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Florida Atlantic Football Inks 25 in 2013 Signing Class

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Head Coach Carl Pelini Lands Impressive Class in Second Year

When Carl Pelini was first hired by Florida Atlantic, many hoped that he would bring his blue-collar work ethic to the program.

In year-two as the head coach, the Ohio-native has seen his hard labor translate into success.  

On National Signing Day, FAU welcomed 25 new signees to the program - marking one of the highest ranked recruiting class in school history.

Pelini and his staff probed across the state of Florida in search of talent and even entered uncharted waters nationwide. He sent his assistant coaches into hundreds of high schools and made trips of his own up and down the state.

The result: a signing class that some are calling the best FAU has ever had.

“I’m proud of the effort our coaching staff put into this class,” said Pelini. “It was our priority to bring in quality young men both on and off the field – young men who will lead this program in the direction which we began last year about this time. This class excels academically and athletically and will be ready for the challenges of Conference USA.”

FAU signed players from 13 different counties in Florida and landed additional prospects from Arizona, California, Massachusetts, Mississippi, North Dakota and New York.

Pelini and his assistants where able to replenish the roster from top to bottom and set the foundation for a strong future as the school transitions from the Sun Belt Conference to Conference-USA.

With the starting quarterback job a concern heading into next season, the Owls signed a trio of passers that included East River Mississippi C.C. QB Jaquez Johnson, Boyd Anderson QB Greg Hankerson (pictured above) and Port St. Luice QB DJ Juste.

Johnson has been enrolled at FAU since the beginning of the spring semester, while Hankerson is set to join him over the summer. Juste selected FAU on signing day over offers from Illinois, Buffalo and Navy.

With much of the talent in the South Florida market being saturated with out-of-state recruiters, the Owls reached out across the country to find untapped potential.

FAU signed six different junior college players highlighted by Nassau C.C. DB Marc Mauro, who is expected to provide instant help at safety.

In addition to the group of junior college transfers, LB Andrew Curtis and LB Robert Relf signed with FAU out of St. Brophy Prep in the Phoenix, Arizona area.

Both Curtis and Relf where relatively unaware of FAU before they where offered a scholarship, but became sold on the environment once they discovered the direction that Pelini has the program headed.

“The place is just unreal. You can’t beat being two-miles from the beach with a brand new stadium and a coaching staff that you can be comfortable with," Curtis said. "This school looks like it’s headed in the right direction, and I wanted to hop on board."

Pelini made it a priority to meet with almost every prospect in the class and visited with a handful of signees throughout the recruiting process on the road. He was able to secure the signature of Navarre RB Jay Warren after visiting with him at his home and inviting the ball carrier to campus.  

Hankerson attested his commitment to the relentless efforts from the Owls' coaching staff.

“Coach (Brian) Wright talked to me at least once a week. Him and coach Pelini where persistent. I'm just excited to be at FAU - that's where I want to be,” Hankerson said.

In total FAU signed seven defensive backs, five offensive linemen, three quarterbacks, a trio of defensive linemen, two linebackers and a pair of wide receivers. They where also able to sign a tight end, running back and an athlete while grayshirting two prospects for next year's recruiting cycle.

According to 247Sports.com FAU finished with the 10th best signing class in Conference-USA and  the 89th ranked class in the nation. The Owls signed eight three star prospects, which was highlighted by Warren who is classified by the 247Sports.com as one of the "best players in his region of the country."

The Class:

OL Jace Banfell (6’3” 280) Pensacola Catholic - Banfell was named to the Florida Class 3A All-State First Team and the Pensacola News Journal All-Area First Team. He is projected to play guard for FAU. Highlights.

OL Austin Bland (6’3” 275) St. Thomas Aquinas - Bland helped FAU land other talented prospects by recruiting them once he committed. He was named to the Florida Class 7A All-State First Team his senior year and is expected to play guard at the next level. Bland chose FAU over numerous offers including bids from Cincinnati and Purdue.  

TE Dustin Bowens (6'4", 235) Flagler - Bowens was named to the All-Area Team by the Daytona Beach News-Journal after catching 16 passes for 174 yards and two touchdowns. He saw additional time as and offensive tackle, and is currently playing high school basketball.

DB Reggie Brown (5’11” 175) Jesuit - Brown was a utility man in high school playing both running back and defensive back. He ran for over 300 yards and five touchdowns his senior season while also recording two take aways on defense. He is projected to play corner at the next level. Highlights.

DT Lance Burlingame (6'4" 290) Dean J.C. (MA) - Burlingame signed with the Owls over an offer from Connecticut, and enrolled for the spring semester. He is expected to provide depth on the defensive front.  

DT Derek Butcher (6'5" 295) North Dakota State College of Science (ND) - Butcher spent a year at a junior college to work on grades and continue his player development. He is a high-motor player that like Burlingame will give the Owls a much needed body.

DB Marcus Clark (5’7” 178) North Florida Christian - Clark accounted for 1,531 total yards and 23 touchdowns his senior season, after winning the 2A state title as a junior. FAU coaches want to use Clark on the defensive side of the ball, while also doubling him as a return man. Highlights.

LB Andrew Curtis (6’2” 215) St. Brohpy Prep (AZ) - Curtis tallied 104 tackles and four sacks this past season after notching 103 stops as a junior. The productive linebacker chose FAU over offers from Northern Illinois and Akron. Highlights.

OT Jeremy Faulk (6'2" 260) Palatka - Faulk played on both sides of the ball, and participated in the Florida vs. Georgia All-Star game. He is projected to play offensive tackle for FAU after notching 71 tackles and four sacks his senior season. Highlights.

QB Greg Hankerson (5’11” 180) Boyd Anderson - Hankerson threw for 2,556 yards and 26 touchdowns this past season while running for another 285 yards on the ground. He was offered by Cincinnati as a defensive back, but will enter into the mix at quarterback for the Owls.  

DB Tyler Henderson (5’11” 190) Crestview - Henderson started all 41 games of his four-year high school career at safety while seeing additional snaps at wide receiver. He signed with the Owls over offers from Duke and Navy and also plays high school baseball. Highlights.

DE/TE Tyler Hendrickson (6’4” 222) Apopka - A under-the-radar type player, Hendrickson didn’t start playing tightend until his senior season. He caught 16 passes for 457 yards and seven touchdowns in one season at the position while also playing defensive end. He could play on either side of the ball at FAU. Highlights.

QB Jaquez Johnson (6'1" 225) East Mississippi C.C. (MS) -Johnson was named a NJCAA All-American Honorable Mention after throwing for 2,805 yards and accounting for 39 total touchdowns this past season. Highlights.

QB DJ Juste (6’1” 180) Port St. Lucie - One of the more versatile prospects in this year’s signing class, Juste selected the Owls over offers from Illinois, Navy and Northern Illinois. He will get his a chance at quarterback, but could also see time at wide receiver. He amassed 5,906 total yards of offense and 41 touchdowns in his high school career. Highlights.

OT Braden Lyons (6'5" 290) City College of San Francisco (CA) -  Lyons signed with the Owls over offers from UTSA and Old Dominion. The lineman originally graduated from Sonoma High School in northern California, before spending two seasons at Division II Humboldt State. Highlights.

DB Marc Mauro (6'1" 195) Nassau C.C. (NY) - Mauro's road to FAU is a long one. After attending high school in Connecticut, Mauro bounced around prep schools and junior colleges before signing with the Owls. He is an internet sensation for running a 4.37 timed 40-yard dash at a Rivals.com Combine in 2009, and is projected to play safety. Highlights.

DB Robert Miller (6’2” 180) Taravella - Miller is a free-ranging safety that has a knack for finding the ball. He played in Miami Dolphins Broward vs. Dade All-Star Game and signed with the Owls over offers from Indiana, Western Michigan and New Hampshire.

ATH Bobby Mitchell (6’2” 170) St. Augustine - A two-way player, Mitchell can lineup at either wide receiver or safety. He accounted for 1,095 yards of offense and 12 touchdowns his senior season and selected FAU over offers from Western Kentucky and Middle Tennessee State. Highlights.

LB Robert Relf (6’1” 190) St. Brophy Prep (AZ) -Relf registered 102 tackles his senior season and was awarded the Ron Pritchard award for being one of the top linebackers in the state of Arizona. He chose FAU over offers from Army and Wyoming. Highlights.

DB Ronnie Scott (5’10” 160) Chamberlin - Scott played some quarterback in high school but will play defensive back at FAU. Highlights.

OL Jakobi Smith (6’3” 275) Coral Reef - Smith participated in the Miami Dolphins Dade vs Broward All-Star game and should provide nice size along the offensive line as either a guard or center. He also played high school baseball.

WR Kamrin Solomon (6’ 170) Mandarin - The first player to commit to FAU’s 2013 recruiting class, Solomon will grayshirt and enroll next spring. He is a year ahead in school and will use the additional time to further develop his body and skills. Highlights.

DB Lester Thomas (5’10” 165) Godby - Thomas was named to the Florida Class 5A All-State First Team and the MaxPreps Medium Schools All-American Second Team after recording 74 tackles and eight interceptions.

RB Jay Warren (5’11” 205) Navarre - Warren didn’t show up on FAU’s radar until late in the process, but could be considered the steal of the class. Having rushed for over 1,800 yards and 21 touchdowns last season, Warren was named the Northwest Florida Daily News Player of the Year. He signed with the Owls over interest from Kansas State and TCU. Highlights.

WR Kalib Woods (6’3” 185) Fletcher - Woods hauled in seven touchdowns and over 800 receiving yards during senior season, which was good enough to earn him Florida Class 8A All-State Third Team honors. He held additional offers from Minnesota and Miami (Oh). Highlights.

WR Rodney Whitehead (5'9" 165) Dean (MA) - The shifty Whitehead thrived at Dean College as a pass catcher and punt returner. He was named to the NJCAA All-American First Team after totaling 896 yards and eight total touchdowns this past season. Highlights.

Expected Grayshirts:

RB Raashad Lee (5’7” 180) Pine Forest - Lee will grayshirt, as he rehabs from a knee injury he suffered during his senior season. He rushed for 1,019 yards and 15 touchdowns as a junior at the same high school as former FAU star Alfred Morris attended.

WR Kamrin Solomon (6’ 170) Mandarin - The first player to commit to FAU’s 2013 recruiting class, Solomon will grayshirt and enroll next spring. He is a year ahead in school and will use the additional time to further develop his body and skills. Highlights.

Signed LOA as preferred walk-on's:

WR Sean Avant (6' 175) Miramar - Avant was committed to FIU leading up to signing day, but decided to flip at the last minute and sign as a preferred walk-on at FAU. He held offers from Louisville, Syracuse, Temple, Wake Forest and West Virginia. Highlights.

TE Mario Elliot (6'5" 210) Western - Played both tight end and defensive end in high school.

LB Hughstin Higdon (6'4" 205) Trinity Christian - Two-way player in high school seeing time at tight end and linebacker.

K Greg Joseph (6' 170) American Heritage - Joseph was named to the MaxPreps All-American Football Team after connecting on 10-of-12 field goal attempts his senior season. He was offered by Western Kentucky and had interest from Ohio State, Vanderbilt, Iowa State and FIU.

TE Corey Todd (6'4" 215) - Todd played quarterback in high school, but figures to be a tight end at FAU. He was offered by Eastern Illinois.


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