Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
BOCA RATON — Howard Schnellenberger has some rebuilding to do following the loss of 20 seniors.
And most of it will be on defense.
Florida Atlantic University starts spring football practice today looking to rebuild a defense depleted by graduation. Coaches, though, are confident the offense can find a few good running backs and offensive linemen to complement a strong returning cast.
"Spring practice is the boot camp of our football team where young guys learn to play football and older guys learn how to go from reserves to starters," Schnellenberger said.
The biggest losses are in the defensive front seven where six starters depart. The Owls are looking for Edward Bradwell, Michael Lockley and Malik Eugene to take over for a linebacker group that lost the program's all-time leading tackler, Frantz Joseph.
"They've been here for awhile, they're pretty experienced," Schnellenberger said. "They need to step into the leadership roles."
The offense is less of a concern considering quarterback Rusty Smith returns for his third season as the full-time starter along with the top four wide receivers, fullback Willie Rose and a stable of tight ends that has Jason Harmon back from injury.
The focus will be replenishing the tailback position that lost Charles Pierre and DiIvory Edgecomb, and replacing four starting offensive linemen.
Jeff Blanchard of Delray Beach, Willie Floyd and Avionne Rolle should take their battle to become the starting tailback well into the spring and summer.
"Even though we've got great talent, more than when we had with Pierre and Edgecomb, they don't have experience and they're not quite mature physically," Schnellenberger said.
The offensive line never established continuity last season because of a series of injuries. Now, it will have to replace four key players. The only healthy offensive lineman who started more than half the season available for the spring is left tackle Lavoris Williams.
Noteworthy: Practices will Monday, Wednesday and Friday with scrimmages set for April 4, 11 and 18 (spring game). All will take place on the team's practice fields and are open to the public.