2008 Florida Atlantic Preview - Offense
Florida Atlantic RB Charles Pierre
Florida Atlantic RB Charles Pierre
Posted Apr 23, 2008

CollegeFootballNews.com 2008 Preview - Florida Atlantic Owl Offense

Florida Atlantic Owls

Preview 2008 - Offense

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

What you need to know:
Almost everyone returns on what should be the Sun Belt's best offense. No one in the league can touch FAU's talent at the skill positions, led by Sun Belt Player of the Year Rusty Smith at quarterback, while the line that was 13th in the nation in sacks allowed gets most of the key parts back. The receiving corps, led by WR Cortez Gent and TE Jason Harmon, is deep and talented, while the backfield has three good backs in Charles Pierre (the runner), William Rose (the receiver) and DiIvory Edgecomb (the all-around talent) to do even more for the ground game. While there might be a little more balance, this is a passing team. Smith could throw for 4,000 yards after gong for 3,688 last year.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Rusty Smith
281-479, 3,688 yds, 32 TD, 9 INT
Rushing: Charles Pierre
170 carries, 782 yds, 7 TD
Receiving: Cortez Gent
64 catches, 1,082 yds, 9 TD

Star of the offense: Junior QB Rusty Smith
Player who has to step up and become a star: Junior OG Kevin Miller
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore WR Lester Jean
Best pro prospect: Smith
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Smith, 2) WR Cortez Gent, 3) TE Jason Harmon
Strength of the offense: Quarterback, receivers, experience
Weakness of the offense: Running game, backup quarterback experience


Projected Starter
Junior Rusty Smith showed tremendous promise as a freshman, and then took his game to another level as a sophomore becoming the Sun Belt Player of the year completing 59% of his passes for 3,688 yards and 32 touchdowns with just nine interceptions. A steady, confident leader, he has an excellent arm and the 6-5, 215-pound size to be able to see the field and make the big play without much of a problem. Not a runner, he's a pro style passer who came up big in some of the biggest games. He bombed Minnesota for 463 yards and five touchdowns and threw for 336 yards and five scores against Memphis in the New Orleans Bowl. Now he's expected to take yet another step up in his production with all the key parts returning.

Projected Top Reserves: Sophomore Jeff VanCamp is a promising 6-5, 210-pound bomber who saw a little bit of time last year in mop-up duties. He's a smart, athletic passer who should be able to make plays on the move whenever he gets a chance.

Two 6-3, 200-pound redshirt freshmen, Robert Nolin and Alex Fick, will battle it out for the No. 3 job. Fick needs a bit more time and work, while Nolin is a good prospect with a nice arm.

Watch Out For ... Smith to do even more. After throwing for 3,688 yards and 32 touchdowns, 4,000 yards and 40 scores isn't out of the question with so much talent returning around him.
Strength: Size. There aren't any smallish, scrambling quarterbacks here. FAU has four tall, lanky bombers with live arms.
Weakness: Backup experience. Smith has been so good that there hasn't been any room for the younger guys to see any meaningful time. Sean Clayton was the backup last year, and now he's gone.
Outlook: Smith was the best quarterback in the Sun Belt last year and will be the preseason favorite to win a second straight Player of the Year honor. He's a special playmaker who makes everyone around him better, and was great at keeping his poise and calm when thrown to the wolves early; he'll have total command now. Now a backup has to be counted on to come through if needed.
Rating: 8

Running Backs

Projected Starters
Senior Charles Pierre led the team in rushing for the second year in a row with 782 yards and seven touchdowns, averaging 4.6 yards per carry, and will be the featured back again. At 5-9 and 195 pounds, he's a quick, darting runner with surprising power and excellent speed. However, he didn't break off many big runs and he wasn't used much as a receiver with just two catches for six yards and a score.

Able to work in the rotation versatile junior fullback William Rose, who finished second on the team with 333 yards and a touchdown rushing, and was third on the team with 38 catches for 264 yards and seven scores. While he's a good blocker, he's at his best coming out of the backfield as a receiver. He averaged a whopping 5.3 yards per carry, and busted out a 41-yard run, and was a short-range receiver averaging just 6.9 yards per catch.

Projected Top Reserves: Working behind Pierre will be senior DiIvory Edgecomb after running just 56 times for 190 yards and four touchdowns, but finishing fifth on the team with 24 catches for 416 yards and four scores, averaging 17.3 yards per catch. He's a third down threat used more in passing situations, and while he's not huge at 5-10 and 185 pounds, he's the team's best all-around back. Along with his offensive duties, he's an elite kick returner averaging 24.1 yards per try.

While Rose is the main man at fullback, 5-10, 211-pound sophomore David Muniz will get a few carries here and there. He ran 13 times for 48 yards, and caught two passes for 20 yards. He's not big enough to be a huge blocker, but he's tough.

Watch Out For ... more of the same. There's no reason to mess with the formula. Pierre is the runner, Rose is the blocker and receiver, and Edgecomb does a little of everything. Everyone has their role.
Strength: Experience. Pierre, Rose and Edgecomb have been involved in the offense for years. Any one of them can carry the running game for a stretch, and they're all going to be productive.
Weakness: Consistent runs. Pierre averaged a respectable 4.6 yards per carry, but overall, the Owls averaged a miniscule 3.5 yards a crack. With all the attention on the passing game, there's no reason the team should be under four yards per carry.
Outlook: Running game, schmunning game. The Owls are a passing team, and averaged a paltry 126 yards per game on the ground, but that doesn't mean there isn't talent in the backfield. Pierre and Edgecomb form a solid tandem that would produce far bigger numbers if the running game was ever featured, while Rose is a fantastic do-it-all fullback and a deadly receiver.
Rating: 5.5


Projected Starters
Junior Cortez Gent started out slowly, but then returned after missing the Oklahoma State game due to family issues and was a steady, dangerous target with four 100-yard games in the final five regular season contests finishing the year with 64 grabs for 1,082 yards and nine touchdowns. While he's a rail-thin 6-2 and 170 pounds, he's tough on the shorter routes and has the wheels to crank out big plays averaging 16.9 yards per catch.

Working on the inside Z position, at least going into the fall, will be 6-3, 195-pound junior Chris Bonner after finishing fourth on the team with 25 catches for 420 yards and three touchdowns, averaging 16.8 yards per catch. While he worked well as a reserve, and could end up being a key backup again, he has the talent to be a playmaker in a starting role in three-wide sets.

Back at tight end is the ultra-athletic Jason Harmon at tight end. At 6-3 and 210 pounds, he's more of a big wide receiver, but he has the strength to be a good blocker. A highlight-reel receiver who can make the acrobatic grab, the senior was second on the team with 63 catches for 625 yards and five touchdowns, averaging 13.1 yards per catch. He was a steady rock throughout the year with one 100-yard game (five catches for 104 yards vs. Minnesota), and he should be again if the knee problem that plagued him this spring isn't an issue.

Projected Top Reserves: Is Frantz Simeon back in the mix year? The team's best receiver two years ago, he's a perfect inside receiving threat with next-level speed and great hands. He just started to blow up once Rusty Smith took over, and was supposed to be last year's star, but he didn't hit the books and was ineligible for the year. If he's back, he'll instantly become a major upgrade to an already strong receiving corps.

Working behind Gent will be sophomore Lester Jean, one of the stars of spring ball. The 6-3, 195-pound sophomore made 19 catches for 246 yards and a touchdown in a strong debut, and he has the speed and the size to grow into a deadly target in three-wide sets and as a deep threat.

6-1, 186-pound junior Conshario Johnson could quickly find himself in a starting spot on the inside. A good veteran who caught 17 passes for 163 yards and two touchdowns, he has good speed and enough experience to play a bigger role.

While Harmon is a Sun Belt all-star, 6-5, 210-pound junior Rob Housler is a good second option. While he's nowhere near the talent Harmon is, Housler caught five passes for 64 yards and is a good all-around option.

Watch Out For ... a rotation on the inside. Gent is a sure-thing at the outside X position, and while Bonner is a good option for the second slot, there will be a fight for playing time when the Owls aren't in three-wide sets.
Strength: Experience. not even throwing Simeon into the equation, and including the running backs, the top ten pass catchers from last year return.
Weakness: There's only one football. There's no real problem in this group other than that they're not top-shelf downfield blockers. That's, of course, nitpicking. This is a deep, fast, talented group that should lead the way to the Sun Belt's most effective passing game.
Outlook: Last year the corps was a bit of a question mark, but it was an extremely promising question mark. This year it should be a juggernaut, and it could be unreal if Simeon is ever able to get back in the equation. There's speed, experience, options, and all-stars. Gent and Harmon would provide the makings of a top-shelf receiving corps on their own, but there are several other great options in the mix.
Rating: 7

Offensive Linemen

Projected Starters
The great line of last year only has one major loss, all-star left guard Jarrid Smith, and now it'll likely be up to 6-2, 310-pound sophomore Ryan Wischnefski to take over. The former center provides some desperately needed bulk to the smallish line, and eventually, for the hard yards, he could be the one the offense runs behind.

Returning at left tackle is 6-3, 245-pound senior Brandon Jackson, a tremendously athletic pass blocker who overcame injury problems earlier in his career to be a steady 13-game starter. Tough enough to handle himself at guard, he moved over to tackle and had a strong year.

6-1, 290-pound senior Nick Paris is a tough, smart interior presence who's great at helping out in pass protection and has improved in time. He got in better shape before last year and turned into a strong leader after initially being used as a guard.

6-3, 300-pound John Rizzo got bigger but still maintained his mobility. He was a second team All-Sun Belt performer who's versatile enough to play anywhere on the line, but has found a home at right tackle. The senior is on the fast track for first team all-star honors and he should be the anchor of the line. He's the strongest all-around blocker.

Taking over at right guard will be junior Kevin Miller, a versatile 6-3, 304-pound run blocker who can play either guard spot. Able to play center if needed, he's ready to make the step up from valuable backup to steady starter.

Projected Top Reserves: 6-2. 285-pound junior David Matlock was a part-time center who started three games in the middle in 2006, and then became a regular starter at guard last years. He'll likely get a job back this fall, but he'll have to work for it.

6-5, 270-pound senior Vinny Henderson is a big, physical player who started out as a defensive lineman and now will work behind Rizzo at right tackle. He saw work in ten games on the offensive side last year, and while he still needs seasoning, he should be ready if needed.

6-3, 250-pound sophomore Lavoris Williams saw plenty of time as a backup and will be groomed for the 2009 starting left tackle job. In the FAU mode of smallish, quick blockers, he's great on the move.

Watch Out For ... Wischnefski. He might not be the team's best blocker, but with his size and potential, he's due to grow into a role somewhere on the line. He might have to battle to hold on to the left guard job, but he'll find time somewhere in the rotation.

Strength: Pass protection. It's not like Rusty Smith is Vince Young on the move, yet the Owls allowed a paltry 16 sacks on the season. With the tackles back in place, expect more of the same.
Weakness: Run blocking. While the line has gotten bigger than past FAU front fives, it still didn't do too much to provide a big push. This is a pass blocking unit, and a good one, but it's not going to blast its way to many, if any, 200-yard running days.
Outlook: The line has improved by leaps and bounds over the last few seasons, and while there's some work needing to be done to secure the guard spots, this should be the Sun Belt's best pass blocking line by a wide margin. For years, FAU went with smaller, athletic lines. This year's line is big by comparison, but it's still athletic.