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Orlando Sentinel Sun Belt Prediction: No. 7

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Orlando Sentinel Sun Belt Prediction: No. 7

From The Orlando Sentinel:

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SIDELINE ARTIST: Howard Schnellenberger has done a superb job with FAU's fledgling program. The Owls have a couple of marquee wins, including an upset at Hawaii last season, and he and his staff have mined South Florida for some diamonds in the rough on the recruiting trail. But the athletic department is hemorrhaging money because of Schnellenberger's profligate ways, so maybe it's a wash.

MASTERPIECES: LB Shomari Earls is a stud who could play for any school in this state. CB Willie Hughley (Haines City) will contend for all-Sun Belt honors. C Nello Faulk is a guy to watch.

WORKS IN PROGRESS: The Owls return only eight starters, so there are holes everywhere. The o-line will have four new starters. There's a new QB, a new TB and two new starting WRs. A small d-line has three new starters.

THE BUZZ: Yes, there are holes everywhere, but don't bet against Schnellenberger and his experienced staff in the school's first season in the Sun Belt. There are just four home games, but one of them is against a Big 12 team. All four non-conference games are against BCS-league schools.



SIDELINE ARTIST: Former NFL quarterback Don Strock has overseen a methodical approach to building a Division I-A team. He is one of six former NFL players on the coaching staff, but so far, those NFL connections have led to just 10 wins in three seasons. Strock wants to throw the ball and should have a nice passing attack this season.

MASTERPIECES: WR Cory McKinney (DeLand) could lead the Sun Belt in receiving this season. He's the favorite target of QB Josh Padrick (Merritt Island). C Victor Cernius heads a line that returns all five starters. TE Samuel Smith should catch at least 40 passes. The LBs look good.

WORKS IN PROGRESS: There are 18 returning starters, but those guys won just three games against a less-than-imposing schedule last season. FIU must run the ball better and also stop the run better. Padrick must become more consistent.

THE BUZZ: It should be a learning experience as FIU joins the Sun Belt this season. The first three games are on the road, including two at Big 12 schools. There are two I-AA teams on the schedule, and those could be FIU's only two wins.

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