CFN Preview 2013 - Florida Atlantic Owls
Florida Atlantic RB Jonathan Wallace
Florida Atlantic RB Jonathan Wallace
Posted Jul 4, 2013 2013 Preview - Florida Atlantic Owls

Florida Atlantic Owls

Preview 2013

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By Richard Cirminiello

Head coach: Carl Pelini Second year: 3-9
Returning Lettermen
Off. 24, Def. 26, ST 4
Lettermen Lost: 16
Ten Best Owl Players
1. WR William Dukes, Jr.
2. LB Andrae Kirk, Jr.
3. LB Adarius Glanton, Sr.
4. RB Jonathan Wallace, Sr.
5. TE Nexon Dorvilus, Sr.
6. CB Keith Reaser, Sr.
7. QB Melvin German III, Sr.
8. LB Randell Johnson, Sr.
9. WR Daniel McKinney, Sr.
10. FS Jeremy McKnight, Sr.
2013 Schedule
8/31 at Miami
9/7 at East Carolina
9/14 at South Florida
9/21 Middle Tennessee
9/28 at Rice
10/5 at UAB
10/12 Marshall
10/26 at Auburn
11/2 Tulane
11/16 at Southern Miss
11/23 New Mexico State
11/30 FIU
The ground floor is down. Now it's time for Carl Pelini and his staff to really start building.

Pelini did a commendable job in his first year in Boca Raton, raising Florida Atlantic's win total from one in 2011 to three in 2012, highlighted by upsets of Troy and Western Kentucky. Even when losing, the program was far more competitive than it was in Howard Schnellenberger's finale, dropping three games by a touchdown or less. However, Pelini wasn't lured away from Nebraska for close calls, nor would the coach find such pursuits acceptable.

Schnellenberger did a remarkable job of even getting Florida Atlantic off the ground as a startup in 2001. Now, he's handed the baton to the next generation. Pelini is hoping to make the most of his South Florida surroundings, exercising his recruiting muscles by signing the Sunshine State's best athletes that don't wind up at one of the Big 3 programs.

The Owls are bringing back many of last year's regulars, a promising sign as the program makes the transition from the Sun Belt Conference to Conference USA in 2013. Now that reliable—yet stationary—QB Graham Wilbert has graduated, Florida Atlantic plans to fully unveil its spread option attack. Former JUCO dual-threats Melvin German III and Jaquez Johnson are much better fits for what the team is looking to do on offense. While the line is a grave concern, the backfield and receiving corps have all-star-caliber front men in Jonathan Wallace and William Dukes, respectively.

Pelini's D surely made him long for his days in Lincoln. Like the offense, line play is a problem, though hope comes from a spate of good athletes. The Owls are especially capable on the back seven, led by a talented trio of linebackers and a deep collection of defensive backs.

His systems now established on both sides of the ball, Pelini will look to coach up the talent on hand in the hopes that his Owls will be Conference USA contenders before too long. If the program evolves as much in 2013 as it did in 2012, there could be genuine reason for optimism by 2014.

What to watch for on offense: Multi-dimensions out of the quarterbacks. Whether Melvin German III remains atop the depth chart or Jaquez Johnson pulls ahead, the quarterbacks are going to be true dual-threats this year. German and Johnson were specifically plucked out of the JUCO ranks for their athleticism, which can be used to avoid the rush or to break containment on designed runs. Unlike a year ago, Florida Atlantic will force opposing defenses to spy on movements of the passers at all times.

What to watch for on defense: The ends will dictate the fate of the D. The Owls are in pretty good shape in the back seven, bolstered by the range and experience of the linebackers and defensive backs. However, the unit, as a whole, will once again be victimized if defensive ends Martin Wright and Cory Henry aren't able to create noise in the other guy's backfield. Florida Atlantic was painfully anemic at getting to the quarterback in 2012, a central theme why a decent secondary ended up 95th nationally in pass efficiency defense.

This team will be far better if … it comes up with more momentum-changing plays on defense. Florida Atlantic's mealy combination of 29 sacks and takeaways ranked among the worst in the FBS in 2012. The aforementioned level of futility is unacceptable for any program, but especially one that prides itself on attracting really good athletes to Boca Raton. The Owls just don't have the size or the bodies to stand up opponents at the point of attack. They need to alter the tempo of games by stripping the ball, jumping routes and chasing down quarterbacks from behind.

The Schedule: Get used to life on the road – again. The Owls are used to being everyone's guests, and this season isn't any different starting out with five road games in the first six with only a home game against Middle Tennessee to break up the run. If that wasn't bad enough, going to Auburn and Southern Miss means seven of the first ten games are on the road, but there's a break in the end staying home to face New Mexico State before closing out with rival, FIU. From the West, having to face Rice on the road isn't going to be a plus this season, while the Tulane game will be a must win to have any hope of coming up with a strong finishing kick.

Best Offensive Player: Junior WR William Dukes. No player on offense, and maybe the entire team, jumps off film for pro scouts faster than Dukes, a returning All-Sun Belt Second Team selection. He's always looked the part, a graceful 6-4, 190-pound weapon, with the long arms to create an enormous catch-radius for his quarterback to target. But last season, he began to put it all together on the field, making a team-best 63 receptions for 979 yards and four touchdowns. Dukes is just halfway through his college career, and will evolve further as a dangerous component of the passing game.

Best Defensive Player: Junior LB Andrae Kirk. Kirk started just half of Florida Atlantic's games last season, yet still finished fourth on the team with 70 stops, four tackles for loss and three pass breakups. With a year under his belt, and a gig as an every-down player, he could be headed toward the 100-tackle mark in 2013. Kirk has the ingredients to bloom into a complete player for the Owls, from his 6-2, 235-pound frame and closing speed to his instincts and the way he prepares for Saturday.

Key player to a successful season: Senior QB Melvin German III. Obviously, after averaging a Sun Belt-low 20 points per game in 2012, Florida Atlantic will be looking for more output from the offense. German holds the key to fulfilling the staff's goals. He sat out last year due to academic reasons, but returned in the spring to show why he was coveted by the Owls. He'll have to improve the accuracy of his throws in order to become the true dual-threat the program was seeking when it plucked him out of Pearl River (Miss.) Community College.

The season will be a success if ... Florida Atlantic continues trending north, both in the standings and on the field. The Owls need to show progress in 2013, the kind that pops on film and the kind that comes in the form on winds and losses. After going 3-9 in head coach Carl Pelini's debut, four or five wins against a very tough schedule will suffice, especially if the program is playing its best ball in November.

Key game: Nov. 30 vs. Florida International. The Owls have a burgeoning rivalry with the Golden Panthers, one that'll endure now that both schools are making the move from the Sun Belt Conference to Conference USA. FIU has won the last two games, 34-24 a year ago, so there'll be a little extra motivation for the home team when the schools meet at FAU stadium in the regular-season finale.

2012 Fun Stats:
- Yards per rush: Florida Atlantic 3.4 – Opponents 4.9
- Sacks: Florida Atlantic 12 – Opponents 28
- Second-quarter scoring: Florida Atlantic 54 - Opponents 123

- 2013 Florida Atlantic Preview | 2013 Florida Atlantic Offense
- 2013 Florida Atlantic Defense | 2013 Florida Atlantic Depth Chart