SEPT. 9 | CAMP RANDALL STADIUM
Florida Atlantic went with a big name when it decided to reboot the program, hiring Lane Kiffin to replace Charlie Partridge. A former UW assistant, Partridge went 9-27 in three seasons with the Owls. Kiffin spent the past three seasons as Alabama’s offensive coordinator under Nick Saban and helped the Crimson Tide win a national title following the 2015 season. Kiffin is 35-21 as a head coach after stops at Tennessee and USC. Hiring Kiffin paid immediate dividends for Florida Atlantic, which had the highest-rated 2017 recruiting class in Conference USA.
BIG MAN ON CAMPUS
Devin Singletary ran for 1,021 yards and 12 touchdowns as a true freshman last season. He averaged 145 yards per game during the second half of the season, posting 257 yards against Rice and 235 yards against Middle Tennessee. He scored three touchdowns in each of those games. “Special player,” Kiffin said. “Rarely does the first guy ever tackle him.” The other half of the Owls’ two-headed monster at tailback is senior Greg Howell Jr., who rushed for 828 yards last season.
Kiffin doesn’t shy away from controversy, and that reflected in two of his decisions after taking the job. First, he hired Kendal Briles as assistant coach and offensive coordinator. Briles comes to Florida Atlantic from Baylor, where he worked under his father Art, who was fired after a sexual assault scandal at the school. Kiffin also signed off on quarterback De’Andre Johnson joining the Owls. Johnson was a highly touted quarterback who originally signed with Florida State, but he was kicked off the team after punching a woman at a bar. Johnson spent a season at East Mississippi Community College before signing with Florida Atlantic. The sophomore is expected to compete for the starting job with junior Jason Driskel, who passed for 2,415 yards in 11 starts last season.
Will the Owls be a trainwreck on defense again?
Florida Atlantic allowed 513.8 yards per game last season, which was 124th in the nation. It was No. 123 in scoring defense with nearly 40 points allowed per game. That was with the Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year, Trey Hendrickson (29½ career sacks), on the roster. Now Hendrickson is gone and the Owls’ front six — Chris Kiffin, Lane’s younger brother, runs a 4-2-5 scheme — doesn’t have much experience beyond junior linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair, who had 12 tackles for loss last season.
28-68 Florida Atlantic’s record since Howard Schnellenberger led the Owls to back-to-back bowl wins in 2007 and ’08.