Who is going to kick the ball for the Owls? That’s the biggest mystery entering FAU fall camp.
Graduation robbed the Owls of place kicker Greg Joseph, now with the Miami Dolphins, and punter Ryan Rickel.
No player on FAU’s roster has ever kicked a ball in an NCAA game.
All of FAU’s punters and kickers are walk-ons – not uncommon at the Group of 5 level. Joseph, Rickel and Dalton Schomp, who led the nation in punting in 2015, all came to FAU as a walk-ons. FAU signed only two kickers since moving to the FBS level, and neither Landen Scheer nor Marcelo Bonani ever scored a point for the Owls. FAU did sign punter Mickey Groody out of high school, a decision that worked out pretty well.
In reality, it may not matter too much who wins those starting spots. In Lane Kiffin’s first season the offensive-minded coach often elected to try to convert fourth downs – even those in his own territory – into first downs or touchdowns rather than attempt a field goal or punt.
The area where FAU might miss Joseph is on kickoffs. A true field position weapon, more than 75 percent of Joseph’s kickoffs weren’t returned last season.
The good special teams news for FAU can be found in the return game. Last season Kerrith Whyte returned the first kickoff for a touchdown in program history. Only a junior, Whyte already ranks fourth on FAU’s career kickoff return yardage list.
FAU also returns Jalen Young, last season’s leading punt returner.
The Owls can get the ball and go. Fall camp will offer the first glimpse as to whether the Owls can put three points on the board when they want to, and pin opponents deep when the need to.
OwlAccess.com Pre-Camp Special Teams Preview
Vladimir Rivas (5-10, 165, R-Fr.): A member of the Owls during spring, Rivas had the first opportunity to impress. FAU, however, didn’t spend all that much time on special teams during the spring, so it’s difficult to discern what kind of advantage that gave him. By the time fall classes open, a point at which camp rosters can expand, there could be a litter of walk-on kickers looking to take his job.
Jesse Williams (6-0, 180, Fr.): Williams played his high school football at Lakeland. FAU brought him to Boca Raton as a preferred walk-on, and he is already on campus. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Williams boot the opening kickoff at Oklahoma on Sept. 1.
Tyler Gilley (5-10, 175, Fr.): Gilley both kicks and punts, and took part in spring practice. He looked like a potential backup at both positions heading into the fall.
Austin Laszewski (6-4, 180, R-So.): After beginning his career as a walk-on at Louisville, where he redshirted, Laszewski transferred to ASA College in Miami. He punted 17 times last season, averaging 35.9 yards with a long off 47. He also went 9-of-11 on field goal attempts, with a long of 42 yards.
Sebastian Riella (5-8, 180, Fr.): A true freshman from Coral Gables, Riella is already on campus working out with the Owls. He’ll battle Laszewski for the starting punter role.
John Clancy (5-11, 235, R-Jr.): The lone pure long snapper on the Owls’ roster heading into camp, the job is Clancy’s to lose. Clancy snapped in 13 games last season and is credited with two tackles.
Kerrith Whyte (5-10, 200, R. Jr.): Whyte returned 23 kicks for 568 yards and that 98-yard touchdown. Both fast and elusive, Whyte is a true weapon for FAU in the return game.
Shelton Lewis (6-0, 185, Jr.): When the Owls did practice kick returns during the spring, they gave many guys a shot. FAU will probably keep a rotation going this fall before settling on its returners.
Tyrek Tisdale (6-2, 210, So.): Returned five kicks for 65 yards last season, but his knee injury against Bethune-Cookman occurred on a kickoff. Will Lane Kiffin risk putting him back there again, especially with so many other athletes to choose from?
Desean Holmes (5-10, 180, Jr.): Holmes is fast and offers a little wiggle. Expect him to get a shot to be a game breaker in the kicking game.
Jalen Young (5-11, 185, Sr.): Young averaged 12.4 yards on his nine punt returns last season, with a long of 33 yards. In his career Young has returned 14 punts
Willie Wright (5-8, 155, So.): Wright has the moves to make the first tackler miss, and the speed to find the end zone. Undersized and a crucial part of the passing game, do the Owls want to risk an injury to Wright by having him return punts?
Greg Joseph: He came to FAU as a walk-on and graduated as the Owls leading scorer. Joseph boomed kickoffs through the end zone and connected on 15 of 21 field goal attempts as a senior, with a long of 54 yards.
Ryan Rickel: An excellent pooch punter, Rickel handled all of the punting duties last season, averaging 42.4 yards per kick. He also pinned opponents inside their 20 yard line 15 times.
Teja Young (5-11, 180, Fr.): One of the most versatile players in FAU’s 2018 signing class, Young played several positions, including quarterback, at West Palm Beach-Palm Beach Lakes High School. He’s shifty, fast and possesses good vision. Young could make his mark early as a kick returner, a punt returner, or both.
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