BOCA RATON – Every Sunday during football season our staff provides their observations from the previous day’s game. FAU’s spring game offered a preview of what the Owls will look like in 2018. Chuck King is the senior beat reporter covering FAU. Wajih Al Baroudi and Paul Silano, newcomers to the OwlAccess staff, received a longer look than most by attending spring practices, too. Below are our thoughts from the FAU spring game.
King: The lack of surprises. The spring game served as a microcosm of the first 14 spring practices. The quarterback battle is pretty even – though Robison had arguably his best outing on Saturday. Without Devin Singletary the running game, as it is currently constituted, struggles. The defense will blitz at any time, and it does that well. Did expect to see a few more trick plays, but there is something to be said for not letting opponents get a look at those.
Al Baroudi: The heavy utilization of tight ends not named Harrison Bryant. Last season John Raine, Logan Peterson, and Jacob Wilson caught a combined six passes – with Raine catching all of them – but things have changed. Bryant has produced well as expected but it is great to see all four of FAU’s tight ends mix with the first-team offense and make plays throughout the past few weeks and in the spring game. In the spring game Raine led the Red team in receptions with four catches and hauled in Robison’s lone touchdown pass, while Wilson was second in receptions and receiving yards for the White team with his six grabs and 45 yards.
Silano: The amount of times Johnson put the ball in the air. He threw 44 passes in the spring game, completing 21. That was 18 more attempts than Robison, who had equitable playing time. The White team needed to take to the air because the running game couldn’t gain traction. Still working his way back from surgery to remove blood clots, Johnson said afterward that his arm strength hasn’t completely returned, yet.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
King: Ernest Bagner. The rising senior led the White team with five tackles, including one sack, and he did it playing against the first-team offensive line. The tackle total was the most on either side by a player on the two-deep. Bagner entered the spring with renewed purpose, and it showed on the field. He could be ready for an NFL-caliber senior year.
Al Baroudi: Rashad Smith. The 6-foot-2, 210-pound linebacker set the tone early by recovering a fumble and returning it more than 20 yards on the first drive of the game. Later in the afternoon he went back to his specialty of getting after the quarterback, blitzing from the inside to pick up a sack on De’Andre Johnson.
Silano: Willie Wright was a dominant force in the passing game for the White team. Wright caught seven passes for 78 yards, with one reception going for 43 yards. The total would have been more impressive had Johnson been on target with even one of his three deep balls. FAU may not have to worry about losing Kalib Woods to graduation, as Wright provides a tantalizing target for whoever the starting quarterback will be.
REASON FOR OPTIMISM
King: As bad as FAU’s offense looked on Saturday, it looked 10 times worse during last year’s spring game – yet once the season started it set records. The Owls played most of the day with only one scholarship running back, Kerrith Whyte, with redshirt sophomore James Charles – injured much of his career and wearing the black “no contact” jersey on Saturday – getting a few carries near the end. Even if FAU’s offense isn’t as potent as it was last year, the defense appears significantly improved, and may be good enough to win games, if asked.
Al Baroudi: The FAU running game will be a lot better than what its lackluster showing in the spring game suggested. The offensive line will receive an infusion of talent in the fall with six 2018 signees, including Tulane graduate transfer Junior Diaz set to arrive, and graduate transfer Antonio Riles from Florida a possible late add. The added competition in the trenches and a healthy Devin Singletary will revert FAU’s rushing attack back to its 2017 production level.
Silano: Running back Devin Singletary and tight end Harrison Bryant both sat out of Saturday’s game, and the White team was able to rush for over 100 yards. Johnson was able to spread the ball out between six different receivers. While improvements need to be made pass blocking, the offensive line didn’t look too shabby run blocking.
King: Robison’s statistics don’t stand out, but Saturday’s scrimmage may have been his best outing of the spring. He demonstrated a command of the offense that wasn’t there a few weeks ago. The Red team played fast under Robison, a major factor in the win. Robison didn’t hit any deep balls, but his arm strength showed on several throws to the boundary. Overall, an impressive showing from the redshirt freshman.
Al Baroudi: With Azeez Al-Shaair having to miss this spring recovering from offseason elbow surgery, FAU has developed much-needed depth at linebacker. Andrew Soroh and Khantrell Burden both showed promise in defending the run and proved to be more than capable to step in and contribute if needed over the course of a long season. Soroh and Burden combined for seven tackles, including a tackle for loss in the spring game.
Silano: The Red team, led by Robison, had five plays that covered more than 20 yards. The White team who only had one. The starting offense struggled to come up with the big play, though the opportunities were there. Kerrith Whyte didn’t have a great day on the ground behind an undermanned offensive line, but he did catch two passes, one covering 54 yards. Raine’s touchdown covered 29 yards.