FAU's defense looking to stay the same but improve
Ask safety Damian Parms if anything has changed in the past three months for FAU's defense, and he will say it's the verbage. The schemes, concepts, and players - for the most part - have remained the same, but it's the play calls and the man signaling them, that has taken a new identify.
Gone is defensive coordinator Jovan Dewitt who left for a job at Army, and in is Roc Bellantoni, a man who has made his bread-and-butter coaching at the Football Championship Series level.
Parms says that things already are very similar to last year's defense, and that's a good thing, for a team that finished ranked No. 11 in the nation in total defense.
Wednesday morning after FAU's fifth practice session of spring camp, Bellantoni explained that he isn't trying to reinvent the Owls' defense, rather pick up on where the unit left off, and install new ideas.
"There are little tweaks that are different, but it's very similar," Bellantoni said. "They were good defensively [last year], but we could be better."
Improving a defense that returns a handful of veterans like Parms looks plausible, but upon further review, the task has found a new degree of difficulty.
Defensive linemen Brandin Bryant and Robinson Eugene - two usual starters - haven't practiced this spring, and the linebacker corps continues to rotate inexperienced bodies. Keith Reaser, a shutdown corner was lost to graduation, along with defensive end Cory Henry, who's experience was undervalued last season.
Bellantoni expressed that he isn't concerned with the limited numbers on hand for spring, but it appears he's trying to work around the crunch.
Parms, who played over-the-top last season, has moved into the box and will now serve as the Owls' strong safety. The move allows for Bellantoni to rotate between a few different formations, and use Parms as a safety-linebacker type hybrid in nickel and dime packages.
"We're going to use seven, eight and nine-man fronts, and he's a guy that can be the eight and ninth guy in the box and give us better run stopping options," Bellantoni said of Parms. "We have high expectations for him, and I think he can be a special player."
Parms added five pounds of muscle during offseason workouts, and now is tipping 216 pounds on the scale. The senior said he felt like he was a little too light last season, and that the added weight should allow for him to play closer to the line of scrimmage.
"Right now they got me in the box kind of roaming a little bit, I feel better with the weight," Parms said.
Bellantoni's plan is to figure out personnel packages in fall camp, but as for now, Parms and the defense are already working on improvements.
- True freshman offensive Reginald Bain took snaps at left tackle with the first-team unit. He's raw, but the coaches are pushing to make progress this spring.
- Senior running back Martese Jackson saw action with the first-team offense, while rising sophomore Jay Warren was with the backups. Jackson had fallen out of favor with the previous staff, but is getting carries this spring.
- Griffin Goins, a redshirt freshman walk-on, was working with the first-team defense at linebacker alongside Andrae Kirk and David Lozandier.