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2014 FAU Football Fall Camp: Day 1 Observations

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FAU utility man DJ Juste did it all on Thursday. He caught passes, ran the ball and even took a few snaps in practice. He also worked with the special teams units.

Charlie Partridge called his first fall practice at FAU, a crisp one. Despite threatening rain conditions, the Owls got a full two hours of work in  Thursday behind the Tom Oxley Center. Partridge granted the media full access to practice. Here’s what we saw.

- FAU ended spring practices with some controversy at quarterback. Jaquez Johnson entered camp as the starter, but Greg Hankerson played the role of challenger to near-perfection. Thursday, it was clear that Johnson was Partridge’s quarterback. The redshirt-junior worked exclusively with the first-team offense, while Hankerson saw time with the back-ups.

After practice Partridge commented on the quarterback situation. “Right now if we were to play tomorrow Jaquez would be our clear No. 1, but what I want to make clear to our team and everyone, is that Greg is talented and times looks like he can make a push. But if we were to play in a week or tomorrow, we would name Quez the starter now.”

- DT Bradin Bryant was a full-go on Thursday. He showed no signs of favoring his knee after offseason surgery, and participated in all of the drills with the defensive line. FAU will need him to stay healthy this season.

- Utility man DJ Juste (pictured) did everything. He caught passes, ran the ball, and even took snaps. It’s clear FAU is trying to get him involved more and more - and that includes on special teams. He worked as a gunner on both the punt and kickoff units.

- Everyone knows that linebacker could be the Owls’ achilles heel this season, and one player who was noticeably absent from practice was Freedom Whitefield. The Owls starting unit during team drills, was Andrae Kirk, Robert Relf and David Lozandier. Relf - like Bryant - looked fine after his ankle surgery, which is favorable news.

- Sticking with linebacker, FAU’s two incoming freshman did not impress. Kris Harris looked  out of shape, while Matt Solt didn’t even make my notes. That’s not a good sign, as both players were expected to contribute this season.

- With Whitefield absent, the Owls worked primarily out of a base nickel package. That allowed for true freshman DB Marquese Dudley-Gordon to see time with the second team defense at nickel back. All I’m going to say is, he could be a special one.

- Tony Moore looked to be the starting running back, but Jay Warren and Martese Jackson also split carries. Jeremy Gaskins (who moved to cornerback in the spring) was in the backfield, and also involved in the offense. There is plenty to be had at running back.  

- I don’t think WR Lucky Whitehead has ever been healthy at FAU, until now. The senior was all over the field on Thursday and had the best day out of any pass catcher.

- FAU signed 24 players in February. I can name at least five players that aren’t ready to see the field. DE Nick Richardson, DT Ray Ellis and TE Nate Terry physically just aren’t there. RB Henry Bussey has too many guys in front of him, while LB Kris Harris (like I said above) just didn’t make the cut for me.

- However,  I was impressed with freshman CB Raekwon Williams. He made an athletic interception and looks ready to challenge Reggie Brown for playing time as the team’s third cornerback. Partridge even mentioned his name after practice. CB Andrew Sorrow also had a good day.

- Marquese Dudley-Gordon or “MDG” might have the newest nickname on the team, but OL Siffo Pierre and RB Gregory Howell have them as well. Howell goes by “Buddy” while Siffo I believe goes by “C-4.” I’m not sure if the later is entirely correct, but that’s what I heard o-line coach Bart Miller yell out.

- I wrote earlier in the week how Reginald Bain could be the first ever true freshman lineman to start a season opener in the FBS-era for FAU. I now fully believe this happens. Bain was at left tackle on Thursday, and he looked like a starter. He’s currently playing at 286 pounds.

- OL Vinny Davino and OL Mike Marsaille practiced Thursday after missing all of spring camp. Both looked healthy, but have some catching up to do. Marsaille was the back-up to Bain at tackle.

- For your Austin Bland update, he saw time with the third-team offense. I’m beginning to wonder when we will see a breakthrough from him.  

- Special teams are without a doubt a priority. FAU worked with it’s punt team units before and after practice. Partridge worked one-on-one with the punt protection guys (they are using a swinging-gate). So, I’m assuming he’s in charge of that unit.

- The kicking game already looks like a mess. There were at least six specialists on hand for practice, with all of them rotating. FAU is ready to play kicker roulette if it comes down to it.

- DE Denzel Whitfield hasn’t done much in his career at FAU, but he looked like a guy that belonged in the rotation on Thursday. He batted down a Hankerson pass, and blew past the second-team line.

- FS Christian Milstead is my offseason “combine-freak.” I’m not sure what exactly it was, but he looked different. Expect big things from him.

- QB Jason Driskel did his best impression to date of his brother, Jeff. He took a delayed scramble 25-yards untouched. He’s in line for a redshirt, but I like his potential.

- WR Kalib Woods was the talk of the scout team last fall, then he missed all of spring camp. Thursday, he was finally practicing.  
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I'm going to work on some photos, but if you have any questions regarding todays practice, feel free to ask here.
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What's the issue with Bland? Shape? Technique? Thought by now he'd be cracking the 2-deep
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owlmart said

What's the issue with Bland? Shape? Technique? Thought by now he'd be cracking the 2-deep
Posted On: Jul 31st 2014, 9:14 PM #332916

He has the size, I'm just not sure. I think Joe Gold (incoming freshman) is already ahead of him. This is an important camp for Bland.
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Was Bland suspended at the end of spring?

Any idea where Freedom was? Will he return? He was damn good.

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teambeer said

Was Bland suspended at the end of spring?

Any idea where Freedom was? Will he return? He was damn good.


Posted On: Jul 31st 2014, 9:34 PM #332920

I can't confirm that regarding Bland. Just got word that Freedom was in class.
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 Any news from the T.E. group ?
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Guest said

 Any news from the T.E. group ?
Posted On: Jul 31st 2014, 9:47 PM #332922

From the looks of it, it was Alex Deleon with the first team, Michael Harrop with the second and a rotation of Nate Terry and Dustin Bowens with the third. Bowens is the guy that needs to step up, Terry needs to simply put on weight.
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Denzel Whitfield is now at DE? How is the depth for DT looking? 
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Guest said

Denzel Whitfield is now at DE? How is the depth for DT looking? 
Posted On: Jul 31st 2014, 10:48 PM #332941

I think he's one of those guys that will play inside and outside on the line. The Owls have three bodies that can play inside (Coley, Bryant, Ogbonda) and then freshmen Josh Kendall and Ray Ellis.
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