Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


FAU Football: Evan Anderson healthy and ready to lead Owls’ D-line again

Defensive coordinator Roc Bellantoni called junior defensive tackle Evan Anderson and the defensive line, “the strength of our defense,” ahead of Saturday’s season-opener.
Erika Fletcher
FAU defensive back Josh Moore (#10) squaring up against running back Larry McCammon III (#3) at practice. August 30, 2023.

Evan Anderson remembers every moment of every game he was sidelined for last season—he can probably tell you the score of each game, too.

The junior defensive lineman led the Owls’ defense in tackles for loss as a freshman in 2021, and was expected to yet again be the catalyst for the front seven before going down with a foot injury in week two that kept him out for five weeks.

“A lot of those games was close,” remembered Anderson, who said he was home and had to watch games on TV while nursing the foot injury. “Everybody thinks they can affect the game, anybody that plays football honestly thinks they can change the game. So yeah, I remember all the teams we lost to.” 

As FAU prepares to kick off their 2023 campaign on Saturday against Monmouth University, Anderson said he’s using that frustration—the helplessness of only being able to watch as the Owls’ collapsed in several close games during his rehab—as his motivation.

“I feel like we ain’t never worked like this since I’ve been here,” said Anderson after Wednesday morning’s practice. “It’s going to be a new era at FAU.”

That era will begin against Monmouth and a Hawks’ offense which features junior running back Jaden Shirden, the nation’s leading rusher in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) a year ago.

“I know how good the Coastal Athletic Conference is, it’s the premiere FCS conference in the country. I know how good that football is, so for him to lead the nation in rushing in that conference… he’s really good,” said defensive coordinator Roc Bellantoni of Shirden. “Obviously, he’s been a big focus of our preparation, but you can’t sleep on their wide receivers either. They’ve got two big time receivers, a very big target on the outside, a very good slot that they try to get the ball to in different situations. Very, very good offense, so we’ve got our hands full with preparation.”

Shirden rushed for 1,722 yards and 13 touchdowns as the Hawks went 5-6 and missed the postseason. The two returning wide receivers aforementioned by Bellantoni are senior Dymere Miller and fifth-year Assanti Kearney. 

Miller, “the very good slot,” led the Hawks last season with 55 catches for 825 yards and seven touchdowns, while Kearney, the “big target on the outside,” registered 37 catches for 638 yards and four touchdowns. 

So what’s the key to stopping Monmouth’s balanced, proven offense? Anderson and the defensive line, according to Bellantoni.

“I think the strength of our defense right now is our defensive line. It’s not like [Evan] is going to go out there, throw three guys out of the way and go make every tackle. He’s just got to be Evan, he’s got to do his job to the best of his ability. And the rest of them up front, be in their gaps, be where they’re supposed to be,” said Bellantoni of the defensive line. “If they play well, no matter who we play we should have a chance to be ok.” 

Cameron Priester is the Editor-at-large for the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or tweet him @PriesterCameron

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About the Contributors
Cameron Priester
Cameron Priester, Editor-at-Large
Cameron Priester is an Editor-at-Large for the University Press. Having served as Sports Editor for the 2022-23 academic year, he is a multimedia journalism major and intends on pursuing a career in sports journalism. He can be found on Twitter @PriesterCameron and you can email him at [email protected].
Erika Fletcher
Erika Fletcher, Lead Photographer
Erika is a senior majoring in multimedia studies with a minor in photography. She loves shooting sports and street photography and in her free time, she enjoys drawing, skateboarding, playing soccer, listening to music, and being with her friends and family. She joined the UP on a whim to make new friends and to get better at photography. In her time here, while not long, she's made connections and learned so much about herself already and can't wait to continue her journey with such great people.

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