NEW ... 2010 CFN Florida Atlantic Preview
Florida Atlantic RB Alfred Morris
Florida Atlantic RB Alfred Morris
Posted Aug 7, 2010 2010 Preview - Florida Atlantic Owls

Florida Atlantic Owls

Preview 2010

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By Pete Fiutak

Head coach: Howard Schnellenberger
10th year: 45-50
26th year: 153-132-3
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 8, Def. 21, ST 1
Lettermen Lost: 18
Ten Best Florida Atlantic Players
1. RB Alfred Morris, Soph.
2. SS Marcus Bartels, Jr.
3. QB Jeff Van Camp, Sr.
4. DE Kevin Cyrille, Soph.
5. LB Michael Lockley, Sr.
6. WR Lester Jean, Sr.
7. CB/KR Tavious Polo, Sr.
8. FS Ed Alexander, Sr.
9. DT Dino Cox, Sr.
10. TE Rob Housler, Sr.
2010 Schedule

Sept. 4 at UAB
Sept. 11 at Michigan St
Sept. 18 OPEN DATE
Sept. 25 North Texas
Oct. 2 at South Florida
Oct. 9 at ULM
Oct. 23 at Arkansas St
Oct. 30 FIU
Nov. 6 at WKU
Nov. 13 Louisiana
Nov. 20 at Texas
Nov. 27 at MTSU
Dec. 4 Troy

Legendary head coach Howard Schnellenberger was able to create the Florida Atlantic football team from scratch and made it a Sun Belt power. Now he has to come up with a few fixes to solidify the program and make it consistently better.

Even in a bad season like 2009, going 5-7 and without a win over anyone with a pulse, the results weren't all that bad. If that's the low point for FAU football, things can be changed around in a hurry (at that's the hope with a wide-open Sun Belt conference season ahead) if, and it's a huge if, the defense decides to show up.

Only once in the six years of FBS, Sun Belt play have the Owls finished a season scoring more points than they gave up, and that was in the inaugural 2004 year. The defense was miserable in 2007, but FAU was still able to slug its way to a Sun Belt title and a New Orleans Bowl win. It struggled in 2008, but it still didn't matter too much with a 7-6 season and a Motor City Bowl victory. But 2009 was something different. It wasn't just that the defense was awful (it was), it was that the offense wasn't able to pick up the slack at the right time. In the past, the D would rise up once in a while when it absolutely needed to, but that wasn't the case last season. This year, the Owls can't afford that to happen again.

FAU always has interesting offenses, but there will be a problem this season with a brand new line that lost all five starters (even though Samuel McRoy has time logged in at left tackle) and with the loss of several good receivers. Only three starters in all are back on an offense that didn't exactly set the world on fire last year, which means that for there to be any success, the defense will have to start pulling its weight. With nine starters returning, it's time.

The linebackers have the potential to be solid, the secondary gets everyone back and has a slew of good young players to get excited about, and new defensive coordinator Kurt Van Valkenburgh is going to try to do something to generate some sort of pressure from a front four that hasn't hit a quarterback in years.

FAU games, especially in the Sun Belt, should once again be fun and exciting shootouts. But if the defense can just do a little bit more to keep the score down just a wee bit, the Owls could be in the thick of the conference title hunt all season long.

What to watch for on offense: The offensive line. The 2009 FAU offensive front wasn't a brick wall in pass protection, but it was good enough at time help the attack finish 15th in the nation in yards and 18th in passing. It also paved the way for a big year from Alfred Morris and the running game. This year's line isn't totally starting from scratch, but it's close. It's a smallish, athletic line (as is always the case at FAU), and it's very, very young with four sophomores and a redshirt freshman as the projected starters. It'll be among the Sun Belt's best lines … in 2011.

What to watch for on defense: The talented young linebackers. Seniors Michael Lockley and Malik Eugene will be the veterans the rest of the corps will work around, but the real talent is very, very young. Redshirt freshmen Alex Pattee and Randell Johnson should shine on the weakside, while Yourhighness Morgan will work behind Eugene on the strongside. Throw in the upside of true freshman Michael Copeland and the future is bright at linebacker with tremendous athletes and plenty of skill.

The team will be far better if … the D can generate more of a pass rush. The entire defense struggled and sputtered over the last few years because the front four was miserable when it came to getting into the backfield coming up with just 12 sacks last year and 25 in the last two seasons. Van Valkenburgh will try to kick his front four in the tail get everyone more aggressive and get them into the backfield. If it all works out, the veteran secondary will thrive and the good linebacking corps can do more to try to clean up against the run.

The schedule: It's not pretty. There are only four home games, with another, the date with Michigan State, technically counted as a home date … it's being played in Detroit. The Owls go from October 2nd to November 13th with just one home game with the biggest road trip of the lot at Arkansas State. The two biggest games are at the end, going to Middle Tennessee before the regular-season ender against Troy, but the Owls had better come up with some big road wins before Thanksgiving. The non-conference slate is a disaster playing Michigan State, at South Florida, and at Texas, and while the game against UAB is winnable, it's on the road.

Best offensive player: Sophomore QB Alfred Morris. The Owl offense has dominated through the years through the air, partially because the attack had to bomb away to keep up with the points and yards allowed by the offense. Morris, however, ended up carrying the offense at times and saved the team over the second half of the year with four 100-yard games to close things out. He destroyed Sun Belt competition with only one effort, a 93-yard game against Middle Tennessee, with fewer than 100 yards on the ground.

Best defensive player: Junior S Marcus Bartels. It's not like he was expected to come up with a monster season, but it just so happened that he had to do a little bit of everything for the porous defense. The junior isn't all that big at just 5-11 and 170 pounds, but he managed to make 112 tackles with an interception, three broken up passes and five tackles for loss on his way to honorable mention Sun Belt honors. There are more talented players on the FAU defense, but Bartels will likely be the most productive.

Key player to a successful season: Sophomore DE Kevin Cyrille. If the key to the season is generating more of a pass rush, then Cyrille has to become a terror. The promising 6-4, 275-pounder had a nice first year making 40 tackles with three sacks and 11.5 tackles for loss, and he was one of the only Owl defenders to touch a quarterback. While the rest of the line will be asked to do more, Cyrille has to be the star everything works around.

The season will be a success if … FAU finishes 7-5. For a team with so many questions on defense and just three starters returning on offense, winning the Sun Belt title is way too lofty a goal. However, the Owls should be just good enough to beat most of the mediocre conference teams, and it should be able to come up with an upset or two to finish with a winning season. There's too much athleticism across the board to ask for anything less.

Key game: Oct. 23 at Arkansas State. The Red Wolves are good enough to win the Sun Belt title, and FAU has to come up with an upset to have any reasonable hope of being in the conference championship race. With two weeks off after the road trip to ULM, the Owls will be rested and ready, and with two relatively easy games to follow, facing FIU and at Western Kentucky, it could spark a nice run before a brutal final four games (Louisiana, at Texas, at MTSU, and Troy).

2009 Fun Stats:
- Sacks: Opponents 21 for 164 yards – Florida Atlantic 12 for 84 yards
- Rushing yards per game: Opponents 220.6 – Florida Atlantic 152.4
- Field goals: Opponents 15-of-16 – Florida Atlantic 8-of-12

- 2010 Florida Atlantic Preview | 2010 Florida Atlantic Offense
- 2010 Florida Atlantic Defense | 2010 Florida Atlantic Depth Chart
- Florida Atlantic Previews  2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006