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Majority of 2024 FAU Football Class gets valuable head start in spring conditioning

An early start on conditioning, and eventual Spring playbook knowledge absorption, can prove to be a critical advantage when a college football team takes the field for the first in-game snap later in the fall.

With 34 new faces, and counting, set to trod onto Schnellenberger Field in September, an early start is in fact in store for the majority of the Owls' current 2024 incoming class members.

As of the time of this article, 24 of those members are traditional players who are already enrolled at FAU for the spring semester, and have begun their journey towards being productive members of the team. There is also a smaller group of preferred walk-ons and walk-ons, bringing the total to 31 who are participating in pre-spring camp.

This is obviously a welcomed scenario for Coach Tom Herman and his staff, who look to lead the Owls into a rebound year on a number of levels in The American Conference.

“I’m really proud of our coaches. They were given a very clear directive in terms of what we were looking for in this class as far as the makeup and DNA was concerned, and they took that charge and ran with it and did a phenomenal job,” said head coach Tom Herman.

Defensive coordinator Roc Bellantoni reaffirmed Herman's statements, listing a few players from the incoming class who will rejuvenate the overall talent at each of their positions.

"Up front, we got a pass rusher in Marcelin Gavench who is gonna be a great pass rusher. And Loren Ward, a great run defender to rush on the inside. At linebacker, we added two really good young linebackers that had a lot of traction, a lot of action, that can be great players for us in the future," Bellantoni said.

"Really excited to have the transfers and early enrollee high school guys on campus. They’re working hard and we look forward to developing them this spring and summer before adding the rest of the new guys."

Upgrading the offensive line and run offensive was a top priority for offensive line coach and run game coordinator Ed Warinner, who is excited about two linemen in Mauricio Hinds and Keon Rohe having joined this spring coming in internationally.

"The two mid-year guys that two out of country guys from Canada and Germany are both tackles, both long and athletic. Really excited about that. We signed a great running back too from in-state, so we're just overall really pleased with this class and can't wait to get those guys here, start to work with them, and the future's bright," said Warinner.

Implementing a formal conditioning foundation is critical to getting players to achieve their true potential on the playing field. And so far, Coach Joey Guarascio likes what he sees in that department from the team:

Here are brief descriptions about each of the newcomers we have learned about who are taking part in the pre-spring camp football activities:

Miami Palmetto CB Lawrence Johnson

Concluding his senior season with a notable 9-2 record at Miami Palmetto High School, Johnson's performance included 22 tackles, two interceptions, and two blocked field goal attempts. According to 247's Andrew Ivins, while Wright may lack length, his well-built upper half and potential for further growth suggest he could transition into a box safety at the next level or potentially fill a nickel role in certain defensive schemes.

German OT Keon Rohe

Honing his skills in his home country for six years since the age of 13, Rohe has embarked on a tour across the United States, exploring various campuses over the past month. His journey includes stops at multiple camps hosted by Georgia, Alabama, Florida State, Auburn, South Carolina, and most recently, Nebraska on June 13. Notably, the imposing athlete boasts an impressive 40-yard dash time of 4.97 seconds, matching the speed recorded by Georgia's Broderick Jones, who surpassed all offensive linemen at the 2023 NFL combine.

Chaminade-Madonna DB Curtis Janvier

Janvier contributed significantly to Chaminade-Madonna's state championship victories in both his junior and senior years. Over this period, he amassed impressive defensive statistics, recording 68 tackles, 11 pass deflections, seven interceptions, and a forced fumble.

Miami Palmetto LB Char'Quez Lee

Initially committing to East Carolina, Lee later shifted his allegiance to the Owls. High school football reporter Larry Blustein recognizes him as a dominant football talent, praising his strength, quickness, agility, and substantial frame. "As a player, he has tremendous instincts and is a playmaker. Watching before he was on the radar as a sophomore, you could tell that this was going to be someone special – and he is well on the way," Blustein said.

Georgia Military College DB Cameron Goggins

After excelling as a receiver with 1,124 yards and 10 touchdowns, he made a strategic switch to cornerback. In this new role, he demonstrated his defensive capabilities by recording 16 tackles (13 solo), breaking up 10 passes, securing two interceptions, and recovering a fumble in 10 games. A standout performance occurred on October 28th against Sussex County, where he made eight tackles (six solo), deflected four passes, and intercepted one of the opposing quarterback's throws.

Miami Norland CB Jaheim Miller

In his senior year, he contributed significantly with 27 tackles (19 solo), one sack, and an interception, showcasing his skills on the defensive front. Notably, he returned one interception for a 90-yard touchdown in 12 games. As a junior, he continued his impactful performance, totaling 24 tackles and 2 interceptions per MaxPreps. During that time, he played roles at both cornerback (CB) and safety (S) for a Miami Norland squad that achieved a commendable 9-3 record in Florida's 2M classification, as highlighted by Andrew Ivins.

Buffalo OLB Kyler Laing

After a five-season tenure, Laing bid farewell to the Bulls. He was recruited to Buffalo in 2019 by the then-defensive ends coach and special teams coordinator Roc Bellantoni, who currently serves as the Owls' defensive coordinator. Laing demonstrates a remarkable ability as a pass rusher, amassing 28 tackles (19 solo), including 6.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, and a fumble recovery in 23 games with the Bulls.

Shippensburg DL Chisom Ifeanyi

Referred to as a "monster" by Owls' defensive coordinator Roc Bellantoni, Ifeanyi showcases significant potential with remarkable speed considering his size and a formidable skill set as a pass rusher. Following a season-ending injury the year before, he made a solid comeback in 2023, recording 16 tackles (11 solo), 6.5 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks, three pass deflections, two forced fumbles, a fumble recovery, and an interception that he returned for an impressive 51-yard touchdown.

Maine DB Kahzir Brown

Brown's playstyle is marked by exceptional versatility, enabling him to excel in various positions such as cornerback, strong safety, free safety, wide receiver, linebacker, kick returner, and punt returner. In the recent season, he achieved a career-high with 61 tackles (30 solo), which included 5.5 tackles for a loss of yardage. Additionally, he notched eight pass deflections, two forced fumbles, a sack, and an interception across 11 contests.

Florida State OL Daughtry Richardson

Arrives at the Owls following a two-year stint at FSU, bringing valuable strength and size to the offensive line due to his experience. During his time at Miami Central High School, he played a pivotal role in reaching the 5A state championship game, contributing to a Rockets' offense that averaged an impressive 41.2 points per game in 2021. In his junior season at Miami Edison, he was part of the Red Raiders, who averaged 31.3 points per game and advanced to the regional final round of the 3A state playoffs.

Florida State RB CJ Campbell Jr.

Participated in 10 games this year, accumulating 117 yards and scoring a touchdown on seven carries. Additionally, displayed a willingness to contribute on special teams by making seven tackles (four solo). Positions himself in a potentially significant competition for the starting job at running back.

Marshall QB Cam Fancher

Attained career-highs in passing yards, reaching 2,162, and touchdowns, scoring 11, during the last season. Positions himself as a contender for the potential starting quarterback role for the Owls in the upcoming 2024 season.

Keiser DB Wendol Philord

The past season held significant achievements for Philord Jr. With an impressive tally of 54 tackles (40 solo), including 12 tackles for loss, he also secured three interceptions and fumble recoveries each. His contributions played a crucial role in Keiser's outstanding 12-2 record, featuring a flawless 7-0 performance in the Sun Conference. The pinnacle of success was the victory over top-ranked Northwestern College (Iowa) with a score of 31-21, resulting in Keiser's first-ever NAIA Championship. Philord Jr.'s physical attributes and playing style afford him the flexibility to excel at cornerback or safety, yet he is projected as a nickelback in FAU's defense. His profile bears resemblance to Jarron Morris – a savvy and hard-hitting player who consistently plays beyond his size.

Purdue DT Prince James Boyd

Boyd Jr. concludes his three-season tenure with the Boilermakers. Over 20 games, he contributed a total of 19 tackles (nine solo), incorporating 2.5 tackles for a loss of yardage and securing a fumble recovery. Enhances the defensive line with his robust and powerful frame.

Indiana DB Phillip Dunnam

Last season, Dunnam registered 53 tackles (39 solo), along with nine pass deflections and three interceptions while playing for the Hoosiers. He shares familial ties with Miami Heat legend Udonis Haslem, his uncle, as well as former NFL players E.J. Biggers and Louis Delmas, who are his cousins.

Maryland OT Ja'Kavion Nonar

Departing the Terrapins after two seasons, he opted for the Owls over in-state rival FIU. Notably, he was recognized on ESPN 106.3's Top 63 list, an acknowledgment of the top seniors in Florida's Palm Beach, Martin, Indian River, and St. Lucie counties, as highlighted in 247Sports' high school scouting report on Nonar during his time at Glades Central High School. He played a pivotal role for a team that achieved a 5-1 record and contended for a South Florida tri-county championship.

Clearwater OL Mauricio Hinds

Hinds concluded his senior season by participating in all 10 games for Clearwater, contributing to the team's 5-5 record and securing victories in five of their last six contests. In his junior year, he played a starting role, aiding the team in achieving a remarkable 10-1 record and clinching its second consecutive Sunshine State Independent Association championship.

Coffeyville CC WR Joseph Young

Young completed his senior season by participating in nine games, showcasing his skills with 364 yards and five touchdowns on 24 receptions. Concluding his career with the Red Ravens, he accumulated a total of 572 yards and seven touchdowns on 35 catches in 13 contests over the last two seasons.

Buffalo WR Marlyn Johnson

After a five-season stint with the Bulls, Johnson has moved on. Over 37 games, he accumulated 63 receptions for 739 yards and scored five touchdowns. Known for his substantial frame, Johnson is a receiver unafraid to embrace physicality. Now entering a competitive wide receiver landscape, he joins FAU as a graduate transfer.

UMass WR George Johnson III

Recorded career-highs last season with 35 receptions, totaling 421 yards and scoring three touchdowns. Described as elusive, adept at making defenders miss in the open field, and possessing a good burst through creases. While his long speed (4.55 forty) is commendable, it falls short of elite. Demonstrates a determined running style, willing to put his head down and deliver contact. Although he hasn't fully focused on refining his skills as a route-runner, his natural athleticism and ball skills shine in the position. According to 247Sports' national recruiting analyst Allen Trieu, he has sufficient size and skills to play both in the slot or on the outside.

Marshall WR Caleb Coombs

Coombs secured career-highs with 39 receptions for 310 yards and two touchdowns. He is set to reunite with his fellow teammate and quarterback, Cam Fancher.

BYU WR Dom Henry

Operated in the shadow of seasoned wide receivers such as Puka Nacua, Chase Roberts, Kody Epps, and Keanu Hill during his time at BYU. Honored as the "All-NewsJAX Offensive Player of the Year" and named to the Daytona Beach News-Journal Volusia-Flagler-St. Johns team. Accumulated impressive statistics with 1,590 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns on 81 receptions for the Nease program, which reached the Sunshine State's 7A regional final, as detailed in 247Sports' high school scouting report on Henry.

App State WR Milan Tucker

Initiated a permanent transition from cornerback to wide receiver in the previous season. Demonstrated versatility by averaging 23.8 yards on 23 kickoff returns and showcasing receiving prowess with 21 catches for 305 yards, accompanied by one touchdown. Earned recognition as a second-team All-American kick returner in 2022 from the Football Writers Association of America.

Edgewater RB Kaden Shields-Dutton

During his junior year at Edgewater, where the team achieved a remarkable 12-1 record in Florida's 3M classification, he served as the backup to Texas signee Cedrick Baxter Jr., as noted by 247Sports' Andrew Ivins. In this role, he carried the ball 62 times, accumulating 421 yards and scoring 7 touchdowns.

Monarch DE Gabriel Birnbaum

Birnbaum displayed a strong tackling ability within Monarch's defensive line. During his junior year, he finished with a whopping 62 tackles (47 solo) including 33 for a loss of yardage. He committed to the Owls when the 2023 season was underway, announcing in the leadup to FAU's matchup with Illinois.

Monarch OL Holden Zeltner

Played in all 14 games for a Knights squad that finished 11-3 in his senior year, recording 47 pancake blocks. Joined fellow teammate Gabriel Birnbaum with his commitment to the Owls.

Cardinal Newman DL Thomas Sledge

Recorded 47 tackles (27 solo), nine sacks, three pass deflections, two interceptions, and a fumble recovery in 25 games at Cardinal Newman.

Sarasota OL Maddox Marchbank

Made 103 tackles (59 solo), 32 TFL, 13.2 sacks, and two fumble recoveries throughout his four-year career at Sarasota High School. Can play in the offensive line, defensive line, and special teams.

Viera WR Cohen Graham-Johnson

Caught 63 passes for 806 receiving yards and five touchdowns, while running the ball 108 times for 710 yards and 12 touchdowns throughout 27 games at Viera High School.

Jensen Beach WR Nicolas Venezia

In his senior year of high school, he became Jensen Beach's single-season record holder for receiving yards and is the first receiver in school history to break the 1,000-yard plateau. Tallied 53 receptions for 1,003 yards and scored 12 touchdowns, later being named an ESPN Top 63 selection, a TCP Super 11 selection, and Offensive Player of the Year by NewEraPrep.

Cypress Bay OL Manuel Reyes

Recorded 10 tackles in seven games during his senior year at Cypress Bay High School. Joins FAU as a sophomore.

The Owls will take the field for the second time under Head Coach Tom Herman the first week of March in their annual Spring Camp before concluding activities in the Spring Game.

Rick Henderson contributed to this story

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