BOCA RATON – Nick Internicola is finally at the top – and it feels good.
Four years after transferring to FAU from Rutgers, Internicola emerged from spring as a starting defensive end. Five practices into fall camp, he remains a first-teamer.
“I feel like I have something to prove,” Internicola said. “I played a decent amount over the past two years but I never could say that I was a ‘one.’ Saying that I’m a ‘one,’ it really means a lot to me. I have a lot to prove.”
Leg injuries are part of the reason Internicola only recorded 36 tackles in his two seasons as an Owl. Both of his sacks came in 2015. Now he’ll be counted on to become one of the players to make up for the graduation of FAU career sack leader Trey Hendrickson, now with the New Orleans Saints.
To make that happen, FAU coaches have been working with Internicola to improve his pass rush.
“He looks quicker,” FAU coach Lane Kiffin said. “We talked about working on his quickness for pass rush because he’s been more of a run player.”
The biggest difference for Internicola has been the scheme change.
In the previous two seasons Internicola always lined up in a three-point stance. Chris Kiffin’s version of the 4-2-5 affords ends the ability to be stand-up rushers along with a little more freedom to pursue opposing quarterbacks.
In that respect, the scheme is similar to what Internicola learned at Rutgers.
When coaches began explaining the new defense during the spring, Internicola quickly grasped that this system better fits his style of play.
“I was very excited,” Internicola said. “It was awesome. It was pretty easy to catch on. I love it.”
Internicola and Haiden Nagel worked with the first team on Tuesday, FAU’s first day in full pads. They have Hunter Snyder, Anthony Bennett and Leighton McCarthy, along with junior college transfers Ernest Bagner and Tim Bonner, pushing them for playing time.
“We’re glad to have the JUCO players,” Internicola said. “The JUCO players are definitely going to play. On the D-line, ones and twos and even threes are going to play. This is a position where you need rotation to stay fresh.”
It’s still early in fall camp, but many thought at least one of the two junior college defensive ends FAU signed in February would work their way into a starting defensive end spot. That may well happen, but it won’t be because Internicola gave the position away with a lack of effort or focus.
“He’s the No. 1 (defensive end) for a reason,” Bagner said. “He knows the assignment. He doesn’t mess up like me and the other backups.”