2009 Florida Atlantic Preview - Offense
Florida Atlantic TE Jason Harmon
Florida Atlantic TE Jason Harmon
Posted Jul 29, 2009

CollegeFootballNews.com 2009 Preview - Florida Atlantic Owl Offense

Florida Atlantic Owls

Preview 2009 - Offense

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

What you need to know:
The offense was a bit of a disappointment last season, at least early on, and it wasn’t consistent. It struggled against any defense with a pulse, but when it was on it was fantastic thanks to Rusty Smith and the high-octane passing game. The Sun Belt’s best air attack should be dominant with Smith getting back his good deep threats led by Cortez Gent to stretch the field. The return of tight end Jason Harmon from a knee injury adds another big-time weapon. The running game will once again be along for the ride with a few very quick but inexperienced options working behind a decent line that’ll keep Smith clean, but won’t do much for the ground game.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Rusty Smith
234-435, 3,224 yds, 24 TD, 14 INT
Rushing: Willie Rose
63 carries, 3-8 yds, 1 TD
Receiving: Cortez Gent
60 catches, 935 yds, 9 TD

Star of the offense: Senior QB Rusty Smith
Player who has to step up and become a star: Junior RB Jeff Blanchard
Unsung star on the rise: Senior OG Kevin Miller
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
Weakness of the offense: Running game, backup quarterback experience


Projected Starter
Senior Rusty Smith will end his tremendous career on the short list for Sun Belt Player of the Year candidates. He had a bit of a down year completing just 54% of his passes for 3,224 yards and 24 touchdowns with 14 interceptions after throwing for 3,688 yards and 32 touchdowns as a sophomore. The 6-5, 212-pounder is a legitimate pro prospect with a live arm and the ability to get hot and put up big-time numbers from time to time. He ripped apart Central Michigan for 306 yards and two touchdowns on the way to Motor City Bowl MVP honors and threw for 18 of his 24 scores in the final six games. He’s not a runner, but he was able to run for two rushing scores.
Projected Top Reserves: Junior Jeff VanCamp has seen a little bit of mop up time completing 8-of-20 passes for 55 yards with an interception. He’s a smart, athletic passer with 6-5, 210-pound bomber who can move a little bit. While he’s no threat to beating out Rusty Smith for the starting job, he offers a different option.

6-6, 225-pound redshirt freshman Graham Wilbert is the main man for the future, but he needs developing. He has a live, accurate arm and he won’t make a lot of mistakes when he finally gets on the field. While he’s not going to tear off many rushing yards, he’s not a statue.

Watch Out For ... Smith to have the big season he was supposed to have last year. He took an overall step back for the first half of last year as the passing game struggled to find any consistent. And then everything started to work. This year the receiving corps should shine and getting TE Jason Harmon back will help.
Strength: Size. The coaching staff likes a certain type of passer. There aren’t any little scatback passers here. It’s all about the tall, lanky bombers who can push the ball down the field.
Weakness: Backup experience. The program has revolved around Smith for the last two seasons and Jeff VanCamp hasn’t been able to see much of the field. Forget about any No. 3 quarterback … there isn’t one of note.
Outlook: Rusty Smith is a special passer with two full years 38 games of experience under his belt. He’s about to be one of the nation’s most productive quarterbacks as he reaches his potential. Jeff VanCamp is an interesting No. 2 option who’ll be groomed for the 2010 starting job. The program desperately needs to develop a No. 3 passer.
Rating: 8

Running Backs

Projected Starters
Jeff Blanchard was the team’s No. 4 back last season rushing for 57 yards and a score with 28 of them and the score coming in the blowout win over North Texas. The 5-9, 195-pound junior was about to become a bit of a factor a few years ago but was knocked out with a broken ankle. The former JUCO transfer started out his career at Kansas and brings a good speed burst to the mix.

Back at fullback and a part-time tailback is 6-1, 227-pound senior William Rose, who finished second on the team with 333 yards and a touchdown two years ago and ran for 307 yards and a score last season. Extremely versatile, he caught 23 passes for 168 yards and two touchdowns, and while he won’t break off many big plays, he’s a reliable safety valve. He’s a good blocker who’s real worth is as a reliable all-around player who does a little of everything well.

Projected Top Reserves: 5-9, 165-pound junior Willie Floyd is a pure speed back with tremendous strength for his size and has been used a bit as a kick returner. He finished fifth on the team with 38 yards in a limited role, but now he’ll work in a variety of ways.

The offensive star of the recruiting class was Tyrie Allen, a 5-9, 185-pound flash of lightning who can catch the ball as well as run it. While he won’t be given the starting job, he’ll be needed early on to add another option to the running back mix. Last year he ran for 850 yards for Western High in Davie, Florida.

Watch Out For ... more of William Rose. The team needs a steady, reliable runner and while Rose isn’t going to carry the ball 20 times a game, he’ll get the ball in key moments until the untested backs are ready.
Strength: Quickness. Everyone can fly. Jeff Blachard, Willie Floyd and Tyrie Allen have track speed and can dart in and out of the hole. In time, they’ll show they can catch, too, and will be used in a variety of ways.
Weakness: Experience. Charles Pierre and DiIvory Edgecomb combined for 1,483 of the team’s 1,804 yards and 12 of the 16 rushing scores. That’s not to say the new key backs can’t play, but the offense is losing a ton of veteran talent and experience.
Outlook: The running game did a good job of going along for the ride last year averaging a decent 139 yards per game, and it’ll do the same thing again this year with Rusty Smith bombing the ball all over the place. Jeff Blanchard and Willie Floyd are very quick, very interesting backs with loads of upside if they can get a little bit of room to move. William Rose is a veteran do-it-all fullback who’ll be invaluable for both the running and passing games.
Rating: 4.5


Projected Starters
Senior Cortez Gent was on fire at the end of the 2007 season and it carried over into a solid and consistent 2008 finishing first on the team with 60 catches for 935 yards and nine scores. A tremendous athlete, he’s a 6-2, 170-pound speedster who’s tough on shorter routes and at his best making big plays on the outside X position. While the school’s all-time leading receiver will catch three passes on his bad days, when he’s on, he can explode like he did against UAB for 146 yards and FIU for 108 yards and three scores.

Back to see time on the inside Z position is Chris Bonner, a 6-3, 195-pound senior who caught 22 passes for 422 yards and three touchdowns. While he didn’t produce on a consistently high level, he averaged 19.2 yards per catch and came up with 139 yards on six catches against FIU. While he’s a decent starter, he’s more like a strong backup than a true No. 2 target.
Back at tight end is the ultra-athletic Jason Harmon after missing all of last year with a torn ACL. The 6-3, 210-pound senior is more of a big wide receiver, but he’s a good blocker and will be one of the Sun Belt’s top weapons. He was second on the team two years ago with 63 catches for 625 yards and five touchdowns averaging 13.1 yards per catch, and if he’s 100% healthy, he’s a tremendous target who can come up with big plays and also move the chains.

Projected Top Reserves: Working behind Gent once again will be junior Lester Jean, a practice star who finished fourth on the team with 25 grabs for 257 yards and two scores. The 6-3, 195-pounder can start in three-wide sets and has the speed to be more of a field stretcher at the X.

Returning to be a key player in the rotation behind Chris Bonner on the Z will be Conshario Johnson, a 6-1, 186-pound senior with enough talent to start in three and four wide sets and do far, far more than six catches for 46 yards he came up with last year after making 17 grabs for 163 yards and two scores in 2007.

With Harmon still trying to come back from his knee injury, 6-5, 210-pound senior Rob Housler is a proven second option who can start if needed. While FAU went to many three and four wide sets, Housler still finished third on the team with 32 catches for 519 yards and two scores highlighted by a 71-yard play against Michigan State. He’s not a big-time blocker, but he can make big plays with good route running ability.

Watch Out For ... the return of Harmon. Housler was hardly a slouch as the regular tight end last year, but Harmon is special. He’s an H-Back type of target who flourishes in an attack like this. If he has his speed back, he’s a lock for all-star honors.
Strength: Veterans. There are four good receivers, highlighted by a big-time playmaker in Gent, and the tight ends are terrific. With Rusty Smith throwing the ball, this corps should blow up.
Weakness: Young talent to develop for the future. It’s not like there aren’t loads of good receivers in the greater Miami area to pick from, but the young prospects on this year’s FAU team aren’t going to see a lot of action meaning next year the receiving corps will be all but starting from scratch.
Outlook: Look out. Because of the style of offense and because Rusty Smith is the quarterback, this veteran, talented corps should go ballistic. The FAU passing game was 25th in the nation last season and first in the Sun Belt, and it should be even better with Cortez Gent leading an explosive group and star tight end Jason Harmon back from his knee injury.
Rating: 7

Offensive Linemen

Projected Starters
Junior Ryan Wischnefski is one of the team’s most versatile linemen able to play anywhere on the inside. Originally a guard, he was a backup on the left side last year, the 6-2, 317-pound junior will go back to his original spot at center. He provides the bulk for the smallish line.  

Taking over at left tackle for Brandon Jackson at left tackle is Lavoris Williams, a 6-3, 270-pound junior who is 15 pounds bigger than Jackson. He bulked up 20 pounds over the last year and has the experience to grow into an anchor after starting on the right side late last season. Tough, he was able to play through injuries to shine as a key pass protector.

With Williams moving from the right to the left side, Carl Spitale will step in at right tackle. The massive 6-8, 340-pound senior was too tall to be a guard, but that’s where he played last year on the right side. While he’s not all that quick on his feet, he has a long reach and can keep pass rushers at a distance when he gets his hands on them.

6-3, 304-pound senior Kevin Miller can play either guard spot or could step in at center if absolutely needed. He wasn’t healthy to start the season but he ended up being a key starter at right guard after seeing a game of starting time at center early on. He’s a good, tough blocker who’ll be an unsung star up front.

Samuel McRoy didn’t do too much last year as he bounced around from spot to spot. He was a reserve at right tackle late last season, but the 6-4, 275-pound junior will see time at left guard early on. He could move back to the more natural outside spot if other guard prospects emerge.

Projected Top Reserves: 6-2, 285-pound senior David Matlock will find a spot somewhere. The oft-injured, but versatile veteran started at left guard late last season and saw time at center early on. He’ll be a key part of the rotation if he doesn’t get back a starting job.

6-5, 235-pound junior Ed Wertepny is an undersized, athletic backup who can play just about anywhere up front. The former tight end was a backup center late last year and now he’ll work as a backup at left guard.

Watch Out For ... Kevin Miller. If he stays healthy he has all-star potential at guard. He’s one of the smarter linemen and is a rock in pass protection. With his versatility, he’s one of the team’s most important players even though he won’t get too much preseason notoriety.
Strength: Pass protection. The Owls gave up a mere 16 sacks in each of the last two seasons despite the quarterbacks attempting 457 passes. The line has gotten bigger over the years, but it’s athletic and it knows how to keep the quarterback clean for the extra tick. Also credit Rusty Smith for knowing how to get the ball out of his hands in a hurry.
Weakness: Sure thing depth. There are always going to be good blockers waiting in the wings, but there’s a little bit of patching to be done. The versatility of so many starters is a big plus, but it also means that it’ll be hard for there to be a settled lineup from the start.
Outlook: The line is one of the best in the Sun Belt, especially when it comes to pass protection, and while it’s not a dominant group and it isn’t going to blast over anyone, it’ll be fine. There aren’t any sure-thing all-stars and there’s some patching to be done, but it’ll be a good group revolving around Lavoris Williams at tackle. It’ll be a shock if the line allows more than 20 sacks.
Rating: 5.5