Walking the practice field on Thursday, one day before FAU’s first fall practice, Kiffin noticed a sign on the fence that separates the football practice field from the soccer field. It celebrated the Owls’ 11 wins in 2017 and their Conference USA title.
By Friday morning, that sign was gone. New year, new team.
“We took that down because we don’t need to be staring at some banner about something that’s got nothing to do with the team,”Kiffin said. “Just like being 3-9 had nothing to do with going 11-3, 11-3 is going to have nothing to do with this season.”
Kiffin stressed to players Thursday night that each year’s team is a different team. He explained to the media on Friday in colorful Kiffin manner that he was, in a sense, trying to breakup with last season.
“It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, if you’re trying to move forward, to have the ex-girlfriend over the house every day,” Kiffin said.
FAU has many of the pieces it needs to repeat as a conference champion for the first time in program history.
Atypical of a Kiffin-led team, most of those pieces wreak havoc on the defensive side of the ball – which only lost one starter from last season.
It’s the offensive side of the ball where most questions exist. Along with the quarterback battle, the Owls are looking to replace three starting interior linemen.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do on the offensive line, the interior, with probably three new starters over there,” Kiffin said.
Per NCAA rules, FAU practiced in shorts and helmets only on Friday. Other than getting players running around together again, Kiffin didn’t see anything that jumped out to him.
“These practices don’t mean a whole lot,” Kiffin said. “We’ve got no pads on.”
O-Line Movement: It didn’t take long for grad transfer Junior Diaz from Tulane to work with the first team. That happened on Friday. Antonio Riles, a grad transfer from Florida, is being plugged into the right guard spot. B.J. Etienne is the left guard. The addition of Riles appears to have given FAU the luxury of moving JUCO transfer Marcel Southall to the defensive line, where the former Texas Longhorn played at Tyler C. C. Southall is wearing No. 92 – a defensive number. At times during the early portion of practice Tarrick Thomas, a convert from guard to center during the spring, worked as guard. JUCO transfer Zach Bennett, primarily recruited as a center, also worked at guard.
Motor Under Revved: FAU running back Devin Singletary’s 32 rushing touchdowns last season were the third most ever in a single season by an NCAA player. Kiffin believes that if FAU weren’t winning by so much last season, Singletary could have broken Barry Sanders’ record of 37 in a season. “That’s the third most touchdowns in the history of college football and he’s sitting on the bench in a lot of fourth quarters,” Kiffin said. “Arguably, if we were just trying to stat him up he may have caught Barry.”
Tisdale Not Ready: Considered a candidate to back up Singletary at running back, sophomore Tyrek Tisdale is not cleared for contact. He’s coming off a late-season torn ACL that required surgery, forcing him to miss spring. Tisdale remains hopeful that he’ll be ready for the start of the season.
Tronti Absent: Quarterback Nick Tronti, a transfer from Indiana, did not participate in Friday’s practice because of what Kiffin termed a “medical condition.” Tronti has to sit out this season in accordance with NCAA transfer rules.