The Florida Atlantic Owls started the season 1-3 but bounced back quickly. Cleaning up throughout the duration of conference play, the program refused to drop a contest. Ending the season 11-3 certainly put high expectations on Lane Kiffin as a second year head coach. Yet, the coach possesses talent on the roster — at least on the defensive side of the ball — to deliver another conference crown to Boca Raton.
Neville Gallimore | Defensive Lineman
It’s a well known fact that FAU must replace quarterback Jason Driskel moving forward. That puts much of the pressure on the offensive line and runningback, Devon “Motor” Singletary. Cracking the 100 yard mark in each of the final eleven games, the back crossed the goal line 32 times. Posing a major threat to a run defense that proved suspect last year, Singletary takes on the Oklahoma Sooners defensive front seven.
One year removed from allowing programs to eclipsed the 100 yard barrier nine times, the Sooner defense hopes to improve not only the talent level but also the play on the field. With players in the rotation possessing experience, the run defense should be must improved. It all starts with Marquise Overton in the middle. But, I’d make a case that Neville Gallimore is the one who must step up.
Gallimore flashed glimpses of greatness during the first two seasons on the field. Behind unrivaled athleticism combine with versatility, this lineman needs to respond to the challenge of disrupting all opposing offenses. Instead of simply taking up space, Gallimore should consistently shed blocks and make plays in the backfield. Expect to hear his name called numerous times out of the gate.
Rodney Anderson | Running Back
All eyes are on Rodney Anderson this season after the breakout performance in 2017. The unquestionable starter plans to aide the coaching staff while the program adjusts to life without Baker Mayfield. In week one, the star running back at the University of Oklahoma will meet a stingy defense capable of shutting down the rushing attack.
Refusing to allow teams to run the ball confidently, the FAU Owls held opponents under four yards a carry en route to the Conference USA title. Replacing a single defender should help with consistency on defense. Forcing Oklahoma to become one dimensional is certainly difficult but not impossible.
In order to combat the approach, Anderson must start the season with a bang.
Mike Stoops | Defensive Coordinator
Can I take a step out of the norm, and throw a coaches name out for once? Okay! The aforementioned Lane Kiffin has been known to throw a gimmick into the offensive scheme with regularity. Don’t believe me? At the start of the C-USA Championship Game, the head coach utilized two back-to-back trick plays. Knowing defenses may key into the established rushing attack, I’d bet Kiffin throws out a gimmick or two in Norman — especially with nothing to lose and everything to gain week one.
That’s why I’m tossing Mike Stoops name into the conversation. It’s the job of the defensive coordinator to prepare the players for any and all situations. The Owls are not a team to underestimate and a single play could break the morale of young players in the blink of an eye. How well has the defense prepared for this very occasion? We’ll see come September.