Football: FAU heads into National Signing Day with a new crop of offensive players

A look at a few pieces of the Owls’ 2018 offensive recruiting class


FAU head coach Lane Kiffin argues with a referee after a holding call during the second quarter of the Conference USA Championship Game versus North Texas. Joshua Giron | Photo Editor

Wajih AlBaroudi, Contributing Writer

Conference USA’s most prolific offense from 2017 is expected to be bolstered with new additions following 2018 National Signing Day.

After averaging 40.6 points per game last season (eighth in FBS) Florida Atlantic’s offense will be retooled under first-year offensive coordinator Charlie Weis Jr.

Copiah-Lincoln Community College wide receiver Nero Nelson is FAU’s most touted 2018 recruit according to ESPN and 247sports. Nelson flashed speed and shiftiness in a multitude of ways for the Wolves last season; he played in the slot, outside, returned kicks, ran the ball, and even threw a touchdown pass.

Nelson was originally committed to Mississippi State until flipping to FAU. Nelson signed his letter of intent to FAU during the first-ever early signing period on Dec. 20 2017.

247sports has Nelson ranked as the third best junior college receiver in the nation.

Quarterback Cordel Littlejohn is expected to compete for a starting position following the retirement of Jason Driskel, who led C-USA in passing efficiency last season with a rating of 149.4.

Littlejohn scored 96 total touchdowns over his career at Lincolnton High School (NC) and Roswell High School (GA).

Littlejohn’s film shows he is an elusive runner when he takes off. He shook defenders in his path and made them miss with effortless quickness.

Quarterback mobility was heavily valued in FAU’s offense last season, as Driskel ran for eight touchdowns and was the team’s third leading rusher with 427 yards.

Littlejohn showed toughness in the pocket as he was able to keep his eyes down field and deliver passes while under duress and taking hits.

“Raw, Littlejohn will need to fine tune his fundamentals, but the physical traits are there from a size and arm talent standpoint,” Steve Wiltfong wrote in a Aug. 31, 2017 247sports article. “More importantly, Littlejohn also sees the field well, has a good feel for the game and throws a pretty deep ball. Comfortable throwing to all levels of the field, Littlejohn seems to go through progressions well and regularly hits his mark. Accurate downfield and in the red zone.”

In 2016-2017, FAU had the C-USA’s second best offensive line in adjusted line yards,which singles out the offensive line’s role in successful running plays, according to Football Outsiders.

However, departures of All-Conference performers Roman Fernandez and Antonyo Woods along with former offensive line coach Garin Justice leave the unit in flux for the 2018-2019 season.

First-year offensive line coach John Garrison looks to build off of last season’s momentum with the addition of Doug Johnson and Zack Bennett.

Johnson played left tackle at Fort White High School (FL), but his coach at Fort White suggested he may transition to guard at the college level. Johnson committed to FAU despite offers from the 2017 SEC champion Georgia Bulldogs and the Auburn Tigers.

From his film, Johnson shows good mobility for his size; sprinting out to the second level taking out linebackers and defensive backs on screen plays as well as reach blocking effectively on outside zone runs.

Wide receiver Desean Holmes signed with FAU during the early signing period after stops at San Diego State and College of the Canyons. Holmes caught 51 passes for over 1,058 yards and nine touchdowns in 2017 for the College of the Canyons Cougars.

At over 20 yards per catch, Holmes was the Cougars big play threat last season. On film, Holmes burned past defenders on vertical routes and zipped by would-be tacklers on screen passes to the endzone.

Rising junior Devin Singletary was one of the most dynamic players in college football last season; rushing for an FBS best 32 touchdowns and setting a school record with 1,920 yards on the ground his sophomore year.

Singletary will be joined in the backfield by Malcolm Davidson, running back from Osceola High School (FL).

Davidson averaged over 10 yards a carry for the Osceola Kowboys, totalling 27 touchdowns and 1,871 yards over his career.

“Tagged as a three-star prospect, Davidson is a smooth runner who does a nice of accelerating and distancing himself from defenders. He shows patience while letting his linemen get into place, but you also have to take notice of suddenness and cutback ability.” Corey Bender wrote in a Jan. 3 247sports article.

Center Zack Bennett played for the Arizona Western College Matadors last season at the junior college level.

Bennett calls himself “Mr. Pancake” on his twitter account, and his film confirms the nickname.

Bennett has an old-school, physical play style; he finishes blocks through the whistle and the looks to drive his opponents into the ground no matter where the ball is on the field.

FAU is bringing in five offensive transfers in 2018 with Auburn wide receiver Kyle Davis, West Virginia wide receiver Jovon Durante, Tulane center Junior Diaz and Oklahoma quarterback Chris Robison.

National Signing Day is Feb. 7 2018 and this year’s class will be Lane Kiffin’s second as FAU head coach.

Check in tomorrow for the defensive players to look out for in the 2018 signing class.

Wajih AlBaroudi is a contributing writer for the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or tweet @WajihAlBaroudi.