FAU's DJ Juste sees his future at wide receiver
When DJ Juste signed with FAU last February, he was labeled as someone who could change the program. Juste was an elusive dual-threat quarterback with a three-star billing to his name. He had the speed, he had the highlight tape, and he had the looks to be the future quarterback for the Carl Pelini era at FAU.
But a little over a year later, things have changed.
Juste is no longer a quarterback, and Pelini is no longer employed by FAU.
Juste is now a wide receiver - and if you ask him - itís a move that was made for the best.
ďFinally, for the first time since I have been here, I actually had fun on the field,Ē Juste said last week after FAUís first spring scrimmage.
Thatís a bold statement coming from someone who was one of the few individuals to play last season as a freshman, but itís his own notion.
Juste wasnít able to dictate his first season in Boca Raton. He started the year immersed in a three-quarterback juggling act, to only be asked to switch positions and play cornerback.
He went from taking snaps against Miami in the season opener, to spending the tail end of the season on the scout team defense.
So when Charlie Partridge was named FAUís new head coach in December, Juste wasnít sure what would happen.
He had visions of moving back to quarterback, a position in which he accounted for 5,637 yards of offense during high school career, but knew that a defensive-minded coach like Partridge could ask him to remain at cornerback.
Juste went through winter workouts with the defensive backs, but when the coaches approached him about a position change before spring camp, he had no choice but to listen.
Partridge and company saw Juste as a wide receiver, not a cornerback or quarterback. They thought Juste could be a unique tool for the offense, and someone that could score on almost every play.
And they were right.
In the two-hour scrimmage, Juste accounted for 75 yards of total offense and two touchdowns on just five touches while playing his new position. He took a jet-sweep handoff 40-yards for the longest run of the simulated game, but it was how he earned the yardage that had heads turning on the sidelines. Juste worked left to right across the field, and kept a fluid stride as he outran a host of would-be tacklers.
ďIím not going to speak to anything that happened in the past, but I enjoy being DJís coach,Ē Partridge said Saturday after the Owls eleventh practice of spring camp. ďIím glad to hear him say [that heís having fun] because Iím having fun coaching him.
ďHe's a good kid. You put him there in the slot and heís a weapon. He can run the ball, and make some things happen.Ē
Justeís path from quarterback to cornerback to wide receiver isnít one that many have traveled. It isnít uncommon for a player to change positions once in their careers, but Juste is now with his third position coach in the last six months.
While a shuffle of faces and leadership figures might have phased other players in the locker room, Juste has been able to find his own median for guidance.
Over the past month, Juste has developed a unique relationship with running backs coach Roger Harriott. The two talk daily, and according to Juste, it was a meeting with Harriott that sold him on the move to wide receiver.
ďHe told me that I had the ability to be really great,Ē Juste said. ďHe said that it wasnít the coaches decision to move me - he knew I wanted to play quarterback - but itís what God wanted me to become, to be a wide receiver in the slot and be more versatile.
ďI use to think last year that the coaches didnít like me, but thatís not true. That was me being selfish about things, and I got to stop that. Now that I see that, and have opened my eyes, and see that this is what God wanted, Iím really excited about [the change].Ē
Juste still has a lot ahead of him, but heís taking the initial steps towards becoming a polished pass catcher. He hasnít played wide receiver since he was in ninth grade, but was recruited by Purdue and Illinois at the position coming out of high school.
Juste claims that the biggest thing for him over the final few practices of spring camp will be to tap into his talents, and not worry about what lies ahead for him.
ďI think I could have done the same thing last year if I hadnít outthought myself,Ē Juste said. ďNow that I see it, I know what I can be, and that all starts with the people around me.Ē
Twitter: @Andrewrivins or [email protected]