After missing the victory over Charlotte two weekends ago because of a concussion, cornerback James Pierre is back practicing with the first team and is expected to start on Saturday against Middle Tennessee.
The availability of Korel Smith, a starting corner early in the season, remains uncertain.
Arguably FAU’s best all-around cornerback and a candidate for All-Conference USA postseason honors, Pierre is eighth on the Owls with 14 tackles even though he missed nearly two games. A strong cover corner, Pierre’s been limited to one interception during his three-year career in large part because opposing quarterbacks rarely throw his way.
Starting in Pierre’s place against Charlotte, Meiko Dotson picked off two passes, the first interceptions of his career.
“I would think it would mean a lot [having Pierre back], but we played better without him,” coach Lane Kiffin joked on Wednesday. “Anytime there’s an injury it’s good for someone to play, like Meiko got two picks, got a start. You feel more comfortable, he feels more comfortable in there.”
Kiffin’s increased level of comfort should allow him to rest Pierre more frequently during games in an effort to keep his top corner fresh for the fourth quarter, as well as games at the back end of the schedule.
“Hopefully that can cut down some reps,” Kiffin said. “We’re rotating more so that James’ reps aren’t as high as they have been.”
Dotson, a JUCO signee in 2018 who began his career at Georgia Tech, missed all of last season and was limited in spring after undergoing hip surgery.
Those surgeries hindered Dotson’s play during the season’s opening weeks.
“We thought he was healthy but we saw him in a game early, he didn’t look healthy at all,” Kiffin said. “I think he feels a lot better now.”
With Pierre back and Dotson rounding into form, FAU is looking for new ways to use Dotson. That could include using Pierre, Dotson and starting corner Chris Tooley on the field at the same time – likely in passing situations.
“He plays outside for the most part but there is a package where he comes inside, depending on the personnel for the team you are playing,” Kiffin said.
Teammates are seeing Dotson’s confidence continue to grow, which in turn is allowing Dotson to be more vocal on the field and in the locker room.
“Man I like what he’s becoming,” starting safety Da’Von Brown said.