His first step in doing so takes place in Murfreesboro, Tenn., on Saturday.
Their upcoming matchup with Middle Tennessee finds the Owls in a similar place they resided in this time last year. FAU was 1-3 heading into its game with MTSU in 2017 and won 38-20.
That victory represented the first of 10 in a row, the Owls sweeping Conference USA competition en route to their first title since joining the conference.
FAU is one game ahead of that 1-3 start of 2017, sitting at 2-2. Its 2017 win over the Raiders propelled the team on a historic, record-shattering run.
Owls fans can only hope that pattern reigns true again starting on Saturday night.
THE FILE: FAU (2-2, 0-0), MTSU (1-2, 0-0)
The Blue Raiders run a creative offense that likes to move their small, shifty weapons back-and-forth from the backfield to split out as receivers in an effort to get them in space. Expect a lot of dump offs and screens to those players, as Middle Tennessee will be giving them plenty of short yardage looks to test the open-field tackling of FAU. Part of the reason Middle Tennessee is C-USA’s 12th ranked team in rushing (113.3 YPG) is because they lack a true workhorse back. Terrelle West and Chaton Mobley have shared the load with 24 and 20 carries respectively to start the season, combining for 192 yards and two scores.
Offensive Players to Watch:
8 Ty Lee, Jr, WR: Named to this year’s Biletnikoff Award Watch list after a strong 2017 season, Lee has been quiet through three games. He is averaging only five yards per catch on his 10 receptions, not showing the same burst and make-you-miss ability he had in his sophomore campaign. He will have an opportunity to get back on track against an Owls secondary he toasted for eight catches, 138 yards and a score against a season ago.
12 Brent Stockstill, R-Sr, QB: An injury kept him out of the FAU game last season and his presence was sorely missed, as backup quarterback John Urzua threw three interceptions in his place. Stockstill has had an impressive start to his final season, passing for seven touchdowns to only two interceptions. A combination of both his accuracy and the low-risk offense he plays in has given him a 68.7 completion percentage – second among C-USA passers.
11 Brad Anderson, So, RB: Built similarly both in role and stature to Lee, the five-foot-eight 175-pound Anderson’s versatility and shiftiness with the ball in his hands has made him an emerging star for his team. Able to make plays both from the slot and in the backfield, Anderson leads the Blue Raiders in receptions (17) and receiving yards (223) through three games.
Middle Tennessee is primarily a 4-3 unit defensively but it mixes in some bear fronts – lining defenders over the center and both guards while walking up a safety, linebacker or both – and moves defenders around pre-snap to try and confuse the opposing offense. Injuries have plagued the Blue Raiders to start the year; impact safeties Jovante Moffatt and Reed Blankenship have both missed time this season and it has yet to be determined if they will suit up against the Owls. It will be a case of the immovable object versus the unstoppable force this Saturday; FAU’s offensive line, which has given up only four sacks – tied for second in Conference USA – will be facing an aggressive Blue Raiders defensive front that is second best among Conference USA teams in sacks (12).
Defensive Players to Watch:
3 Gregory Grate Jr., Fr, S: One of the recipients of snaps opened up by the aforementioned injuries in Middle Tennessee’s secondary, Grate has shown well since being thrown into the lineup as a freshman. His athleticism flashed off the screen on a clutch fourth-quarter play against UT-Martin. The Blue Raiders brought the house on a blitz and left a UT-Martin running back wide open on a swing route but Grate was somehow able to sprint down from his safety position and make a leaping interception, keeping his balance and running it back 97 yards to the end zone. His 16 tackles are third on the team and he also has a sack on the year.
6 Khalil Brooks, R-Jr, OLB: A second team All-Conference USA selection a season ago, Brooks’ speed and sideline-to-sideline ability makes it extremely difficult for offensive linemen to get a hand on him. Brooks has 17 tackles with two coming for a loss and has made an impact as a pass rusher, collecting three quarterback hits.
30 Darius Harris, R-Sr, MLB: Middle Tennessee’s leading tackler with 20 stops, Harris is a physical, down-hill run stuffer that didn’t look out of place against SEC competition in Vanderbilt and Georgia in Week 1 and Week 3 respectively. At 238 pounds, he can fight off blocks better than most Conference USA linebackers who tend to be on the lighter end, and will pose a daunting challenge to the FAU running backs he meets in the hole on Saturday.