Football: Fall Predictions

A new name has emerged in the running back pool.


Quarterback Daniel Parr (13) and running back Kerrith Whyte (6) celebrate after scoring a touchdown during the 2016 spring game. Max Jackson | Staff Photographer

Hans Belot Jr., Contributing Writer

With the playing of its annual spring game last Saturday, Florida Atlantic football’s spring practices have come to a close.

Projected leaders stepped up while others made a name for themselves.

The players will not officially return to the field until the fall, and that is when the coaching staff will make final decisions on their depth chart.

The spring game provided a few examples of what to expect for next season, and this article will predict the questions asked in last week’s article:

Jason Driskel versus Daniel Parr: Who will get the nod?

Head coach Charlie Partridge has remained tight-lipped about the quarterback battle so far, not indicating if either has the edge over the other for the starting spot.

“Right now the one quarterbacks [Driskel and Parr] are still the one quarterbacks,” Partridge said after the spring game. “They both showed signs of good things today as they have the whole [spring] … As I said, this is one-fifteenth of their current evaluation and they both did some nice things, today. I’m excited about that progress.”

Both quarterbacks in the running for the starting position performed well at the spring game last Saturday. Driskel completed 20-of-27 passes for two touchdown passes and one interception, while Parr went 9-for-12 with three total touchdowns, two through the air and one on the ground.

Each of the two quarterbacks also completed passes of 50 yards or more as Driskel connected with redshirt freshman Tavaris Harrison on a 54-yard touchdown pass and Parr threw a 52-yard touchdown pass to junior receiver Nate Terry.

“Both guys have been doing very well,” said new offensive coordinator Travis Trickett. “Both of those guys have held themselves to very high standards and they are ultimate competitors and that is something you can’t teach as a coach.”

Driskel, a redshirt sophomore, had the opportunity to share snaps and drives throughout the season last year with former starter Jaquez Johnson. Although Johnson played more, the experience of in-game playing time is valuable. Driskel finished the year playing in 10 games, two of which he started. He threw for 965 yards, including a 385 yard effort in a 33-15 loss versus Buffalo.

Parr, was redshirted his freshman season, lurking for his opportunity. Two years ago, he led William T. Dwyer High School to a state championship throwing for 3,200 yards and 36 touchdowns that same year.

My vote for the 2016 season starter is Driskel. Although they’ll be fighting throughout the season, Driskel’s experience of having led the offense last year will play a major part in Patridge’s decision.

Driskel will have to try and avoid major stretches of struggle as Parr will be right behind him, waiting for his opportunity to take the job. Partridge has the luxury of being able to switch quarterbacks if one ever goes through too much trouble during the season.

Who will stand out at the running back position?

In an unexpected yet fortunate turn of events, redshirt freshman Kerrith Whyte has thrown his name into the already stocked running back position.

Whyte, whose spring game was the first collegiate game of his career, impressed as he ran for two touchdowns caught one.

The Seminole Ridge High School graduate finished his senior season with more than 1,300 rushing yards and 485 receiving yards, earning him a nod in the first team all conference team.

“You see his quickness and his talent level,” Partridge said of Whyte. “He’s a talented young man and he’s learning to complete his game. There were some mistakes he made that we see out there but there’s no question he has the talent to affect the game on Saturdays.”

Last season, junior Greg Howell handled most of the carries for the Owls, rushing the ball 133 yards for 598 yards.

“Howell has stepped up and excelled this spring,” Trickett said. “We always want competition. That’s always a good thing.”

Jay Warren ranked second in carries last season as a junior. He missed the game due to an injury. Freshman Trey Rodriguez, who ranked third in carries, was dismissed from the team on April 19.

This will be one of the toughest decision for the coaching staff to make, as a total of six running backs are fighting for a chance to get on the field. Several players throughout the season will get a chance to carry the ball, but one will have to lead the way.

I believe Partridge will try to distribute the ball evenly among his backs, but Howell and Warren will get the most. Granted, that does not mean players such as redshirt junior Marcus Clark — who himself finished with 93 yards on 10 carries last season — and Whyte won’t get a chance, but they will have to provide strong performances to gain the coaching staff’s trust.

Can the young defensive backs build on last season’s success?

The way his defensive line performed in the spring game impressed Partridge, as the unit allowed the defensive backs to make plays and shut out the reserves.

“The dominance of the defensive line really makes the life of the back seven pretty fun,” said Partridge.

Led by three players who made the the Conference USA All-Freshman team a season ago — Ocie Rose, Jalen Young and Azeez Al-Shaair — the back seven for the Owls is looking very promising for the next few years. Their speed and ability to make plays and to break up passes is a skill set any coaches would love to have on their team.

Bill Parcells, a former NFL head coach, once said, “a football player’s best ability is his availability.” Rose, Young, and Al-Shaair didn’t miss a game last season.

The three will absolutely improve on last season’s success, provided coach Partridge lines them up with upperclassmen leadership on the field, such as senior defensive end Trey Hendrickson.  

Regardless, this young defense has a very bright future.

How will the offense change this season?

Saturday’s spring game provided a glimpse of what new offensive coordinator Trickett’s offense will be all about — speed.

The Owls future hurry-up offense utilizing fewer huddles and quick attacks was on display last week.

Trickett is coming from a Samford offense which he led to 34.6 points and 480 yards per game last season. He used two quarterbacks in 2015 and the duo passed for 22 scores and tossed 3,662 yards to 15 different targets and boasted the nation’s highest completion percentage at 69.7 percent.

“I got to work with E.J. [Manuel] and [Christian] Ponder and those guys but as a graduate assistant, I mostly watched [head coach] Jimbo [Fisher] work with those guys,” said Trickett of his time at Florida State University, before Samford. “But what Samford prepared me for is usually you have a lesser talented guy at the FCS level compared to the FBS level, so fundamentally you have to be really good and execution needs to be higher. So we just want to make sure these guys stay consistent.”

This offense should be fun to watch in the 2016 season, as they attempt to improve on last season’s average of 22.5 points per game. Although there is a long time to go until week one of the 2016 season, coach Partridge is confident of where his team is.

“There are a lot of things to build on,” said Partridge. “We are not game ready but we are on schedule, where we had hoped we would be at this point on April 16.”

Hans Belot Jr. is a contributing writer with the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or tweet him at @Don_Phenom_.