#97 Florida Atlantic Football 2017 Preview

Florida Atlantic Owls
Overall Rank: #97
#7 Conference USA
Florida Atlantic made the biggest splash as far as coaching hires are concerned with Lane Kiffin set to take over for Charlie Partridge who was dismissed last season. The Kiffin move to Boca Raton is a clear signal that he wanted to be a head coach again and it did not matter where it was in order for him to get away from Alabama and Nick Saban.
2016 Record: 3-9, 2-6
2016 Bowl: None
Coach: Lane Kiffin (0-0 at Florida Atlantic, 35-21 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Kendal Briles
Defensive Coordinator: Chris Kiffin
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Devin Singletary, RB, 1,016 yards
Passing: Jason Driskel, QB, 2,960 yards
Receiving: Kalib Woods, WR, 934 yards
Tackles: Azeez Al-Shaair, LB, 113
Sacks: Azeez Al-Shaair, LB, 2.0; Josh Kendall, DT, 2.0; Hunter Snyder, DL, 2.0
Interceptions: Ocie Rose, DB, 2; Andrew Soroh, DB, 2; Jalen Young, S, 2
Other Key Returnees: RB Greg Howell Jr, WR Henry Bussey III, WR Tavaris Harrison, WR Kamrin Solomon, OL Antonyo Woods, OL Reggie Bain, CB Raekwon Williams, K Greg Joseph, DL Haiden Nagel, DL Steven Leggett
Key Losses: DE Trey Hendrickson, P Dalton Schomp, TE Tyler Cameron, OL Dillon DeBoer
With Kendal Briles as offensive coordinator it will fascinating to see how quickly the Florida Atlantic offense begins to resemble the Baylor offense from the Art Briles heyday. Jason Driskel is back at quarterback and he will be pushed by Deā€™Andre Johnson, the former highly touted Florida State commit, very quickly in 2017. The offensive line went through all sorts of adversity with injuries as ten different linemen started along with the offensive front. Reggie Bain returns at left tackle along with Antonyo Woods to provide more continuity and overall experience provided everyone can stay a lot healthier in 2017. Devin Singletary and Greg Howell Jr. will provide an experienced 1-2 punch in the backfield that should open things up more in the passing game as the season goes along. In addition, the wide receiving corps should improve as well under the scheme of Briles as the increased depth should provide a fiercer competition for reps on game day.
This was definitely an achillies heel for Florida Atlantic last season as they simply could not get off of the field. The combination of not stopping the run and not causing turnovers resulted in the Owls giving up just under 40 points per game and 513.8 yards to opposing offenses in 2016. New defensive coordinator Chris Kiffin is going to have his work cut out for him in the early stages of this rebuilding process, but there are some players back that can produce big plays. Azeez Al-Shaair is the leading returning tackler from last season with 113 and Al-Shaair will need to lead the way in helping create more of a consistent pass rush as well this season after losing Trey Hendrickson to graduation. If Florida Atlantic can get more pressure on the quarterback it will set up the secondary, led by Jalen Young at safety, to create more turnovers.
The Bottom Line:
As far as the schedule goes, things will not be easy for the start of the Kiffin era as they play Navy at home followed by a trip to Wisconsin to start the 2017 season. After that the schedule settles down enough that there will be a fair amount of winnable games provided the defense can improve to even a below average level this season. Key games that will determine whether or not Florida Atlantic ends up being bowl eligible include conference home games against Middle Tennessee State, North Texas, Marshall and Florida International. If the Owls can go 3-1 or 4-0 in those games, then they will be in the bowl eligibility conversation. Bottom line, things will be a lot more entertaining in Boca Raton as at minimum there will be a lot of energy and national attention with the presence of Lane Kiffin as head coach.
Projected Bowl: None
2016 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 188.2 (53rd in nation, 3rd in conference)
Passing Offense: 210.1 (87, 10)
Total Offense: 398.3 (73, 6)
Scoring Offense: 26.4 (81, 7)
Rushing Defense: 245.4 (119, 13)
Pass Defense: 268.4 (109, 10)
Total Defense: 513.8 (124, 13)
Scoring Defense: 39.8 (122, 13)
Turnover Margin: -0.42 (101, 9)
Sacks: 1.92 (80, 9)
Sacks Allowed: 2.08 (65, 6)

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