Like last season, and to some extent the season before that, the current quarterback battle carries over from the spring. Unlike last season, no signal caller on the Owls roster has ever started an FBS football game.
The two primary contenders for the starting job, De’Andre Johnson and Chris Robison, may lack experience, but they exude talented.
Johnson began his career at Florida St. before transferring to FAU, with a stop at East Mississippi Community College in between. He battled for the starting spot last season and even played a couple of downs in the season opener against Navy before undergoing season-ending surgery to remove blood clots from his arm.
That surgery zapped zip from Johnson’s throws during the spring. While Johnson continued to regain strength throughout spring, he said only about 80 percent had returned by the conclusion of fall practices. He hoped to be full strength by the start of fall camp.
Robison, a redshirt freshman, enrolled at Oklahoma as a high profile recruit but the Sooners dismissed him after an arrest for public intoxication, prompting an immediate transfer to FAU. He’s mobile and has moxie, and there’s no questioning Robison’s arm strength, but he’s still learning the position at the college level.
Both quarterbacks are still adapting the new Lane Kiffin/Charlie Weis Jr. offense, while is similar to what last year’s offensive coordinator Kendall Briles ran but not exactly the same.
FAU also signed Cordel Littlejohn in February. The true freshman participated in summer workouts but stepping into the starting role immediately would represent a huge, unlikely, leap.
And although it’s getting late, FAU could still add one more competitor to the battle. Kiffin unsuccessfully attempted to add a graduate transfer quarterback during the spring, and he’s demonstrated a willingness to add talented transfers when they become available.
Throughout spring Kiffin searched for improved, decisive decision making from his quarterbacks. If Jason Driskel taught observers anything last season, the most physically gifted quarterback isn’t predestined to earn the starting spot. The one who makes the best decisions and takes care of the football will earn that job.
OwlAccess.com Pre-Camp QB Breakdown
De’Andre Johnson (6-2, 205, R-Jr.): Johnson’s ability to snag the starting role will depend, first and foremost, on his ability get his throwing arm back to the strength he displayed in the spring of 2017. Last fall, and throughout spring, Johnson’s passes often fluttered, leading to interceptions. Johnson’s exciting and elusive with the ball in his hands. As a redshirt junior, he also holds a maturity advantage. When healthy, he’s fun to watch.
Chris Robison (6-1, 185, R-Fr.): There’s a reason Kiffin assigned Robison jersey number 2: Robison’s playing style bears a strong resemblance to former Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel. He dazzled at times during the spring, but inconsistent overall play kept the quarterback competition open.
Cordel Littlejohn (6-4, 190, Fr.): The true freshmen signed in February and paid a visit to FAU during spring practices, getting a jump start on his freshman season. The pace of practice and the run/pass balance within the Owls’ offense impressed the youngster, who originally committed to Illinois. He also liked what he saw from the QB battle. “They push one another,” Littlejohn said. “There’s no hate toward each other. It’s all love, all competition. It’s really good.”
Nick Tronti (6-2, 205, R-Fr.): A former Mr. Florida Football, Tronti spent last season at Indiana before elected to transfer to FAU. He won’t factor in the quarterback battle this season, however. Tronti will have to sit out this year in compliance with NCAA transfer rules.
Jason Driskel: He actually lost last year’s quarterback battle, beginning the season as the third string QB. FAU’s 2016 starting quarterback, Driskel reclaimed the starting spot for the season’s fourth game – a loss at Buffalo. After that game, FAU didn’t lose again. With Driskel in command of the offense, the Owls posted record numbers. Driskel had one more year of eligibility remaining, but announced in the spring that he will forego his final season, graduate from FAU, and put his engineering degree to work.
Daniel Parr: The starting quarterback for the first three FAU games last season, Parr found himself relegated to the bench once Driskel assumed the helm. In search of more playing time, Parr transferred to Duquesne before the spring semester.
Chris Robison: In truth, whichever quarterback starts will have a chance to pilot what could be a prolific offense, which would garner that player national attention. Robison is the choice here because of his health, his athleticism and the head start he received learning the system while leading the scout team last season. If Robison and Johnson don’t differentiate themselves in the season. Littlejohn might get a shot as the year progresses – especially since the NCAA changed its redshirt rule to allow a player to play any four games in one season and still claim a redshirt year.