BOCA RATON – A defensive unit searching for consistency at tackle found a little of what it was looking for on Saturday in a player from whom it was expected and another who is proving to be one of the season’s best surprises.
Redshirt senior Shalom Ogbonda figured to be one of the leaders on the defense, and throughout the summer he’d been filling his role. But after failing to produce in the season’s first three games, Ogbonda got an earful from coach Charlie Partridge during a recent practice.
Being a fifth year guy, when the coach is getting on you, you have to work harder,” Ogbonda said. “You’ve got to work two times harder.”
FAU coaches wanted more effort and attention to detail from Ogbonda during practice. Inconsistency during practice, they figured, was a reason the 6-foot-4, 290-pound Ogbonda only accumulated five tackles across the season’s first three games.
On Saturday against Ball St., Ogbonda completed a more focused week with a career-high nine tackles against Ball St., including a sack that halted the Cardinals’ first drive.
“Shalom had what I thought was one of his best days of his career,” Partridge said.
Ogbonda says he embraced Partridge’s criticism.
“It’s more attention not only just in practice but also the drill that we’re doing and how it’s going to help me in the game,” said Ogbonda, who is tied for Owls’ sack lead with Trey Hendrickson at 1 1/2. “You win through your practice.”
Until recently, practice was all redshirt sophomore Josh Kendall had to draw upon. He used his first year at FAU as a redshirt season, which is not uncommon among defensive lineman. He didn’t play a down the following season and didn’t figure to be much of a factor this season until Ray Ellis suffered a season-ending knee injury early in fall camp.
Since then Kendall, who at 6-foot-2 and 295 pounds has the requisite size to battle in the trenches, has steadily climbed the depth chart.
“It’s a big jump because you look at the start of the season where you didn’t really see Josh Kendall and now you’re seeing him and you’re seeing all the things that we’ve seen all along,” defensive line coach Terrance Jamison said.
Since the start of fall camp no defensive player has increased his stock more than Kendall.
“I don’t even think it’s close,” defensive coordinator Roc Bellantoni said.
Kendall entered the Ball St. game with one career tackle. He established a career high against the Cardinals with three, and on Tuesday Bellantoni said that Kendall has worked his way to the Owls’ No. 3 defensive tackle, behind Ogbonda and Stephen Leggett.
“Josh is really coming on,” Bellantoni said. “He’s playing the best football of his career. We need to keep (Kendall and Ogbonda) going in that direction.