gives our guys a good look [as a wide receiver] down there, so he’s actually doing more by doing that than sitting as a backup redshirt quarterback.”