After all, he wasn’t really playing linebacker at the time.
“I was really practicing at D-end when the practice first stared and the thing with Azeez happened,” Soroh said. “I moved to linebacker.”
One of the more vocal Owls, Soroh began his FAU career as a safety, where he was a member of the starting lineup as recently as last season. As the 2017 season progressed FAU began experimenting with Soroh at linebacker, a move that became official during spring practices.
Recently, however, FAU also installed Soroh as a 6-foot-2, 222 pound stand-up defensive end, hoping to take advantage of his pass rushing skill while also giving the Owls some flexibility to make exotic defensive calls.
“Azeez, that’s somebody like, is like a real brother to me,” Soroh said. “When I first came into the linebacker room he showed me a lot of things I didn’t know about the game.”
Applying lessons learned from Al-Shaair, Soroh led the Owls with 13 tackles at Marshall in his first start at a position other than safety, doubling his season tackle total while lining up at middle linebacker in nickel, strong side linebacker in the base 4-3, and defensive end.
“He did a good job because he had to play three positions,” FAU coach Lane Kiffin said. “Really good job by him. It’s difficult to do, and he really played really well.”
Soroh received plenty of help from the player who, most of the time, lined up next to him. Fellow starting linebacker Rashad Smith followed Soroh’s 13 tackles with 12 of his own.
Smith is enjoying a breakout season as a junior and currently leads the Owls with 63 tackles, which ranks sixth in Conference USA.
When Al-Shaair tore up his knee in a season-ending non-contact injury during practice last week, much of the leadership he provided for the defense moved to Smith’s shoulder pads.
“I think Rashad has done that all year, even though he’s not a senior,” Kiffin said. “I think it’s kind of his defense from that standpoint – as far as production and health.”
Smith leads what has been a struggling Owls’ defense this season with three interceptions and five tackles for loss.
“I feel like I’m still improving,” Smith said. “I have to be more vocal. More demanding. More commanding.”
Unlike Al-Shaair, a vocal player constantly trying to motivate and instruct his fellow teammates, Smith’s persona is more reserved.
He’s quiet both on and off the field. This season, however, his play on the field has been a big stick.
“I think I’d rather have players that play than talk,” Kiffin said. “He leads by example.”
Smith is ready to embrace his new role as team leader.
“Someone had to step up so I decided it was me,” Smith said. “Why not me?”