MID-WEEK MASH UP: FAU @ Georgia Southern
RS CB Korel Smith
The Owls will enter their first matchup of the season following a small Covid-19 outbreak within the team. Earlier today, first year FAU Head Coach Willie Taggart confirmed reports of positive tests within the program.“We had like 11 positives,” said Taggart.
Even with the setback, Taggart remains confident in his players and his staff. “I think we have one of the best medical teams here, that are gonna guide us in the right direction and make sure we are doing the right thing,” he said.
Taggart also revealed that redshirt freshman WR Eyin Cole and true freshman CB Jaylon Worsham had opted out of the season. Joining DB Quran Hafiz, WR Cordel Littlejohn and CB La`Darius Henry. Cole had a standout fall camp in 2019, before suffering a season ending injury. Worsham is a developmental player in the secondary with great speed.
Given the unknowns of the Covid-19 situation there remains many interchangeable parts as we approach game day at Georgia Southern, in terms of who will be on the field. Last week, the Eagles had 33 inactive players from Covid-19, and disciplinary reasons.
“We planning on playing” said Taggart as the team approaches this Saturdays opener vs Georgia Southern. Kickoff is set for 3:30 on ESPN.
- By The Numbers Given that Georgia Southern is a rushing team, they did very well last season in time of possession. In a game that could come down to one possession, whoever can control the clock could be at great advantage. Last Year Georgia Southern ranked 32nd in FBS in time of possession with over 32 minutes of control. Last week vs Campbell, Georgia Southern had possession for 33 minutes in their win.
- Key Matchup Expected to handle the passing duties for the Eagles is senior QB Shai Werts. Who is now in his fourth season as the starter for Georgia Southern. The longtime starter ran for over 700 yards last season and was the 2018 Camellia Bowl MVP. The Owls will need to keep the dual threat passer in check this Saturday if they hope to secure the win. Due to his performance last season, Werts was named to the Sun Belt Honorable Mention team. The pressure will be on FAU`s new look linebacker group to limit Werts.
- X Factor Georgia Southern running back JD King had 18 carries for 74 yards and a touchdown last week in their win over Campbell. The Owls defensive line will have play sound in the trenches to keep the talented back from getting going. FAU is expected to feature a 3-4 defense with the addition of DC Jim Leavitt. King one of the better running backs in the Sun Belt after rushing for over 800 yards and scoring eight touchdowns last season.
- Keep an Eye On Georgia Southern senior DE Raymond Johnson III, who had two sacks last week vs Campbell. The Owls will have two new starters and possibly more on the offensive line when they take the field this Saturday, as OT Brandon Walton and Junior Diaz have expired eligibility. Johnson III was named 2019 First Team ALL-Sun Belt following a season with 7 tackles for loss and 3 sacks.
- What To Expect From The Owls Who will be available? That's the big question, and there is no public answer for that until we get closer to kick-off. That said, it's no secret that FAU relied heavily on the arm of Chris Robison last season. Accordingly, a lot of folks have held that they will move to the run more this season given the strength of that core group of players. However, the practice mix implemented has been far from supportive of that faction. Starting QB Nick Tronti and his conference best band of brothers at WR are more than getting their share of looks and time. Granted, Taggart's use of a mobile QB in previous stops for his Gulf Coast look bodes well for some yards on the ground as well for Tronti. Additionally, his arm is underrated. The bottom line is, while it might not happen this game, expect an even distribution of play calls as we move along in game time - both through the air and on the ground. - Rick Henderson