Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
2012 SEASON IN REVIEW: Carl Pelini's first year as the head coach of the Owls
featured some steps in the right direction as there was little to expect from
a program than finished 1-11 in 2011. Florida Atlantic didn't challenge for a
bowl berth, but did manage to triple its win total from the season before.
The first victory came in the opener as FAU outlasted FCS opponent Wagner for
a 7-3 victory. The Owls then returned to their losing ways and lost six in a
row with setbacks to Middle Tennessee (31-17), Georgia (56-20), Alabama
(40-7), North Texas (20-14), ULM (35-14) and finally South Alabama (37-34), in
double overtime. The Owls ended their losing slide at home with a 34-27
victory over Troy and after losing to Navy (24-17) the following week, notched
their third win of the season at Western Kentucky (37-28). FAU ended 2012 and
its Sun Belt Conference membership with home back-to-back losses to FIU
(35-25) and Louisiana (35-21).
2012 was the first year Pelini experienced as the head coach of a collegiate
program. He had previously served as the defensive coordinator and defensive
line coach at Nebraska from 2008-11. He is the older brother of the
Cornhuskers' head coach, Bo Pelini.
OFFENSE: Without Alfred Morris in the backfield, FAU began to favor the pass
over the run in Pelini's first season with the program. The Owls finished
sixth in the SBC in passing offense (237.6 ypg) and ninth in rushing (113.1
ypg). Although the contest resulted in a loss, FAU set a season-high in its
final game of the year as it compiled 538 yards of total offense against
The quarterback position was vacated by graduating senior Graham Wilbert, who
threw 18 touchdown passes to six interceptions. Senior Melvin German III, who
was selected to play in the JUCO MATJC All-Star Game after a stellar year at
Pearl River Community College, is the leading candidate to become the Owls'
next signal caller. German completed 293-for-453 pass attempts for 3,121 yards
and 21 touchdowns, while adding 88 carries for 180 yards rushing and six
scores and earning first-team All-Conference and All-America honors both
seasons at PRCC.
Junior Stephen Curtis and juco transfer Jaquez Johnson could both see action
at quarterback if German III's skill set fails to translate to the FBS level.
The FAU quarterbacks were sacked an average of 2.3 times per game last season.
They may find themselves under constant pressure once again with only senior
left tackle DeAndre Williams (6-5, 290) and junior center Mustafa Johnson
(6-3, 295) returning as starters.
Senior running back Jonathan Wallace finished 2012 strong with 479 yards over
the last six games. He gained 673 yards rushing and also made 21 grabs for 83
additional yards. Fellow seniors Damian Fortner (335 yards) and Martese
Jackson (224 yards) are also back to carry some of the burden out of the
All of the top wideouts from 2012 return including William Dukes (979 yards,
63 receptions) and Danie McKinney (497 yards, 48 receptions). Dukes's strong
campaign in 2012 as a sophomore earned him second team All-Sun Belt honors and
the Owls' Offensive MVP honors.
DEFENSE: FAU was a weak squad defensively last season primarily due to its
inability to slow down the opposition's rushing attack. It finished 102nd
among FBS programs in rush defense with 202.1 yards allowed per game and it
surrendered over 260 yards on five separate occasions.
"Well, if it translates, I think our defense should be drastically improved
over where it was a year ago," Pelini said. "I think we were performing at a
pretty high level by the end of the year, but I don't think we scratched the
surface in how good we could be."
The Owls will be led up front by senior defensive end Cory Henry (6-1, 215),
who is entering his third year as the starter. Sophomore defensive tackle
Trevon Coley showed some flashes of potential as a rookie and could flourish
in a starting role.
Senior Adarius Glanton is the key player for the undersized linebacking unit.
Randell Johnson (6-4, 230) and Andrae Kirk (6-2, 225) are the other starters
for the second tier. Both are fast enough to hold their own in pass coverage.
The secondary appears to be the strongest point of the defense with three
returning starters. Senior corner Keith Reaser tied Glanton for the team-high
in interceptions in 2012, while also recording 61 tackles. Junior D'Joun Smith
will be back at the opposite cornerback position, while senior free safety
Jeremy McKnight also brings some valuable experience to the table.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Senior Mitch Anderson won the starting place kicking job midway
through last season and finished 7-of-14 on the field goal tries and 23-of-24
on extra point attempts. Sean Kelly showed some nice touch as a punter last
season as a freshman. He downed 16 punts inside the 20-yard line and only had
six go into the end zone for a touchback. Kelly averaged only 39.9 yards per
punt on the year.
Backup running back Travis Jones finished third in the SBC in punt return
yards last year as a junior. He also paced FAU in kick return yards (221) and
OUTLOOK: FAU's progress might be stifled by its move to the Conference USA
from the Sun Belt. The Owls do not have any FCS opponents scheduled this
season and have a treacherous non-conference slate.
"I don't know if it's either an advantage or a disadvantage," Pelini said at
C-USA media day. "It's kind of fun, playing different people in different
venues and the whole chess match of it. Looking forward to it."
They begin their season with an in-state battle at Miami-Florida and stay on
the road for bouts at East Carolina and South Florida. FAU then has its home
opener on Sept. 21 against Middle Tennessee before it hits the road for
matchups at Rice and UAB. It will then host Marshall at FAU Stadium for the
first time in history. The Owls then take a break from league action to visit
Auburn for their third non-conference game of the year. They return to C-USA
play to host Tulane and play at Southern Miss in their final road game of the
year. FAU then concludes its season at home versus New Mexico State and FIU.
The lack of home games early on is going to really test this group that has
proven to be inferior over the past couple of seasons. It will take some time
for FAU to rebuild or an unexpected breakout performance before it will be a
contender for the C-USA crown.
The Sports Network