For much of the year FAU’s offense has been two dimensional when it comes to wide receiver play. Jovon Durante embraced his role as the Owls’ true No. 1 wide out. Willie Wright gets plenty of chances to make plays, though not often down the field.
The Owls’ third wide receiver spot, a necessary role in FAU’s base offense, remains an enigma.
“It’s been very discouraging,” Kiffin said. “We’ve had some guys regress. We had some guys that were significantly playing – starting – that don’t even play now. That’s been a very discouraging position. Obviously that affects the quarterback play.”
The wide receiver issues date back to fall camp, when a rash of injuries struck that position. At one point John Mitchell emerged from relative obscurity to claim the top spot on the depth chart only to succumb to an injury himself.
Back healthy, Mitchell made his first start in Friday’s loss to La. Tech but failed to make much of an impact, catching only two passes for eight yards.
“I think we’re trying to find some more receivers and be balanced and be able to spread it around a little more instead of so much focused on two guys,” Kiffin said. “We gave John a chance and he’s done some things.”
Mitchell played as a true freshman before sitting out last season following a back injury that required surgery.
“I don’t think I’m where I want to be,” Mitchell said. “I’m progressing for sure, but I don’t think you should ever say, ‘Yeah, I’m where I want to be,’ because you get complacent and you don’t really progress from there.”
Pico Harrison started the season as the Owls’ primary third receiver, catching 11 passes for 195 yards over the season’s first two games. Since then Harrison’s caught only five passes covering 52 yards, never grabbing more than two passes in a single game.
JUCO transfer DeSean Holmes also started in that spot, but has yet to make an impact. Of his six catches on the season, two of them came in Friday’s loss to La. Tech. They covered only three yards.
But the 5-foot-10, 180-pound Holmes is about to get more of an opportunity. Dante Cousart’s season-ending broken leg prompted the Owls to move Holmes back to slot receiver, his more natural position, where he backs up Wright.
“This week he’s really picked up his game,” quarterback Chris Robison said of Holmes. “When he gets in, I don’t know what it is about him, maybe he’s just a nice guy, but when he gets in I get a confidence boost. I like throwing to him. Now that he’s really getting into the offense, is actually really getting down to work on his plays, I think he’s going to be a really good tool for us.”
Ten FAU wide receivers combined to catch 114 passes this season, but Durante and Wright have 82 of those receptions. Since the start of C-USA play four games ago, wide receivers not named Durante or Wright have only nine catches.
Durante and Wright are the lone Owl wide receivers to catch touchdown passes this season. Both have two scores.
“When you don’t have depth, guys are playing more, you don’t rotate guys and guys get tired, and I think it’s why you see us play a lot better early [in games] than we do late,” Kiffin said.