Young and frustrating

Ryan Cortes

As FAU began spring practice last Wednesday, No. 46 came jogging onto the Tom Oxley Center practice fields, helmet on and slapping his hands over his head as he did running jumping jacks.

His name is Blake Bierman, but few know that yet. He’s a walk-on freshman, and as he jogged out, you could see two bright gray gloves attached to his palms.

“I’ve got one large and one extra-large [glove],” lamented Bierman. “I found them in the lost and found.”

It was that kind of day for the FAU football team as new faces were strewn all over the practice fields. Gone were so many familiar names: Jeff Van Camp, Lester Jean, Rob Housler, Michael Lockley, Tavious Polo and Ed Alexander, to name a few.

In their place entered young players with little in the way of experience. You could hear it in the coaches’ voices as they berated the new Owls.

On one side of the practice field, defensive coordinator Kurt Van Valkenburgh had become so irate with junior linebacker David Hinds that he literally attempted to drag him.

Van Valkenburgh grabbed Hinds’ face - mask and began dragging him to a spot on the field in the same manner a frustrated dog owner grabs a canine and shows him where he made a mistake in the house.

Hinds’ helmet then fell off as the defensive coordinator continued onward, although it was forgotten by the time practice was over.

“They’re doing a great job of coaching us up on it,” said Hinds of the new 3-4 defense. “We’re getting it. Slowly but surely.”

It wasn’t the only teaching going on, as the first day of practice also brought four quarterbacks, all of whom are attempting to replace former quarterback Jeff Van Camp.

All four quarterbacks — David Kooi, Graham Wilbert, Stephen Curtis and Nick Bracewell — simultaneously lined up behind a center and called for the ball to be snapped.

Kooi couldn’t handle the snap and as the ball rolled away it began to look like a scsene out of the Bad News Bears as FAU was officially in the midst of a quarterback competition.

On another side of the field, Anthony Napolitano was running drills with the rest of the linebacking corps. A walk-on as a junior, Napolitano is older than most of the new players, but a peer nonetheless as he walked off the field beaten and bruised as the rest of the newcomers.

“It was good, man,” said a short-of-breath Napolitano of his first practice. “They’ve got me at linebacker, just learning the ropes right now.”

At 6-foot-3-inches and 230 pounds, the Owls need the athletic Napolitano to learn the ropes quickly with the loss of two key linebackers in Lockley and Malik Eugene.

Senior Alfred Morris even proclaimed that he was looking to go undefeated this season, a tall task considering the downward spiral FAU football is seemingly on. After going 7-6 in 2008, the Owls went 5-7 in 2009 and just 4-8 last season.

Although the Owls open their new on-campus stadium this season, the task is no less difficult. FAU opens the season with five straight road games against Florida, Michigan State, Auburn, Louisiana and North Texas.

Young and frustrating after one day of practice. Just wait until they’re five games into it.