BOCA RATON – Lane Kiffin, the head coach of FAU football, offered an evaluation of the Owls on Monday that likely made Lane Kiffin, the CEO and chief marketer of the program, cringe.
With all the energy heading into Friday’s nationally televised season-opener against Navy, which also serves as his first game at FAU, the Kiffin compared FAU to, essentially, the 1995 inaugural Carolina Panthers.
“I understand that expectations are really high that we’re going to win every game and be great right away all of the sudden just because we changed coaches,” Kiffin said. “But I think this team, what you’ll see, it will improve throughout the year because you have to look at what (we) did. It’s almost like an expansion team a little bit. As you look at so many new guys, well, it takes a while to jell. We have guys that have been here for a week or two weeks. I think that what you’ll see is that you will continue to improve throughout the year. Anytime you take that many new guys I think that’s usually the case.”
Kiffin’s calming the hype?
Program founder Howard Schnellenberger, who led Florida Atlantic to its only two bowl appearances, told FAU fans that the Owls were on a collision course with the national title – the only variable being time.
Kiffin, who won the 2015 national title at Alabama as the offensive coordinator, compared the Owls to an expansion team? The Twitter Master pulled an anti-Schnellenberger. Where’s the hyperbole?
Truth is, Kiffin is correct (Except for the part about people expecting FAU to win every game. Find one person who thinks that way. Straw man passing for hyperbole? Sure.)
More than a half-dozen of the 20 players from FAU’s 2017 signing class who qualified and arrived at campus stand to see meaningful action on Friday. Add blue-shirters Kain Daub (DE), Jeremiah Taleni (DT), James Pierre (S) and John Franklin (WR) and that’s more than 10 players who arrived at FAU after spring practice.
In the case of Daub, Taleni and Franklin, it’s only been a few weeks. That’s not a lot of time to learn a system.
Along with the new faces, the schedule also works against FAU early.
Navy’s flexbone offense is difficult to prepare for and is an attack the Owls won’t see again. Wisconsin, FAU’s second opponent, begins the season ranked in the Top 10 and will be a heavy favorite in Madison. Many teams will lose to Wisconsin this year.
The following week, Bethune-Cookman of the FCS comes to Howard Schnellenberger Field. If FAU blows out Bethune, well, that’s what’s supposed to happen. If it’s close? Uh-oh.
The truth is, barring an expectation rocket ride that would accompany a blowout of Navy, FAU will be a difficult team to judge until week four at Buffalo. At that point the Owls will have nearly a full month together. In theory there should be one starting quarterback by then. FAU will be heading into Conference USA play.
So Kiffin is correct. The Owls should be significantly different – likely significantly better – a month from now than they show on Friday.
That wouldn’t have stopped Schnellenberger from predicting a playoff run for this season. Kiffin showed restraint. Even maturity.
Incidentally, Carolina won seven games as an expansion team in 1995. Should FAU win that many, they’ll be bowling. That’s an outcome both Schnellenberger and Kiffin would gladly accept.
Season Opener: FAU vs. Navy. Friday, 8 p.m.