Florida Atlantic Prev. 2006 Further Analysis

Posted Aug 8, 2006

Florida Atlantic Owls Preview 2006 - Further Analysis

1st and Ten – Who wants it?  C’mon, who really wants it? – After having the luxury of Jared Allen at the QB position for years, it had to be difficult for Howard Schnellenberger and his staff to ‘suffer’ through last season.  Hopes were high that Danny Embick would infuse the offense with a little more athleticism and explosiveness, but after nine games the results were marginal at best.  With two games left in the season and Embick hurt, the coaching staff had to turn to a former Michigan State TE to step in and take the ball – Sean Clayton, who helped produce one win and one ‘embarrassing’ loss to in-state rival FIU.  In that FIU game, McKinson Souverain also earned some playing time when the game was out of reach.  So, coming into 2006, the question of who’ll step into this starting role is a little more uncertain compared to 2005, when Embick had a virtual lock on that starting spot.  Clayton led the Owls to a win over former Sun Belt conference champs North Texas, but was, well, horrible in the FIU game.  He’s a big, strong kid (as evidenced by his time at tight end), which provides a counterbalance to the startling athleticism of Souverain.  The former Delray Beach Atlantic product will be on the field somewhere – it’s just a matter of whether it’ll be at QB.  If he doesn’t play QB, he should still find a way to get the ball at least 10 to 12 times.  Rusty Smith will also get into the mix, but he’ll have his work cut out to supplant either one of these two.  So, Clayton is the pocket passer, Souverain is the runner; that might be too simplified, but the point is that the dichotomy of the one who takes the ball could determine the type of offense that Sun Belt teams will see in 2006.

2nd and Seven – Defense definitely does win championships, but you have to score to win – Winning games with defense is one thing, but scoring 13.8 points per game is quite another.  That’s right, last year’s FAU offense scored a whopping 148 points on the season.  Let’s put that offensive performance into context, just a little more.  The Owls leading scorer was kicker Daniel Kennard who had 22 points.  Now, compare that to say USC’s offense that had six guys score over 30 points, including Mario Danelo who had nearly four times as many points as Kennard on extra points alone and LenDale White who outscored the entire FAU offense by himself (156 vs.148).  All in all, no matter who puts their hands under center or who carries the ball this year, those individuals better find the end zone more often than they did last year.  A lot more. 

3rd and Three – Bartels, with no James – Although the offense struggled mightily in 2005, the same couldn’t be said for safety Kris Bartels.  After a non-descript 2004, Bartels moved into the starting lineup and will probably be there for a while.  He led the Owls with 82 tackles last year, with a physical, bruising style.  He’s got some work to do with his coverage skills, but as far as someone who can come up and be a factor in, and near, the box, that’s definitely Bartels.  The defense definitely needs his presence in the back four.

4th and One – Up and Down – So, what can be said about the Owls first two years as a Division 1A football program?  The 2004 team had a build up of veterans and it showed with a quick 5 – 0 start.  But, last year, with a significant amount of youth in the lineup, on offense in particular, the progress needed to turn a team into a program was quelled by a difficult year.  So, after two years in D1A, one good, one not so much, where is this program headed?  Can they be a ‘player’ in the Sun Belt conference race?  Probably not with an offense that still has work to do to even be respectable, but by no means are they a team to take lightly, as North Texas found out late last season.  And, surviving the first five games on the road (Clemson, Oklahoma State, Kansas State, South Carolina and ULM) will be as mentally draining as it is physically exhausting.  If the offense can start to turn the corner by the end of that stretch, can recuperate after two weeks off for the ‘second season’ – the six SBC games to close the season - then the Owls might be on their way to surprising some people.

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