Fortner shines in the Owls’ 11th annual spring scrimmage

Andrew Ivins

Arguably the biggest question mark FAU had coming into spring football practices was who would take over the starting quarterback position. Saturday, at the program’s annual spring scrimmage, the stage was set for a quarterback to elevate himself in the competition, but no one managed to.

“It’s needless for us to talk about who is going to be No. 1 [quarterback] for a long time,” head coach Howard Schnellenberger said at the conclusion of the scrimmage. “I’m not going to be talking about it in the summer — we will be talking about it when we get into training camp.”

Junior quarterbacks David Kooi and Graham Wilbert saw their fair share of snaps in the simulated scrimmage, but neither was able to outperform the other or, for that matter, the performance of sophomore running back Damian Fortner.

Fortner took everyone’s eyes away from the quarterback race and turned them his way. Finishing the afternoon with 84 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns, the ball carrier helped lead the offensive unit to an 18-13 victory over the opposing defense.

With Fortner having to fill the void left by the injured regular starter Alfred Morris, the underclassman shined and helped an offense that was handicapped by its quarterback play.

“It’s a team sport. Whatever I can do to help out the team, I’m going to do to the best of my ability and get better,” said Fortner with a smile.

While Fortner was bouncing off of defenders, it was Wilbert and Kooi who were having problems. Wilbert injured his hand near the end of the first half and spent the rest of the afternoon next to the coaches, instead of in the huddle.

Kooi gladly took the extra snaps that Wilbert couldn’t, but besides a 34-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Jabyes Cross, he looked uncomfortable.

“I think I gradually got better,” said Kooi. “I think I started off a little slow, but as it went on I believe I got better.”

Kooi finished the day 12-of-20 for 148 yards. Freshman quarterback Nick Bracewell also found some action and gained praise from the coaching staff after going 8-of-12 for 66 yards. In

Wilbert’s limited action he was just 6-of-9 for 56 yards.

Defensively, the Owls weren’t able to force a turnover and produce a score of their own. Linebackers Cory Henry and David Hinds knocked a few passes to the ground while safety Cortez Ash dropped a sure interception over the middle.

The unit’s new 3-4 defensive alignments looked promising at times, and, except for a broken coverage assignment in the secondary, the defense was impressive in pass coverage and run support.

“I feel like we did pretty good with [the new 3-4 defense] because all of us are new to it and everybody from the people that were here to the new guys that came in learned it,” said Hinds.

Tight end Darian Williams reeled in six passes for 71 yards to lead all pass-catchers, while wide receiver DeAndre Richardson added three catches for 31 yards.

As a team, the Owls rushed for 147 total yards in the simulated scrimmage, with 66 of those yards coming from running back Travis Jones, who split carries with Fortner.

“I can go to bed tonight and feel much better about the team than I did last night when I laid my head down to rest,” said Schnellenberger.

The Owls will kick off the season Sept. 3 at the University of Florida.