At the end of the 2009 season, FAU waved goodbye to not only Rusty Smith, who was drafted by the Tennessee Titans, but also five starting offensive linemen. But not to worry, the majority of the defense is returning for this season. This was a defense that was so poorly organized that they set a new school record for most yards allowed — twice.
In a game against Alabama at Birmingham last season, the Owls surrendered a record 622 yards, only to allow Troy to rack up 651 total yards two weeks later. The defense was so bad that veteran head coach Howard Schnellenberger relieved defensive coordinator Kirk Hoza from his duties. For the 2010 season, assistant head coach Van Valkenburgh has been assigned as the new defensive coordinator. It almost goes without saying that Valkenburgh has a lot of work to do.
The strongest area of the defense are safeties and special teams. At the start of the 2009 season, the punting unit was ranked No. 1 nationally in negative return yards allowed. History could repeat itself as the core of special teams is returning this season. This includes punter Mickey Groody who was the driving force behind the unit’s success. While the field goal unit wasn’t as flawless, kicker Ross Gornall did enjoy success when he wasn’t busy being rushed by defenders who seemed to easily blow by FAU’s blockers. He did miss point after attempts on occasion, but his return is no doubt a boost to the special teams.
For safeties, Incumbents Ed Alexander and Marcus Bartels return to fill their free safety and strong safety positions. Alexander was the only defensive back to start in every game last season and he recorded a career-high 66 tackles. Bartels shone as the defense’s biggest play maker, making one interception, forcing a fumble and blocking a kick.
The Owls will undoubtedly be looking for the offense to carry them this season. Filling Smith’s shoes will be Jeff Van Camp who has had some experience on the field as he filled in for Smith half way through last season due to a shoulder injury. Van Camp is a solid quarterback who can make big plays when the offensive line allows him to. In his first five games starting he put up 1,372 yards 12 passing touchdowns, and three rushing touchdowns. These stats almost double Smith’s. If Van Camp can get the ball off to veteran wide receivers Lester Jean and Avery Holley, we will be looking at another big season from the red shirt junior quarterback.
A big problem last season was the O-lines inability to stop the pass rush. A plethora of potential offensive big plays for the Owls were lost to the opposing defense. With eight freshmen filling out the starting roster for the O-line, these untested newcomers will decide the fate of the entire Offensive game plan.
If I was Schnellenberger, I would be giving the ball to running back Alfred Morris on as many plays as possible. Morris and his squad of running backs are the shinning glimmer of hope for this team. Morris’ breakout season last year saw him lead the Sun-Belt Conference as well as break FAU’s all-time single season record with 1,392 rushing yards. Backing up Morris is Willie Floyd who can easily churn yard when Morris needs to catch his breath. A Morris-Floyd duo could turn out to be a dominating force for this team. However, it still all comes down to the performance of the the O-line. If they fail to make the necessary blocks, the dynamic duo will fail.
Bottom Line: We are looking at a team that has the potential to excel on offense but struggles on defense. With big opponents like Michigan State, USF, and Texas on the schedule, and only four home games, the team is looking at a very tough season. So fasten your seat belts Owl fans. This could be a rough ride.
For a more in depth break down of 2010 FAU fooball team, visit: upressonline.com
About the Author
Written by Mark Gibson
Mark Gibson is a senior media communications major at Florida Atlantic University. He is a staff reporter who covers sports and entertainment for the FAU student Newspaper, University Press. He also runs a podcast and website that reviews video games and new electronics. On his downtime, he loves playing his guitar and currently plays bass in a local band.