2008 CFN Florida Atlantic Preview
Florida Atlantic QB Rusty Smith
Florida Atlantic QB Rusty Smith
Posted Apr 23, 2008

Florida Atlantic didn't even have a football program a few years ago, and now it's the star of the Sun Belt. With a loaded team returning, led by the best quarterback you've probably never seen, Rusty Smith, the Owls will be the favorites to win another title. Check out the CFN Florida Atlantic Preview.

Florida Atlantic Owls

Preview 2008

By Pete Fiutak

- 2008 CFN Florida Atlantic Preview
| 2008 FAU Offense
- 2008 FAU Defense | 2008 FAU Depth Chart
- 2007 CFN FAU Preview | 2006 CFN FAU Preview 

Any and all success Florida Atlantic has had, and will continue to enjoy, comes from head coach Howard Schnellenberger. There are other head coaches who might be considered the face of their programs, like Joe Paterno is with Penn State, but without Schnellenberger, there wouldn't be an FAU football team. He's the one who built it from the ground up, and he's the one with the vision to create something out of absolutely nothing.

Schnellenberger also had to be the one who sold the idea of football to the place, and now he has the makings of a Sun Belt juggernaut on his hands. Last year's conference title and New Orleans Bowl win over Memphis might be just the start.

Head coach: Howard Schnellenberger
8th year: 33-37
24th year overall: 141-119-3
Returning Lettermen
Off. 27, Def. 23, ST 5
Lettermen Lost: 12
Ten Best Owl Players
1. QB Rusty Smith, Jr.
2. LB Frantz Joseph, Sr.
3. CB Corey Small, Sr.
4. CB Tavious Polo, Soph.
5. WR Cortez Gent, Jr.
6. TE Jason Harmon, Sr.
7. DT Jervonte Jackson, Sr.
8. RB Charles Pierre, Sr.
9. RB/KR DiIvory Edgecomb, Sr.
10. FB William Rose, Jr.

2008 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2008 Record: 0-0

Aug. 30 at Texas
Sept. 6 UAB
Sept. 13 at Michigan State
Sept. 20 at Minnesota
Sept. 30 at Middle Tennessee
Oct. 7 Troy
Oct. 18 at Western Kentucky
Oct. 25 at UL Monroe
Nov. 8 North Texas
Nov. 15 UL Lafayette
Nov. 22 at Arkansas State
Nov. 29 FIU

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2007 Record:

Sept. 1 Middle Tenn W 27-14
Sept. 8 at Oklahoma St L 42-6
Sept. 15 Minnesota W 42-39
Sept. 22 at No Texas W 30-20
Sept. 29 at Kentucky L 45-17
Oct. 6
South Florida L 35-23
Oct. 20 at UL Laf. W 39-32 OT
Oct. 27
UL Mon L 33-30 3OT
Nov. 10 Arkansas St W 34-31
Nov. 17 at Florida L 59-20
Nov. 24
at FIU W 55-23
Dec. 1 at Troy W 38-32
New Orleans Bowl
Dec. 21 Memphis W 44-27

With 55 lettermen and 20 starters returning, there's no reason to expect anything less than another big season and yet another stepping stone into the world of the big-time powerhouses. While Schnellenberger might not be able to do for FAU what he did for Miami back in the 1980s, he has something special growing.

To start, this team plays like it believes it can win. It might have gotten flattened by Oklahoma State, but it bombed on Minnesota, hung tough with South Florida, and was better against Florida than the 59-20 final score would indicate. But while the program needs big wins to get more national recognition, getting another Sun Belt title would suffice for now.

Led by QB Rusty Smith, the league's top passing game should explode once again. Just about everyone is back in all the key positions, there's more beef on the line than in the past, and there should be more of a running game with veterans Charles PIerre, DiIvory Edgecomb, and William Rose back.

The defense wasn't always a rock, but it was good enough. With eight starters returning, led by MLB Frantz Joseph and the fantastic corner tandem of Corey Small and Tavious Polo, it'll be better.

Remembering that the program really didn't kick in until 2001, Schnellenberger's creation has been nothing short of a college football miracle. Now it's time to press on. This isn't a building program anymore, it's a player. It's going to act like it.

What to watch for on offense: More from the running game. There was supposed to be more production from the backfield last year, and while there was, the offense became too reliant on Smith. That's not necessarily a bad thing considering the air show should be the Sun Belt's more efficient, but with Pierre, Edgecomb and Rose, three solid veterans, the running game will get more attention early on.

What to watch for on defense: Phenomenal corner play. FAU might not have corners on the level of last year's Troy tandem of Leodis McKelvin, now with Buffalo, and Elbert Mack, now with Tampa Bay, but the NFL scouts are going to take a hard look at Corey Small this season while hoping Tavious Polo beefs up a little bit over the next two seasons. Add Erick McIntosh to the mix, after he missed all of last year with academic issues, and the Owls are loaded at corner.

The team will be far better if … there's more pressure in the backfield and there's some semblance of a punting game. The Owls didn't just have the worst all-around punting game in the Sun Belt, they were 112th in the nation in net punting and 117th in punt returns. The defense was disruptive and it did a decent job, but it didn't generate any pass rush finishing with a mere 16 sacks and 68 tackles for loss.

The Schedule: The Owls aren't taking it easy early on with four road games before October 1st, with only a home game against UAB to break things up. Starting out at Texas won't be fun, while trips to Michigan State and Minnesota, who won't take the game lightly after last year's 42-39 loss in Boca Raton, will be tough. A date at Middle Tennessee followed up by a showdown against Troy will likely make-or-break the Sun Belt season by October 8th. In all, there are only two home games before November 8th, but on the plus side, three of the final four are at home.

Best Offensive Player: Junior QB Rusty Smith. He was supposed to develop into a special passer, and he quickly did becoming the Sun Belt Player of the Year with 3,688 passing yards with 32 touchdown and nine interceptions. He doesn't throw picks, but he could stand to be more accurate after completing just 59% of his throws. Forget about running the ball, but he's decent around the goal line.

Best Defensive Player: Senior LB Frantz Joseph. Is there anything he didn't do? Joseph might just be 6-1 and 229 pounds, but he was tough in the middle making 131 tackles with three sacks, 12.5 tackles for loss, two interceptions and three recovered fumbles. He's the heart-and-soul of the veteran D.

Key player to a successful season: Senior DE Robert St. Clair. The one thing keeping FAU from being truly special is a steady pass rush. St. Clair did what he could last season making four sacks and seven tackles for loss, and now he has to double those numbers to free up everyone else on the line. The Owls don't take a ton of big chances, but they'll have to if St. Clair, and Jermaine Council on the other side, can't get to the quarterback.

The season will be a success if ... FAU wins the Sun Belt title. With all the talent returning and after the success of last year, anything less than another championship would make the season a total and complete failure.

Key game: Oct. 7 vs. Troy. The Owls can survive a road loss and still be in the title hunt, but a home defeat to the Trojans would be devastating. The rest of the Sun Belt slate isn't bad, so if FAU can get past Middle Tennessee and Troy and be 2-0, it should be on to New Orleans.

2007 Fun Stats: 
- Fumbles: Opponents 23 (lost 14) – FAU 17 (lost 4)
- Average yards per catch: FAU 13 – Opponents 9.7
- Third quarter scoring: Opponents 102 – FAU 58