Hampered by an undisclosed injury since training camp, Snyder, a redshirt senior, has yet to start a game this season for the Owls, and missed the Bethune-Cookman victory completely.
“This has been the most he’s done through a week and hopefully this is the week that we see what I think, when he’s healthy, will be a dominant player in this conference,” FAU coach Lane Kiffin said.
A Snyder-less FAU defensive line has been anything but dominant. Through four games, the Owls’ front four managed only three sacks – two by Ernest Bagner and one by Tim Bonner.
Working with the first team this week, Snyder would replace Bagner in the starting lineup, bringing 12.5 career sacks with him.
“He’s relentless,” said Kiffin, comparing him to running back Devin “Motor” Singletary. “He plays inside. He plays outside. Tracking down the quarterback, running 20 yards down field, his effort is kind of like Motor’s on offense.”
FAU expected its defensive line, which rotates as many as 10 players, to be a strength this season. While the defensive line did dominate an FAU offensive line that was still attempting to blend three new starters during fall camp, it has struggled to pressure opposing quarterbacks.
“We’ve just got to put it all together,” Snyder said. “We’re making simple mistakes like not getting the call or not getting set right.”
Two of the tough defensive line performances came against the best offenses the Owls will face this season. Then-No. 7 Oklahoma, FAU’s season-opening opponent, and then-No. 16 UCF, which FAU lost to on Friday, sport two of the most prolific offenses in the nation.
“Last week we hardly had any pressure on the quarterback and he was just back there tossing balls,” Snyder said. “If we get our D-line to have a good pass rush it will help out our DBs a lot.”
Facing two SEC opponents in its first three games, Middle Tennessee (1-2) showed it can move the ball, averaging 355.3 yards per game behind 6-foot quarterback Brent Stockstill – often doing so with quick drops and short passes.
This week FAU’s defensive linemen will have to quickly ascertain whether they should go full bore at Stockstill or attempt to use their height – Snyder stands 6-foot-7, with no FAU defensive end listed as being shorter than 6-foot-3 – to disrupt passing lanes.
“You’ve just got to make your money when they do drop back and we have time to get there,” Snyder said.
During Thursday’s FAU coach’s radio show on ESPN West Palm, defensive line coach Eric Mathis called the defensive line’s performance during this week’s practices the best it had been all year.
“We’ve just got to get off the ball,” Snyder said. “We’ve got to get off the ball and execute our stunts, and we’ve got to go win.”