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Football: Several Owls could go pro in the next couple of years

Eight former Owls played in the NFL this year

Devin+Singletary.+Alexander+Rodriguez+%7C+News+Editor
Devin Singletary. Alexander Rodriguez | News Editor

Devin Singletary. Alexander Rodriguez | News Editor

Devin Singletary. Alexander Rodriguez | News Editor

Matt Brown, Contributing Writer

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Wherever Lane Kiffin ends up, he is bound to make headlines.

He was the youngest head coach in NFL history during his time with the Oakland Raiders, later leaving Tennessee fans spewing with rage when he left the head coach position after one season to take over the University of Southern California program.

Roughly four years later, he was famously fired from his USC dream job on the airport tarmac and then finally relieved of his duties as offensive coordinator at Alabama just one week before the team was to take on Clemson in the national championship.

Count all of that, along with his Twitter antics this past year, and he can sometimes cast a shadow over his players. Luckily, his headlines did more good than bad, bringing attention to high-quality players who would not have gotten such respect if Kiffin weren’t telling everybody and their mother to #cometothefaU.

Here we take a look at some of those players who, thanks to Kiffin, got to show college football fans what they are made of and one day might get the chance to show the NFL.

Offense

Running back Devin Singletary

What else can be said about rising junior Devin Singletary other than he is the best offensive, if not best overall, player in school history.

To put in perspective how good Singletary was this past season, former Owl and current Dallas Cowboys running back Alfred Morris ran for 27 touchdowns from 2008-11 in his four-year career at FAU. Singletary ran for 32 touchdowns in just this year alone.

That’s the third most in a single season in FBS history. Only two people, Singletary and Wisconsin running back Montee Ball, have rushed for that many touchdowns in a single season in the last 25 years.

Along with setting a C-USA single season record in rushing touchdowns (32), and overall touchdowns (33), Singletary was fourth in the country in rushing yards (1,920).

In addition to the countless number of broken records, he added a ton of hardware in the offseason as well. Along with being voted first team-all conference and C-USA MVP, the rising junior was named third team Associated Press All-American, the first player in FAU history to be voted an All-American.

He can potentially add NFL player to that list of accomplishments in the near future, but for now, he will just have to settle with being the greatest football player in FAU history.

Wide receiver John Franklin III

Although the stats might not be there, the talent is for newly implemented receiver John Franklin III. After first making stops in college at Florida State University, East River Mississippi Community College, and Auburn, the former three-star dual threat quarterback converted to wide receiver for his final season of college football at FAU.

In his first season, Franklin ended up catching seven balls for 95 yards and one touchdown. That averages out to a respectable 13.5 yards per catch.

He was also implemented in certain situations as a wildcat quarterback where he got to utilize his break-away speed, running for nearly 230 yards on just 16 carries. While rushing for over 14 yards a carry, he was able to add two touchdowns on the ground.

Despite not having a large amount of playing time, he got to show off his speed to scouts recently in Indianapolis. At the National Scouting Combine he ran a 4.3 40-yard dash.

This came just a few days after a video was posted of Franklin running a 4.19 during a training session. If it had been official, it would have been one of the fastest recorded times ever.   

Be on the lookout for Franklin on your TV screen on Sundays, because you can teach a football player many things, but you can’t teach speed.

The offensive line

Without the contributions of rising junior Brandon Walton, Jakobi Smith, and first team All-Conference members Antonyo Woods, Roman Fernandez, and rising redshirt senior Reggie Bain, the Owls offense would not have been nearly as successful as it was this past season.

It’s hard to pick one when all five of them started all 14 games this past year. When you’re part of a consistent offensive line that helps pave the way for over 285 rushing yards a game, which is fifth best in the nation, it’s difficult to point the finger at one particular player.

These linemen were the backbone of the offense that rushed the ball over 650 times for nearly 4,000 yards and an FBS-leading 52 rushing touchdowns. They also only allowed 16 sacks all year, which averages out to just 1.14 per game, the 12th lowest in the country.

Look for one, if not all of these players to be making “pancakes” on a Sunday very soon.  

Defense

Linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair

Azeez Al-Shaair wasted no time in making his decision to return to the Owls, announcing it in the locker room moments after the defense allowed just three points in a 50-3 beat down over Akron in the Boca Raton Bowl.

“If you start something you’ve got to finish it,” the rising senior said after the game. “That’s what I’ve been taught. My mom taught me that at a young age. For me everything that I’ve been able to do here over the past three years, it’s only right out of respect for all the people that gave me the opportunity to do it…that I be loyal and true to that.”

In that bowl game, he recorded 13 total tackles. That is dwarfed by the nine other times he recorded 10 or more total tackles in the team’s fourteen games overall, one of which he missed due to injury.

He accumulated 147 tackles this past season, third most in the nation. He also had a C-USA best in solo tackles (77) and average tackles per game (11.3).

Heading into his final season as an Owl, the C-USA first teamer will be looking to add to his already record total of career tackles of 354 at FAU.

He then may be able to tackle his dreams of heading to the NFL.

Safety Jalen Young

Rising senior Jalen Young was a catalyst for a defense that had 20 interceptions on the year, seven of which came his way. It set a single season program record and was the second most in all of the FBS.

He personally tied the school record for most interceptions by a player in a game with three against Marshall.

He recorded five or more tackles in eight of the team’s games, while recording at least two tackles in all 14 games. He totaled 77 tackles for the season, third most on the team, including a season-high 14 against Wisconsin.

The versatile safety also returned nine punts for a total of 112 yards.

Look closely these next couple years, because you might get the chance to see Jalen Young make an impact in multiple facets of the game.

Cornerbacks Shelton Lewis and Chris Tooley

Both of these players had a key role in a greatly improved defense.  

Of the single season program-high 20 interceptions recorded, 10 of them went to the cornerbacks. Of those 10, eight were made by either Lewis or Tooley, who each had four apiece.

Rising senior Shelton Lewis had a span of three straight games of recording one interception and recorded his fourth in a five-game span.  

He also tallied 47 total tackles, 31 being solo, along with forcing a fumble.The first team C-USA corner also added six pass breakups.

Not to be outdone, the C-USA honorable mention Tooley had a similar output.

The rising junior’s four interceptions all came within the team’s first seven games of the season.

He added a total of 34 tackles, 21 of which were solo. He returned a fumble for a touchdown along with forcing one.

Tooley also had three pass breakups on the year.  

The two were an integral part in a defense that only allowed 22.7 points per game, third best in the conference. This came just one year after allowing a league-worst 39.8 points per game.

All in all, Lewis and Tooley should find success in the National Football League, coming to a “No Fly Zone” near you.

Matt Brown is a contributing writer with the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or tweet him @mattyb407.

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