Football: five takeaways from Saturday’s spring game

The running game and the defense shined.


Redshirt junior Jason Driskel threw two touchdowns in the Owls spring game. Ryan Lynch | Editor in Chief

Hans Belot Jr., Sports Editor

Florida Atlantic University conducted its annual spring on Saturday afternoon in Boca Raton, giving fans their first look at new head coach Lane Kiffin on the sideline.

Instead of the first team versus second team scrimmage that usually happens in a spring game, FAU set up a scoring strategy in which the defense was awarded points for holding the offense from scoring, as well as forcing three and outs and interceptions.

The defense defeated the offense 62-33, and the scoring system was not very popular among some of the offensive players.

“I did not really agree with the scoring system, but whatever,” senior wide receiver Kamrin Solomon said.

Redshirt junior Jason Driskel also echoed the same sentiments, “Did not agree with the score,” he said.

It was also the first time fans got a look at the new offensive and defensive schemes, as both coordinators were replaced in the offseason.

Here are five takeaways from the game:

1.) Quarterback battle: De’Andre Johnson needs more time

It was a rough day for the redshirt sophomore quarterback, who was 8-for-15, with no touchdowns and one interception. Johnson also rushed fives times, but only gained two yards — though quarterbacks were not allowed to be tackled, so the play stopped when a defender was in a close proximity.

“I thought De’Andre was a little up and down,” Kiffin said. “It was a little disappointing because I thought [he] had a good week, week and a half of good practice.”

Driskel, on the other hand, played “pretty well” according to Kiffin.

I thought he managed the game well,” he said. “He probably shouldn’t have taken some sacks like he did but there will be some stuff to learn from. I don’t know what the numbers are but it seemed like he played really well.”

2.) The running back position is stacked

FAU’s running game was its best attribute last season, and it looks as if the trend is going to continue this year.

The Owls were third last season running the football in Conference USA, averaging 188.2 yards on the ground per game. FAU also scored 31 touchdowns on the ground, which set a single-season program record.

Sophomore Devin Singletary recorded 52 yards on seven carries, and added a touchdown.

Senior Gregory “Buddy” Howell, who last year became the program’s all-time single-season rushing touchdown leader with 12, also took snaps, alongside sophomore Kerrith Whyte Jr., redshirt senior Marcus Clark, redshirt junior Gerald Hearns and redshirt freshman James Charles.

“That’s our strongest position,” Kiffin said. “They played really well today.”

3.) Offensive penalties galore

FAU’s offense was not the most disciplined unit on the field on Saturday, accumulating more than 10 penalties.

Several of those were holding penalties and false starts on the offensive line, as well as a big facemask penalty in the first quarter that brought the offense back.

“We have to improve in that area,” Johnson said.

“[The] offense hurt themselves with some costly penalties,” Kiffin added. “They put themselves in some bad situations, some third and short and knocked them out. I am sure we will go back and think differently once we watch film on certain subjects.”

The Owls were one of the most disciplined teams a year ago, averaging a Conference USA best 5.5 penalties per game.

4.) Defense showed signs of improvement

FAU’s defense was one the worst in the Football Bowl Subdivision last year, allowing a conference-worst 39.8 points and 512.8 total yards per game. The Owls allowed a Conference USA single-game record 77 points, as well as 757 yards in its last game of the 2016 season.

The Owls recorded seven sacks and hauled in three interceptions and scored 62 points. FAU gave its defense points based on not allowing the offense to score, interceptions and three and outs.

Although the quarterbacks weren’t allowed to get tackled, to avoid any injuries, FAU recorded seven sacks in the game and disrupted the quarterbacks all afternoon.

“I thought they rushed well,” Kiffin said. “It’s a little bit hard to tell because the quarterbacks are not live, but I thought they played well. They did a very good job.”

5.) Lane Kiffin gets bored not calling plays

As part of his learning experience from being the offensive coordinator at University of Alabama, Kiffin said during his inaugural press conference at FAU that he will no longer be calling plays.

“Boring,” Kiffin joked when asked how it feels to not be calling plays on the sideline. “I would’ve left too, to go to the beach.”

Kiffin has delegated all the play calling responsibility to his coordinators, as Chris Kiffin handles the defensive side and Art Briles calls the offense.

Hans Belot Jr. is the sports editor of the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or tweet him at @Don_Phenom_.