BOCA RATON – Replacing Trey Hendrickson’s pass rush never figured to be easy for FAU.
Entering the final week of spring practice, coach Lane Kiffin doesn’t like what he sees from the defense’s first line of defense.
“Not real good,” Kiffin said of the Owls’ pass rush. “That is maybe our most concerning position – defensive line.”
Hendrickson sacked opposing quarterbacks 9 ½ times last season. No other Owl managed more than two.
Returning defensive linemen combined for 6 ½ sacks.
“We have some guys coming in, hopefully, who will help us,” Kiffin said. “That’s why we signed a couple of junior college guys, too.”
The Owls signed junior college defensive ends Ernest Bagner and Tim Bonner in February with expectations that they will be impact pass rushers.
FAU also signed defensive tackle Chase Hooper from Alpharetta, Ga., who could contribute as a true freshman.
In 2016 FAU signed one junior college pass rusher as part of its 2016 recruiting class. Damian Horton didn’t see the field last season but he is making impression this spring.
“He knows whats he’s doing and you could see that in the first day we were here,” Kiffin said.
To Kiffin, the lack of a pass rush begins in the middle of the defensive line. Sophomore Will Davis and junior Steven Leggett spent most of spring this far as the starting defensive tackles. The Owls expect to have Ray Ellis, a two-year starter, back from his knee injury for fall camp.
“Guys are giving great effort but we’ve got to play more solid inside against the run and we’ve got to be able to rush better outside,” Kiffin said. “If you don’t stop the run it doesn’t matter how well you stop the passer.”