Back to the Basics

Andrew Ivins

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For the first time in five years, someone new is lining up in the huddle and calling out plays as spring football practice kicks off.

Unlike previous years in which the Owls already knew who would be taking snaps with the first team offense come game time, this spring is another story.

Four scholarship quarterbacks return from last year’s roster, but not one of them has a career start on their resume. Two of the signal callers will enter the season as redshirt juniors, while the other pair is wrapping up their first year of college.

Together, the group has managed only 13 pass attempts in game situations, and not one of them has tossed a touchdown pass — not ideal numbers with the Owls set to open the season versus the University of Florida on Sept. 3.

This time last year it was fifth-year senior Jeff Van Camp who was handling the offense, and for four years before that it was current Tennessee Titan Rusty Smith, breaking school records.

With just five months before the Owls open the season, FAU has had to put the quarterbacks on a learning curve — starting with the basics.

Recently appointed quarterback coach Jarred Allen admits the four quarterbacks had to go through rudimentary processes.

“We have kind of went to the basics,” Allen explained. “With our offense we wanted to make sure all of these guys knew the basics of it.”

And stressing fundamentals is just what this group needs. Allen is trying to communicate to his unit of passers that there is no better opportunity to work on technique than over spring drills, even with the four fighting for the No. 1 job.

“[The starting job] is open, we’re looking for a guy who is going to come in here and lead. It’s open for all four of them,” Allen said.

The UP took a look at the four QB candidates:

Graham Wilbert

Last year, Wilbert was named the backup quarterback to starter Jeff Van Camp after beating out teammate David Kooi in fall camp. Once the 6-foot-6-inch, 225-pound passer was able to find his way onto the field, he had some success in mop-up duty against Michigan State completing one pass for 41 yards.

In his next game action, against South Florida, Wilbert missed on three different pass attempts before suffering a wrist injury that would hold him out for the remainder of the season.

“I had a lot of confidence last year, getting a lot of good reps with the No. 2 offense during practice every day, and then I got hurt, which set me back,” Wilbert said.

Although the redshirt junior missed out on a lot of practice time, he still comes into the upcoming season with arguably the most meaningful game experience among the four candidates.

In order for Wilbert to win the job, he’s going to need to be able to develop more as a leader and show coaches he can take control of the offense.

Wilbert simply put it, “It’s all about who the offense responds to.”

David Kooi

Although coaches have stated that anybody can win the starting quarterback position on the final depth chart, the general feeling all offseason has been that Kooi is the underdog to Wilbert, after having lost the battle for the backup position last fall camp.

Kooi had to watch from the bench all of last season, but did manage to take advantage of his limited reps in practice.

One thing that puts Kooi ahead of the other challengers is his scrambling abilities, which he has frequently displayed in drills and scrimmages.

“I think it helps me a little bit,” Kooi said of his legs. “We’re more of a pro-style offense, so it’s not that big of a deal. But, I look to it as, if I can get out of the pocket, it’s better for me in case something does crash.”

Being able to move and escape out of the pocket is good for an offense that surrendered 20 sacks a year ago. However, at times Kooi has done it a little too much rather than looking to pass.

So far this spring it appears that the 6-foot-7-inch, 210-pound quarterback has solved the problem, and is looking to pass first rather than tuck the ball and run.

Stephen Curtis and Nick Bracewell

The two soon to be redshirt freshmen enrolled in classes back in the summer in hopes of coming in and getting an early grasp of the offense. While no coach has publicly come out and placed one above the other, you get the feeling that both are at the same talent level.

Curtis came to FAU regarded as one of the most highly skilled quarterbacks to ever step foot on campus. Many fans have been drooling over the highlight tapes that he put together while at Sumter High School in South Carolina, but the fact is, the gifted dual-threat passer has yet to take a meaningful snap in college.

Bracewell, much like Curtis, hasn’t seen game action either. The 6-foot-3-inch, 220-pound passer has displayed a nice throwing motion in practice on long balls, but has struggled at times reading defenses.

For either one of the pair to win the job, it’s going to take a lot of “wow” plays and consistency.

“They both are doing good,” quarterback coach Jared Allen said. “Once they start picking it up more mentally they can play better, more naturally.”

If you want to go: 

FAU’s  spring practices run Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays on the practice field behind the Tom Oxley Athletic Center, and are open to the public.