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2012 Florida Atlantic Preview
Florida Atlantic LB David Hinds
Florida Atlantic LB David Hinds
Posted May 12, 2012 2012 Preview - Florida Atlantic Owls

Florida Atlantic Owls

Preview 2012

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By Pete Fiutak

Head coach: Carl Pelini
1st year: 0-0
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 24, Def. 19, ST 3
Lettermen Lost: 16
Ten Best Florida Atlantic Players
1. LB David Hinds, Sr.
2. LB Randell Johnson, Jr.
3. S Jeremy McKnight, Jr.
4. CB Keith Reaser, Jr.
5. RB Jonathan Wallace, Jr.
6. RB Xavier Stinson, Sr.
7. S Demetrius Williamson, Sr.
8. G Andrew Czuprynski, Sr.
9. TE Nexon Dorvilus, Soph.
10. WR Derek Moise, Soph.
2012 Schedule

Aug. 31 Wagner
Sep. 8 at Middle Tenn
Sep. 15 at Georgia
Sep. 22 at Alabama
Sep. 29 North Texas
Oct. 13 at ULM
Oct. 20 at South Alabama
Oct. 27 Troy
Nov. 3 at Navy
Nov. 10 at WKU
Nov. 16 FIU
Dec. 1 la-Lafayette

Howard Schnellenberger is the father of Florida Atlantic football, creating it from scratch and making it all go. His efforts helped create the shiny new stadium and set the wheels in motion to bring the school more national attention and a greater identity.

But after just 11 years of existence, the program has to be rebuilt.

New head coach Carl Pelini doesn’t have an impossible task, but he might need a little while and a lot of smoke and mirrors to turn around arguably the worst team in college football.

FAU was rolling right along bowl wins in 2007 and 2008, but Schnellenberger failed to get in enough residual talents from around the area to keep the production going. The 2010 team couldn’t score and sputtered down the stretch losing its final three games of the year, but that was only a hint of things to come.

The 2011 Owls came up with more than 17 points just three times and had six games scoring a touchdown or less. The passing game was the least efficient in America; the defense was lit up on a regular basis; and the special teams were among the worst in college football.

Only one of the 11 losses was by fewer than 14 points.

But now there’s experience returning for Pelini and his staff to play around with. There are several new JUCO transfers coming in to fill in at some key spots, while the receiving corps and the linebackers should be among the best in the Sun Belt.

There’s speed to burn at running back to go along with plenty of experience in the secondary and offensive line, but can the overall mix translate into wins right away?

Last year wasn’t supposed to be awful, but nothing worked in a shocker of season. There might not need to be too much tweaking for Pelini to come up with a shocker the other way with new schemes on both sides of the ball. He wasn’t exactly the hottest name out there in the coaching circuit, but Florida Atlantic wasn’t exactly the hottest job opening. The two sides are eager to make a big splash; motivation won’t be a problem.

Just 46, Pelini has the energy and the fire to take what Schnellenberger created and make it fly. The résumé as a defensive coach is terrific – helping to make Nebraska’s D dominant again – and he knows how to develop players.

It’s the Sun Belt and programs can quickly go from horrendous to great in a hiccup. FAU might just have the right mix to do just that.

What to watch for on offense: The spread. It’s not going to be a wing-it-around-the-yard Texas Tech-like attack, and it’s not going to be a Nebraska run and run again offense, but the Owls are going to try to go to the spread and do whatever it can to make the something work. The receiving corps is full of dangerous young options, and there are plenty of quarterbacks for every type of style, but the line has to be night-and-day better and the running backs need holes to fly through.

What to watch for on defense: Attack, attack, attack. Every coaching staff preaches the idea of being aggressive and looks to be more disruptive, but Pelini actually knows how to do it. The pass rush wasn’t there last season and the takeaways didn’t come on a regular basis to make up for the stagnant offense, so now the idea will be to switch from a 3-4 to a 4-3 – while also employing a 4-2-5 on a regular basis – with the outside defenders to be turned loose into the backfield. There’s speed and athleticism on the FAU D, and Pelini and his staff will try to do everything possible to get everyone to swarm.

The team will be far better if … the offense can move the ball. The Owls had to go on the road to face Florida, Michigan State, and Auburn, but the attack that came up with 307 yards against the Tigers managed just 121 yards against WKU and 148 against ULM. The problem was a line that couldn’t generate much of a consistent push for the running game – even with Alfred Morris cranking out a 1,000-yard season – and didn’t give the quarterbacks time. The passing game was dead last in efficiency averaging under ten yards per catch with just eight touchdown passes. The offense has to keep the chains moving.

The schedule: It’s better than it was last season when the Owls had to go on the road for the first five games of the season and didn’t get a home game until mid-October, but it’s not that far off. Starting out with Wagner will match the 2011 win total before September starts, and then comes the fun with five of the next six games and seven of the next eight on the road including hide-the-women-and-children dates against Georgia and Alabama. However, there are chances for wins against South Alabama on the road, North Texas at home, and in the Sun Belt opener at Middle Tennessee. The slat is way too tough, though, with just three home games in three full months.

Best offensive player: Junior RB Jonathan Wallace. The hope is for one of the several quarterback options to emerge as the star, and there are several nice receivers who could blossom with a little bit of help, but it’s Wallace, the JUCO transfer, combining with veteran Xavier Stinson, who should be the key pieces to the offense. Wallace has decent size and a nice burst, and while he might not match the 1,186 yards and nine touchdowns Alfred Morris came up with last season, he should ease the loss.

Best defensive player: Senior LB David Hinds. The Owls need a star to work the new 4-3 scheme around, and Hinds and fellow linebacker Randell Johnson will be it. The two are terrific hitters with Johnson able to get into the backfield – leading the team with five sacks and 14 tackles for loss – while Hinds paced the team with 110 stops. The two should be all over the field for Pelini’s defense and should once again be statistical stars.

Key player to a successful season: Senior QB Graham Wilbert, or sophomore Stephen Curtis, or junior Melvin German. Wilbert is a big, strong bomber who’s built for a pro-style attack, but he failed to crank up enough yards and numbers last year for the passing game. Curtis is more of a rushing option, even though he finished with negative rushing yards last year. Both are in the hunt for the starting job, but it’s German, a JUCO transfer, who could come in and steal the position away. The coaching staff will go with anyone who can move the ball.

The season will be a success if … the Owls win four games. Considering it was a minor miracle that FAU came up with the win over UAB last season, and that almost every other game was a disastrous blowout, four wins might seem like a lofty dream. But with 17 returning starters and a sure-thing win over Wagner to kick off the season, coming up with a few home victories and a road win over someone like South Alabama and/or ULM isn’t asking for too much.

Key game: Sept. 8 at Middle Tennessee. The Blue Raiders will also be looking to put a rough 2011 in the past with a big performance early on, but FAU has to show that it’s not going to be a pushover again in Sun Belt play. Getting a win isn’t vital, but fighting hard and making it close will be with confidence-sapping road games at Georgia and Alabama to follow.

2011 Fun Stats:
- 1st Quarter Scoring: Opponents 107- Florida Atlantic 20
- 3rd Down Conversions: Opponents 88-of-183 (48%) – Florida Atlantic 48-of-166 (29%)
- Time of Possession: Opponents 32:19 – Florida Atlantic 27:41

- 2012 Florida Atlantic Preview | 2012 Florida Atlantic Offense
- 2012 Florida Atlantic Defense | 2012 Florida Atlantic Depth Chart