The Florida Atlantic Owls were very bad (3-9) in 2016, leading to the firing of head coach Charlie Partridge. The Owls would go on to make headlines for arguably the first time ever by naming controversial figure Joey Freshwater a.k.a. Lane Kiffin as their head coach. They stayed in the headlines by bringing in Kendal Briles to be offensive coordinator from Sexual Assault U, otherwise known as Baylor University. Briles, who is the son of former Baylor head coach Art Briles, is facing a lawsuit after reportedly saying to a recruit (maybe multiple) “Do you like white women? Because we have a lot of them at Baylor and they love football players.” During Briles time at Baylor, recruits were ‘allegedly’ consistently taken to strip clubs, used alcohol and drugs, and made women sexually available through their hostess program. So, mixing ole Joey Freshwater with this guy has to be a recipe for success, right?
Well, FAU’s rare time in the spotlight did not end there as the dynamic duo of Freshwater and Briles have created a 4-year Last Chance U in beautiful Boca Raton, Florida. Kiffin signed eight junior college (JUCO) transfers including several players with less-than-immaculate disciplinary records. This class is highlighted by Last Chance U, EMCC, quarterback De’Andre Johnson, who is hoping to become a redemption story after being dismissed from Florida State after punching a woman. The link to this video is below. Don’t click if you do not want to see a girl get nailed. Another highlight from this class is Deandre McNeal, a 4-star receiver out of high school who was dismissed from Texas for a violation of team rules before playing a season of JUCO football and finally choosing FAU over UCLA. A 3rd player is Tim Bonner, another Last Chance U product, who was dismissed from Louisville following an incident surrounding a gun. To keep with the Last Chance U theme, Kiffin also brought in QB coach Clint Trickett from EMCC to be the Tight Ends coach for the Owls. Kiffin appears to be all about second chances as the coach of the Owls, as he should be considering this is his fourth chance at being a head coach.
This class, which is loaded with JUCO transfers and other 3 stars, was ranked the best class in the Conference USA. How could you not sign the best class in the conference with a hype video of this quality? Please click the link below and watch this. It is 100% worth your time. Also, can you guess what the best recruiting class in the CUSA is ranked nationally? 71st. The future of the CUSA is very bright, my friends.
However, if we avoid the controversies and character flaws with many of these new additions and focus on simply the product on the field, there is no way this team will not be significantly improved in 2017. Lane Kiffin and Kendal Briles have led two of the most dynamic offenses in the country over the past several years, and both have thrived when using a dual-threat quarterback like a De’Andre Johnson. Briles’ QBs at Baylor rushed for 506 yards in 2016 and 712 in 2015, and everyone saw what Kiffin did with freshman Jalen Hurts a year ago.
De’Andre Johnson is a straight up winner. This is a guy who has lost one game in his entire high school and JUCO career. From the documentary, Johnson has a clear ability to be a vocal leader of the team. When he talks, people listen. He inspires his teammates to play better and does not get rattled in pressure moments. Along with Johnson, FAU is predicted by Athlon Sports to have the best running back unit in the conference, returning a stud RB in Devin Singletary who along with Buddy Howell ran for 1,849 yards and 25 touchdowns a season ago. An almost entirely new receiving corps led by potential star Deandre McNeal should provide Johnson with reliable options throwing the ball as well.
The bottom line is this offense is going to put points on the board, especially in the C USA. However, this is a defense that gave up 40 points a game a year ago. The defense is projected to start mostly upper classmen, but when the defense was torched a year ago with these players on the field, that is not necessarily a positive. The improvement made on that side of the ball will be much more indicative of how this season turns out for the Fighting Freshwaters.
FAU will win 8 games in year 1 of the Kiffin era.
Everyone knows the best way to rebuild quickly is by recruiting JUCO players, who are closer to game ready than freshmen would be. That is the route that Kiffin took, getting a number of quality players who were cast away from Power 5 schools. Athlon Sports predicts this team will finish at 6-6, which would be a 3-win improvement for this football team in year 1 under Lane Kiffin. However, this team, led by offensive minds in Kiffin and Briles and talent at skill positions that will be elite for this conference, should find a way to win 8 games. Their schedule is not set up for success as they start with Navy and Wisconsin, which should be losses. They play on the road at WKU and LA Tech, who are the two favorites to win the conference. Games at Old Dominion and home vs. MTSU should also be tough games for the Owls. But at the end of the day, De’Andre Johnson is an elite talent who is going to keep the Owls in virtually every game they play. Couple that with the weapons he has at his disposal at skill positions, and this is a team that will definitely surprise some people in the Conference USA in 2017 and easily make it to a bowl game.