2007 Florida Atlantic Preview - Offense

Posted May 10, 2007

Preview 2007 Florida Atlantic Owls Offense

Florida Atlantic Owls

Preview 2007 - Offense

- 2007 Florida Atlantic Preview | 2007 FAU Defense Preview
2007 FAU Depth Chart | 2006 CFN FAU Preview 

What you need to know:
Things should be more consistent now that the quarterback situation is settled (at least to start the year) with Rusty Smith the full-time starter and Sean Clayton the backup. The running backs are experienced and quick, and Frantz Simeon leads a decent receiving corps, but it's all up to the line which was decent in pass protection last season but awful in the running game. It's a small front five by design, and that's a major issue for a ground game that averaged just 110 yards per game and an offense that struggled to amass 300 yards and 15 points per outing. 

Returning Leaders
Passing: Rusty Smith
108-194, 1,285 yds, 6 TD, 8 INT
Rushing: Charles Pierre
207 carries, 756 yds, 5 TD
Receiving: Frantz Simeon
35 catches, 590 yds, 1 TD

Star of the offense: Sophomore QB Rusty Smith
Player that has to step up and become a star: Sophomore OT Lavoris Williams
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore WR Cortez Gant
Best pro prospect: Junior WR Frantz Simeon
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Smith, 2) Simeon, 3) RB Charles Pierre
Strength of the offense: Quarterback, quick running back
Weakness of the offense: Offensive line size, depth


Projected Starter
It took a while, but sophomore Rusty Smith eventually took over and showed glimpses of talent highlighted by a 312-yard day against Troy. While he wasn't consistent and threw eight interceptions and only six touchdown passes, he displayed the arm and the potential to be the type of quarterback to revolve the offense around. Not a runner, the 6-5, 212-pounder is a pro style passer who'll eventually put up big numbers. Even though he wasn't necessarily sharp this spring, this is his offense now.

Projected Top Reserves: Senior Sean Clayton was the main starter throughout most of the season before the coaching staff made the switch to Smith over the final few games. While he doesn't have the arm or the passing ability of Smith, the 6-5, 225-pound Clayton is big and can run with 154 yards including 68 against South Carolina and 54 against UL Monroe. Consistent passing is a problem completing just over 50% of his throws for 925 yards and five touchdowns with six interceptions in eight starts. Redshirt freshmen Jeff VanCamp, another 6-5 passer, and Eli Cranor will compete for the third slot.

Watch Out For ... Smith to grow into a Sun Belt star. All he needs is a little more time, seasoning and experience.
Strength: Size and experience. Smith and Clayton are huge passers able to see over the line without a problem. Sun Belt teams would love to have a veteran No. 2 like Clayton waiting in the wings (even though he appeared to regress a bit in spring ball).
Weakness: Smith's lack of running ability. The offense is a bit more limited by Smith's limited mobility. While he makes up for it with his arm, it would be nice to have a quarterback who can tear off for a few big runs here and there.
Outlook: If Smith emerges like he's expected to, the quarterbacks will be a strength for the next few years. It'll be tempting to give Clayton time when the team is struggling, but getting the inexperienced backups some meaningful work to prepare for next year will be vital.
Rating: 5

Running Backs

Projected Starters
Junior Charles Pierre grew into the role as the starter finishing with a team-high 719 yards and four touchdowns with 100 yard games against Southern Utah, Arkansas State and North Texas. He's a tough 5-9 and 195 pounds with surprising power, nice hands, and tremendous speed. Now he has to show off his wheels needing to break off more big plays and become more creative to find the holes and make things happen on his own once he returns healthy from a hip problem that plagued him this spring. Leading the way will be 227-pound fullback William Rose, who got eight carries for 31 yards and a touchdown last season playing behind Aaron Sanchez.

A smart player with good running ability, he has to be the blocker Sanchez was and the same type of safety-valve receiver. He will be as long as he can finally stay healthy.

Projected Top Reserves: Back in the mix is
DiIvory Edgecomb, the team's top running back at the end of 2005, after being academically ineligible. He's a strong, talented back who got his chance to shine again this spring with Pierre out. When he's right, he's the team's best all-around back.

5-9, 190-pound senior B.J. Manley is quick back with the potential to tear off big runs, but he hasn't been able to do it too often with 137 yards and two scores in limited action thanks to injuries. Mostly a special teamer, he has the shiftiness and hands to be used more as a receiver.

The third runner in the mix will be sophomore Willie Floyd, a 5-9, 165-pound speedster who will fly if he can get the ball in the open field. He has good hands and should get the ball a bit as a third down back. Manley and Floyd might just be keeping the seat warm for the incoming freshman as 225-pound
Xavier Stinson and speedster Jeff Blanchard might quickly take over. As good as they might be, Stinson will probably end up at linebacker and Blanchard will have to work his way into the rotation this fall.

Behind Rose at fullback will be 5-11, 203-pound Dominick Walker, who hasn't gotten any work recently after getting hurt late in 2005. He has experience as a tailback and could be used for more power.

Watch Out For ... more big plays. There's too much speed and quickness in the backfield to only be averaging 2.9 yards a carry.
Strength: Quickness. Pierre, Manley and Floyd can all move, and even Rose has good speed for his size. Now they have to use it to crank out bigger runs.
Weakness: Power. While Pierre is tough, if Rose and Walker aren't powering the ball, there's no one among the tailbacks to pound away for hard yards.
Outlook: To be successful in the Sun Belt you have to run, and this group didn't get it done on a consistent basis last season finishing 95th in the nation averaging 110 yards a game (after averaging 114 in 2005) and combining for just nine touchdowns. There's experience and the potential explosion to do a whole bunch more.
Rating: 4.5


Projected Starters
Junior Frantz Simeon has the potential to become the Sun Belt's most dangerous receiving weapon with next-level speed and great hands. He started to shine once Rusty Smith took over at quarterback becoming a favorite target with 97 yards against Middle Tennessee, a 110-yard day against Troy and 83 yards against FIU. However, he didn't score his first touchdown until the season finale. He'll get the start at the inside Z position after leading the team with 35 catches for 590 yards and a 16.9-yard average.

At the outside X will be sophomore Cortez Gent, a good looking 6-2, 170-pounder who caught six passes for 66 yards, but has 4.6 speed and the decent size to become a dangerous deep threat.

6-4, 230-pound senior Mike Wilds will take over at tight end, but he's only seen time so far when injuries have hit. He has the athleticism to become a receiver, and now he has to start making plays.

Projected Top Reserves: 6-3, 195-pound sophomore Chris Bonner is a bigger inside target than Simeon. A good runner with the ball, he average 12.7 yards per catch on 14 grabs last season as a steady reserve. He has the athleticism to move to the outside if needed and see action in three-wide sets.

Sophomore Conshario Johnson has good speed playing behind Gent at the X, and he has a little bit of experience catching 15 passes for 195 yards averaging a solid 13 yards per grab. He didn't start getting into the mix until the second half of the season, but he should shine now with Rusty Smith at the helm.

Coming in to immediately push for time will be true freshman
Darian Williams, who bring 6-3 size and track speed to possibly see time right away on the outside. Backing up Wilds at tight end will be 6-1, 185-pound Jason Harmon, who finishing second on the team in receiving with 26 grabs for 261 yards and two touchdowns. While physical for his size, the junior will only be used as a receiver while Wilds can do a little of everything.

Watch Out For ... plenty of production. It's not like Sean Clayton was an awful passer, but he wasn't Rusty Smith. The passing offense will revolve around getting the ball in the hands of the quick receivers on the move.
Strength: Simeon. Most Sun Belt teams don't have a sure-thing number one receiver, and while Simeon has hardly been a star so far, that could quickly change.
Weakness: A sure-thing number two. Gent, Johnson and Bonner all have to show they can produce on a consistent basis and take heat off of Simeon. 
Outlook: A bit of a wild-card depending on the emergence of all the sophomores, this could become a strength if everyone plays up to their potential right away. If nothing else, this could become one of the Sun Belt's better receiving corps, although that's not saying much. It would be a huge help if Wilds became a productive short-range target early on.
Rating: 5

Offensive Linemen

Projected Starters
The biggest concern is replacing the steady but unspectacular Nello Faulk at right tackle, but 6-3, 250-pound sophomore Lavoris Williams appears comfortable in the job. Having to watch Rusty Smith's blindside, Williams did a good job in practices so far with good athleticism and quick feet.

Next to him will be 6-2, 239-pound sophomore David Matlock, a part-time center who started three games in the middle and once at left guard. The former defensive lineman should be more comfortable on the offensive side now that he's had a year to figure out what he's doing and could end up moving to the middle once again.

The anchor up front should be 6-1, 290-pound center Nick Paris, who started nine games last year missing three with an injury and was out this spring with a knee problem. The former guard has slimmed down, gotten in better shape, and will be better on the move.

The right side is set with starting guard Jarid Smith and tackle John Rizzo returning. The 6-3, 280-pound Rizzo has been a versatile blocker at both tackle and guard throughout his career starting the first half of the season at tackle and the second half at guard. A decent run blocker, he has to improve in pass protection. The 6-2, 258-pound Smith started the first half of last year at right guard before getting hurt.

Projected Top Reserves: Size among the backups is vital, and no one's bigger than 6-2, 310-pound redshirt freshman Ryan Wischnefski, who'll back up Paris in the middle. A big blocker, he could move to guard at times just to get his bulk on the field.

6-3, 245-pound junior Brandon Jackson hasn't been able to shake the injury bug having the most problems with an ankle injury two years ago. He has starters' ability at either guard spot and will start out behind Matlock at left guard and could take over for on the left side if Matlock moves to center.

Watch Out For ... a big-time rotation. Playing with smaller, quicker linemen is fine is you're able to keep them fresh. FAU will have to get more of a rotation going.
Strength: Quickness. Everyone can move well and everyone is tough for their size. The coaching staff doesn't go after big, bulky players choosing to be athletic up front, which is fine unless ...
Weakness: .... there's no production. It hasn't worked. The line hasn't been good at anything. If you're going to be so small, you need to be tremendous in pass protection. While fine, it needs to be better.
Outlook: The line did improve a bit last season allowing 25 sacks after giving up 34 the year before, but that was helped by having Faulk at left tackle. There might not be a whole lot of production for the ground game and the bigger, better defensive lines (oh the Florida game will be ugly) will dominate this group, but it should be decent overall in Sun Belt play if the left side is solid.
Rating: 4


Related Stories
2007 Florida Atlantic Preview
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  May 10, 2007
2007 Florida Atlantic Preview - Defense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  May 10, 2007
2007 Florida Atlantic Preview - Depth Chart
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  May 10, 2007

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