2009 CFN Florida Atlantic Preview
Florida Atlantic QB Rusty Smith
Florida Atlantic QB Rusty Smith
Posted Jul 29, 2009

CollegeFootballNews.com 2009 Preview - Florida Atlantic Owls

Florida Atlantic Owls

Preview 2009

By Pete Fiutak

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

Head coach: Howard Schnellenberger
9th year: 40-43
25th year overall: 148-125-3
Returning Lettermen
Off. 18, Def. 24, ST 4
Lettermen Lost: 22
Ten Best Owl Players
1. QB Rusty Smith, Sr.
2. WR Cortez Gent, Sr.
3. TE Jason Harmon, Sr.
4. CB Tavious Polo, Jr.
5. FB William Rose, Sr.
6. FS Ed Alexander, Jr.
7. DT Josh Savidge, Sr.
8. LB Edward Bradwell, Sr.
9. CB Tavoris Hill, Soph.
10. OT Lavoris Williams, Jr.

2009 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2009 Record: 0-0

9/5 at Nebraska
9/19 at South Carolina
9/26 ULM
10/3 Wyoming
10/17 at North Texas
10/24 at UL Lafayette
10/31 Middle Tenn
11/7 at UAB
11/14 Arkansas State
11/21 at Troy
11/28 Western Kentucky
12/5 at FIU

2008 Schedule
CFN Prediction: 7-5

2008 Record: 7-6

Aug. 30 at Texas L 52-10
Sept. 6 UAB W 49-24
Sept. 13 at Michigan State L 17-0
Sept. 20 at Minnesota L 37-3
Sept. 30 at Middle Tenn L 14-13
Oct. 7 Troy L 30-17
Oct. 18 at West Kent. W 24-20
Oct. 25 at UL Monroe W 29-28
Nov. 8 North Texas W 46-13
Nov. 15 UL Lafayette W 40-29
Nov. 22 at Arkansas St L 28-14
Nov. 29 FIU W 57-50 OT
Dec. 26 Central Mich W 24-21

After 24 years as a head coach and eight seasons spent building the Florida Atlantic football program, Howard Schnellenberger isn’t exactly going to change up his world now.

6-0 in bowl games with 148 wins and a national title to his credit, Schellenberger might be the most underappreciated head coach in college football. While he’s not within 100 miles of a Joe Paterno or Bobby Bowden-like legendary status, he’s one of the most unique figures in the game and he has done the near impossible at FAU. He has created a consistent winner.

It’s one thing to come up with a shocker of a championship season, like he and his team did in 2007 with a Sun Belt title, but it’s another to create an atmosphere and a program that can overcome adversity. The first half of last year was an utter disaster, starting out 1-5 with losses to Middle Tennessee and Troy killing any hope of repeating as the Sun Belt champions. Even worse, considering the high expectations set for the veteran team, was how it was blown out by the big names losing to Texas, Michigan State, and Minnesota by a combined score of 106 to 13.

But the Owls rallied with a four-game winning streak and with six wins in the final seven despite not being all that great. There wasn’t any pass rush, there were too many turnovers, the special teams were awful, and there weren’t enough plays from a supposedly decent defense. But Schnellenberger has seen it all before, he knows what he’s doing, and he’s going to come up with another winning season.

It all starts with QB Rusty Smith, the first star for the young program and the standard-bearer for all future Owl passers. He and the great receiving corps should be able to bomb their way to wins over most Sun Belt teams. Getting the offense might be a must with another tough season almost certain from a rebuilding defense, but FAU is now good enough, and deep enough, to be in the hunt of the Sun Belt title all season long and, at the very least, get to a bowl game.

What to watch for on offense: A better year from the passing game. It’s not like FAU was all that bad throwing the ball, it finished first in the Sun Belt, but it wasn’t an efficient passing game and it wasn’t consistent. With Smith a sure-thing veteran, the return of TE Jason Harmon, and with Cortez Gent one of the Sun Belt’s top weapons, expect far more than 255 passing yards per game.

What to watch for on defense: A decent year from an unheralded linebacking corps. Two starters have to be replaced, with the loss of 154-tackling middle linebacker Frantz Joseph a killer, but there’s good potential with Malik Eugene and Michael Lockley working around veteran Edward Bradwell. If super-recruit Toney Moore is ready for primetime from day one, the linebackers could even be a strength.

The team will be far better if … there's more pressure in the backfield and there's some semblance of a punting game … that was what was needed going into last year and things haven’t changed. After finishing 112th in the nation in net punting in 2007, the Owls improved to 111th. The pass rush generated 16 sacks two years ago and 68 tackles for loss, and got worse with just 13 sacks and 58 tackles for loss last season. Considering the pass defense allowed opposing quarterback to complete 64% of their passes, the team desperately needs some sort of a pass rush.

The Schedule: The non-conference schedule isn’t all that bad after starting out the season at Nebraska and at South Carolina. Would it be a stop-the-world shocker if FAU won either of those two games? Maybe, but it wouldn’t be an upset if there were wins over Wyoming and UAB. The three road trips in a four week span in mid-season could make-or-break the year, but going on the road to face Troy on November 21st is the biggest problem. At least Arkansas State and Middle Tennessee have to come to Boca Raton.

Best Offensive Player: Senior QB Rusty Smith. A special passer, a leader, and the type of player the rest of the rebuilding team can rally around, Smith is poised for a possible Sun Belt Player of the Year season. While his numbers weren’t as strong throwing for 3,224 yards and 24 scores with 14 interceptions after throwing for 3,688 yards and 32 touchdowns with nine interceptions, Smith should bounce back and throw closer to 4,000 yards.

Best Defensive Player: Junior FS Ed Alexander. Overshadowed a bit by others in the secondary, Alexander came up with a nice sophomore season with 42 stops, three interceptions and two broken up passes. A thin playmaker with great speed and decent tackling skills, he does a little of everything well and he could become an all-star if he can pick off a few more passes.

Key player to a successful season: Sophomore DE Jamere Johnson. The Owls desperately, desperately need a pass rush. The 6-4, 220-pound Johnson has a great burst off the line and looks the part of a big-time sack artist. If he’s not, the line will have to hope some of the lackluster veterans have to find something different.

The season will be a success if ... FAU wins the Sun Belt title. This isn’t the best team in the Sun Belt and it might not even be in the top three, but with a quarterback like Smith and excellent athleticism across the board, anything less, at this point in the program’s brief history, is unacceptable. More realistically, just getting to a bowl game would make for a solid year.

Key game: Nov. 21 at Troy. The Middle Tennessee game on Halloween and the Arkansas State game on November 14th will also be important, but FAU can’t win the Sun Belt title without coming out of Troy with a win. It’s not a good matchup for the Owls, and they’ll need to come up with one of their better offensive performances of the season.

2008 Fun Stats: 
- Completion percentage: Opponents 64% - Florida Atlantic 54%
- Turnovers: Florida Atlantic 29 – Opponents 19
- Fourth down conversions: Opponents 14-of-25 (56%) – Florida Atlantic 2-of-12 (17%)

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