2014 FAU Preview: What You Need To Know
Florida Atlantic QB Jaquez Johnson
Florida Atlantic QB Jaquez Johnson
Posted Jun 3, 2014

Preview 2014 - What You Need To Know About Florida Atlantic (Getty Images)

2014 Florida Atlantic Preview

What You Need To Know...

- 2014 Florida Atlantic Preview 
2014 Depth Chart & Unit Rankings To Come This Summer

What You Need To Know About The Offense: One of head coach Charlie Partridge's best moves since arriving was retaining Brian Wright as the offensive coordinator. Wright was a stabilizing presence late in the year, and a key figure in the development of QB Jaquez Johnson. Wright brings much-needed continuity. Johnson is going to bring everything else. He not only improved as a passer in 2013, but he also led the Owls in rushing and touchdowns scored. Johnson will need more support this fall, which will likely come from rangy WR William Dukes and up-and-coming RB Jay Warren. If Warren can't handle the load, the staff will employ a committee to find the hot hand. Besides keeping Johnson healthy, Florida Atlantic's top priority on offense will be to sort out the O-line. A couple of steady seniors, DeAndre Williams and Mustafa Johnson, are gone. And other than Braden Lyons at center, the program still isn't certain who'll populate the two-deep for the opening day trip to Lincoln to face Nebraska.

What You Need To Know About The Defense: If opponents want to beat the underrated Owls in 2014, they better be able to do it on first and second downs. Throwing on this team in obvious passing situations is a recipe for punts and picks. Florida Atlantic ranked No. 15 nationally in third-down stops a year ago, thanks largely to next-level CB D'Joun Smith and the rest of a ball-hawking secondary. The Owls will again be stifling when the ball is in the air. But how will it handle those teams that go old school by running directly at a small front seven that covets quickness and speed over size and muscle? Up front, the FAU tackles, Brandin Bryant and Trevon Coley, are built like ends, while the ends lack the experience to consistently collapse the pocket. Success this season will depend on the landscape on third downs. If the other guys are consistently forced into third-and-long situations, advantage FAU. In third-and-short, however, the Owls could struggle to hold up at the point of attack.

Players You Need To Know

1. CB D'Joun Smith, Sr.
No Florida Atlantic player enjoyed a more profound breakthrough than Smith did in 2013. Yeah, he lettered in 2011 and he started in 2012, but he became a genuine stopper in pass defense last fall. In his debut facing Conference USA wide receivers, he blossomed into a first-team all-star with seven interceptions and 20 pass breakups, second nationally to only Indiana's Tim Bennett. With continued growth—and more weight—the 5-11, 175-pound should be playing on Sundays in 2015.

2. QB Jaquez Johnson, Jr.
It didn't take long for Johnson to bloom into the focal point of the Owl offense. As a first-year signee out of East Mississippi Community College, he completed 149-of-256 passes for 1,876 yards, 12 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Testament to his athleticism, he also led the team with 772 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground. Best of all, though, the 6-1, 225-pound Johnson improved as a passer as the season unfolded, throwing six touchdown passes in the final two games.

3. LB Andrae Kirk, Sr.
Kirk will once again be the heart of a front seven that'll be inserting a few new starters into the lineup in 2014. The Second Team All-Conference USA selection is a heady veteran who's been a starter for the Owls since his true freshman year in 2011. Kirk led the squad with 84 tackles last season, bringing his career total to 241. More than just a terrific all-around athlete, the 6-2, 225-pounder plays the game with keen instincts and plenty of smarts.

4. WR William Dukes, Sr.
Dukes will get a shot to play on Sundays, especially if he can add more thickness to his 6-4, 190-pound frame. In the meantime, he has one year left to school Conference USA defensive backs. Florida Atlantic's best threat in the passing game has caught 10 touchdowns passes over the last two seasons. However, his production plummeted a year ago to 35 grabs for 553 yards and six scores. Dukes will use his long arms and improving balls skills to get back on track this fall.

5. DT Brandin Bryant, Jr.
While Bryant may not be the prototype on the interior, he's been plenty effective for the Owls since transferring from Fort Scott (Kan.) Community College in 2012. Built like a defensive end at 6-2 and 260 pounds, he uses his quickness and get-off to blow past blockers right out of the gates. In just his first season as a starter, Bryant collected 51 tackles and team-highs with 9.5 stops for loss, six sacks and six quarterback hurries.

6. C Braden Lyons, Sr.
Lyons had an instant impact for the Owls in his debut out of City College of San Francisco, starting every game at right tackle. Now, the 6-5, 295-pounder is advertising his versatility with a move to center to replace Mustafa Johnson. After earning honorable mention All-Conference USA in 2013, Lyons is hoping to impress pro scouts with his leadership skills and his ability to open holes in the running game.

7. SS Damian Parms, Sr.
Parms is coming off his best season in Boca Raton, which he'll look to build upon as a senior. He cracked the lineup as a full-timer for the first time in his career, finishing second on the team with 78 tackles. Parms also had 5.5 stops for loss, a pick and seven pass breakups. The 6-2, 195-pounder has long arms and the willingness to press up and lower his shoulders in run defense.

8. P Sean Kelly, Jr.
Kelly took a quantum leap in his second year on the job, earning Second Team All-Conference USA honors for his efforts. The junior improved in every area in 2013, increasing his average to 42.7 yards and his punts inside the 20-yard line to 19. Kelly was one of the hidden gems that contributed to Florida Atlantic defensive prowess last fall.

9. RB Jay Warren, Soph.
QB Jaquez Johnson is going to need more balance and more help from his supporting cast this fall. Warren is one of those young Owls pining for more reps in 2014. He's the favorite to replace Jonathan Wallace after rushing for 340 yards and two scores on 71 carries off the bench. The 6-0, 195-pound Warren is tough downhill runner who'll pick up yards after contact. He's also a skilled pass blocker, a rarity for inexperienced backs.

10. FS Christian Milstead, Sr.
Milstead is the type of heady and versatile veteran that the new staff in Boca Raton will love having in the defensive backfield. The former Navy transfer played four different positions in 2013, while starting nine of the Owls' games. He's only 5-10 and 170 pounds, but he's not afraid to scuffle. Milstead chipped in 37 tackles to go along with four interceptions a season ago.

- 2014 Florida Atlantic Preview