The Owls rank No. 29 in Athlon’s Top 130 for 2018
Lane Kiffin wasted little time in putting his stamp on the Florida Atlantic program, turning a team that went 3-9 in 2016 to one that won 11 games, a Conference USA title and boasted one of the nation's most explosive offenses. What does Kiffin have in store for an encore? He still has one of college football's top running backs but the rest of the offense is a work in progress. The defense returns a ton of experience but both sides of the ball will be working with new coordinators. Even with all of the question marks, the Owls enter the fall as the team to beat in the conference.
Previewing FAU Football's Offense for 2018
Never one to shy away from controversy, coach Lane Kiffin hired a 24-year-old, Charlie Weis Jr., to be the youngest offensive coordinator in modern college football history. Weis, now 25, replaces Kendal Briles, whose Baylor-style offense averaged 40.6 points last season at FAU - eighth best nationally. FAU's 2018 offense will combine some of the balance Kiffin and Weis utilized as Alabama assistants with Briles' ferociously up-tempo attack.
Option No. 1 will be Devin "Motor" Singletary. A dark-horse candidate for the Heisman Trophy, FAU's record-setting running back led the nation with 32 rushing touchdowns while stockpiling 1,920 rushing yards last season.
FAU's quarterback situation could remain fluid into the season. Former Florida State quarterback De'Andre Johnson, a fourth-year junior, played in one game last year before surgery to remove blood clots in his arm ended his season.
Redshirt freshman Chris Robison is a former four-star recruit who originally enrolled at Oklahoma but was kicked out of school prior to the start of his freshman year.
A practice squad star last year, West Virginia transfer Jovon Durante joins Conference USA All-Freshman performer Willie Wright to give FAU two credible deep threats at receiver.
FAU lost three members from its interior offensive line to graduation, including All-Conference USA performers Antonyo Woods and Roman Fernandez. The addition of graduate transfer Junior Diaz from Tulane at center figures to smooth the transition.
Previewing FAU Football's Defense for 2018
FAU has a new coordinator on defense, too, hiring Tony Pecoraro away from C-USA rival Southern Miss. Pecoraro inherits a secondary that returns most of its starters for a defense that tied for second nationally with 20 interceptions. Where the Owls employed basic schemes defensively last season, rarely shifting from what was essentially a base 4-2-5, Pecoraro likes to disguise formations and blitz frequently.
Senior linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair underwent offseason surgery for the second consecutive year, this time on his elbow, and once again was limited in the spring. Missing spring didn't hurt him last season; he led the Owls with 147 tackles.
Safety Jalen Young, another senior, tied for second nationally with seven interceptions last season.
FAU lost defensive tackle Jeremiah Taleni to graduation but signed junior college transfer Charles Cameron, who will team with Steven Leggett, Hunter Snyder and Leighton McCarthy for what should be one of the fiercest pass-rush units in C-USA.
Previewing FAU Football's Specialists for 2018
Placekicker Greg Joseph and punter Ryan Rickel both graduated, leaving FAU without obvious replacements. Vladimir Rivas served as their backup during 2017, but the Owls are bringing several walk-ons to camp in the fall. Young averaged 12.4 yards returning punts last season. Kerrith Whyte had the first kickoff return for a TD in program history.
The Owls underwent numerous personnel changes during the offseason, both in the coaching staff and in some key offensive positions. That turnover will likely lead to inconsistent play to start the season. By the time C-USA play begins, however, there's no reason to believe that the Lane Train won't be chugging in high gear. At the very least, Kiffin's offensive mind should have FAU headed for its second consecutive bowl appearance.
National Ranking: 29
C-USA East Prediction: 1
(Top photo courtesy of FAU Athletics)