Football: Owls host public practice in Broward County

Open practice gave fans and family a chance to watch the team up close and personal.


char Pratt

Florida Atlantic football players walk onto the field for practice in Broward Tuesday morning. Brendan Feeney | Sports Editor

Hans Belot Jr., Contributing Writer

With the 2015 season in the rear view mirror, Florida Atlantic football has its eyes set toward the future. The team hosted an open practice at Joseph C. Carter Park in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on Tuesday, March 22.

Despite the success the defense had last season — ranking third in interceptions and fourth in total defense in Conference USA — defensive coordinator Roc Bellantoni believes his defense is still hungry for more.

“Pleasantly surprised at their attitude to be honest with you,” said Bellantoni. “They had a lot of success [last season] and sometimes that tends to create a little complacency, but I haven’t seen that from any of them. They are hungry and they want to be better.”

FAU had a school-record breaking season last season in sacks, ranking first in Conference USA and tied for the 13th in the nation with 35 on the season. Freshman linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair said he wants that to be the team’s building block going into his sophomore season come fall.

“We just want to get after the quarterback,” said Al-Shaair. “We had a lot of sacks and we want to build on that.”

“We’re definitely rolling with confidence,” said future senior defensive end Trey Hendrickson, who set an FAU single-season record for sacks, 13.5; he also ranked second in the nation. “Our d-line is extremely confident going into next season.”

The Owls will return five freshmen — who made the Conference USA All-Freshman team last season — who played in at least one game last season on defense, including defensive backs Ocie Rose and Jalen Young, and Al-Shaair.

“There were some goals that I set for me to reach and I reached some of them but not all of them” said Rose. “I humble myself to not make it seem … like it was only about that.”

Practicing in front of family and friends helped some players, such as Al-Shaair, feel more at ease in the environment.

“I’m a big family person and it was nice to be out here,” said Al-Shaair. “It always feels good to have somebody watching you. I love crowds.”

But for players like Young, it was more about getting better on the field.

“It’s nice to be out here in front of a crowd but on the field, I try to block that out so I can just stay focused,” said Young.

Redshirt freshman safety Richie Kittles, a native of Fort Lauderdale, felt good about being on the field with his family watching him and hopes that exposure will bring more fans to the games.

“My family came to watch me, along with my little cousins who looks up to me,” said Kittles. “Everybody can expect big things and bigger things from me … hope more people come to our games.”

For the families in the stands, it was also a great experience to see their loved ones practice up close and personal and get an idea what goes on behind the scenes.

“It’s great to be here and be able to see them,” said Chris Terry, father of junior tight end Nate Terry. “We get to see them close. I think they will do a lot better this season, especially after gaining some momentum at the end of last season so I just hope they finish with a winning record this year.”

FAU will play its spring game on April 16 at 1 p.m. at FAU Stadium.

Hans Belot Jr. is a contributing writer with the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or contact him on Twitter.