OwlAccess.com has learned that academic suspensions will sideline wide receivers Pico Harrison and DeAngelo Antoine, both seniors, as well as junior middle linebacker Keke Leroy – all starters.
In addition All-American tight end Harrison Bryant is not expected to play. Bryant has been ill ever since traveling to Atlanta to accept the Mackey Award and hasn’t practiced with the team in preparation for the bowl game.
Bryant, Antoine and Harrison are FAU’s three leaders in receiving yards. Their absences leave starting wide out John Mitchell and reserve tight end John Raine as the only players eligible for Saturday who caught more than 15 passes this season.
“You can look at it as an opportunity to make more plays to make up for the plays that probably would have been made on the field that now have to fall on somebody else,” Mitchell said.
Leroy, a second team All-Conference USA selection, leads the Owls in tackles with 101, and forced fumbles, with five. He’s also intercepted three passes.
“Next man up,” fellow starting linebacker Rashad Smith said. “Keke’s gone. Caliph’s [Brice] been training all year for this.”
The absence of Leroy, along with injured starting defensive end Tim Bonner who also won’t play, should greatly hamper FAU’s efforts to stop SMU (10-2), which brings the nation’s No. 6 offense into the Boca Bowl.
Walk-on Brandon Robinson practiced with the first team all week at Harrison’s wide out spot. The redshirt junior caught two passes totaling 44 yards this season.
Willie Wright likely will earn the start in the slot. The Owls’ leading receiver two years ago, Wright caught only 12 passes covering 127 yards this season, most of them coming on jet sweeps.
“All I’ve got to say is, our players have to be smart, really figure out what really matters,” said quarterback Chris Robison, himself suspended for all of 2019’s spring practices following a night of underage partying. “It sucks that they’re not playing, but you’ve just got to keep going. There’s nothing I can really do. All I can say is, I’ve got to feed the people we have.”
Running backs Malcolm Davidson, arguably the Owls’ best running back all season, and Tyrek Tisdale, a special teams standout, also will not play.
With 711 yards, the oft-injured Davidson led the Owls in rushing this season.
FAU (10-3) has won 10 of its last 11 games. They are looking for the second 11-win season in program history.
The Boca Bowl kicks off at 3:30 p.m. and will air on ABC.