The final week of Spring Practice continued this Thursday with the Owls concluding their last practice session as recruits got to see the current state of the team after 14 sessions in the lead-up to the Spring Game this upcoming Saturday.
Today, we will go over the quarterbacks. The team lost last year's starter N'Kosi Perry with his eligibility being maxed out, as he finished with 5,483 passing yards and 45 touchdowns on a 59% completion rate after two seasons.
"They've got some big shoes to fill, but I think everybody internally knows that," head coach Tom Herman said. "We need that position to be very productive and reliable so it'll be one that we will be watching very closely."
Below is a quick glance at the makeup of the position for the Spring.
Key Returners: Michael Johnson Jr. (R-Jr. 6-2, 215), Tyriq Starks (R-Soph. 6-2, 210).
Key Losses: N'Kosi Perry (Maxed out collegiate eligibility, declared for NFL Draft), Willie Taggart Jr. (Transferred to Western Kentucky)
Newcomers: Daniel Richardson (Jr. 5-10, 205 - Transfer/Central Michigan), Ben Ballard (Gr. 5-11, 203 - Transfer/Texas), Luke Rucker (Recruit/Seminole, won't join the team until the fall), Carson Cruver (Recruit/St. Michaels Catholic, won't join the team until the fall).
Running backs coach Chris Perkins made himself available to media for the first time this spring.
"These guys have done a tremendous job, they really have been working and busting their tails off," Perkins said. "I'm excited for these guys to compete and always continue to compete…but the biggest thing we want to do is to come out healthy at all positions."
Here is the 11th and last of our parliament Owl position previews, beginning with three names from the quarterback unit, and some notes from today's media availability.
First In Command
- Expected to Lead Daniel Richardson: While it may be possible the Owls pursue another quarterback in the transfer portal, Richardson (pictured top) would be their leading option until then. He returns to his home state after four seasons with Central Michigan, finishing with totals of 5,336 passing yards and 43 touchdowns at a completion rate of 59%. His last season with the Chippewas saw him appear in every game as he finished with 1,988 passing yards and 15 touchdowns on 179 completions. His best performance that year was the season-opener against Big 12 opponent Oklahoma State last September where he exploded for 424 yards and four touchdowns while completing 36 of his 49 passes (73.5% accuracy), which won him the MAC's West Division Offensive Player of the Week. Already familiar with Charlie Frye's (pictured bottom) offensive game-plan when he was Central Michigan's offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach from 2019 to 2020, Richardson's strong ability to throw the ball in sheer volume likely gives him a huge advantage with the way he can make passes in the pocket at an efficient rate. Having left Central Michigan in the record books ranking fourth all-time in career touchdown passes (43), eighth in completions (434), seventh in passing yards (5,336) and eighth in total yardage (5,232), he could look to set more records by leading FAU to success while playing close to his hometown in Miami.
- Keep An Eye On Michael Johnson Jr.: Getting himself back up to speed after being injured for the 2021 and 2022 campaigns, Johnson Jr. (pictured below) has a chance to potentially be the main choice leading the snap. He has been a reserve for his entire collegiate career at Penn State and FAU since graduating from Sheldon in 2019. When injuries haven't held him back, his athleticism and mobility in the pocket allows him to escape tackles while being an astounding dual-threat against opponents. A few years removed from being rated 4-stars by both ESPN and 247Sports while getting compared to NFL player Stephen Morris by national recruiting analyst Brian Dohn in 2018, it might be time for Johnson Jr. to emerge from the shadows and show his true capabilities of how threatening he could be against opposing teams if he wins the Owls' starting job.
- Dark Horse Candidate Tyriq Starks: Starks (pictured below) brings plenty of intrigue with his skillset since joining the Owls last year. "He has got a lot of talent. We need to get it out of him, and he has been very receptive to coach Frye," head coach Tom Herman said. This shows his willingness to grow as a player transferring out of Independence Community College where he totaled 1,342 passing yards and 13 touchdowns for an amazing passing efficiency of 158.8. His best game was against Fort Scott in November 2021 when he went 17-23 in completions for 270 yards to have the Pirates dominate in a 63-2 blowout. As a dual-threat quarterback, Starks showcases a lot of composure in the pocket with excellent reflexes to avoid tackles and sacks from opposing defenders while using his speed to gain plenty of yardage to his team's benefit, ending up with 208 rushing yards on 76 carries in his last year at Independence. He may have been a reserve for the Owls last year, but if he has done well to garner Herman's attention as well as Frye's throughout the Spring, he could give his fellow quarterbacks a run for their money heading into the fall.
OwlBytes for April 13th
- Running Core Running backs coach Chris Perkins expressed confidence in the group's core with running backs Larry McCammon III, Zuberi Mobley, and Kobe Lewis leading the way despite taking departures in Johnny Ford and Kelvin Dean. "I'm just trying to help them, mold them, and teach them more about the game of football from a running back perspective," Perkins said. "I'm excited for those guys, and I can't wait to see them perform not just in the spring but the fall as well." Having been with the program since 2017, the main difference Perkins sees from this squad compared to past years is the improved focus and discipline. "The focus level is where it needs to be. We got a lot of work to do before that first game but I like where we are right now mentality-wise as a whole on this team, and I'm excited for the future and what this team can do," he said.
- Getting Accustomed In Paradise Transferring from Purdue earlier this year, running back Kobe Lewis is happy to be living in a warmer climate and participating in his first Spring Practice in the past few years. "It's the first one for me, and I'm enjoying every bit of it," Lewis said. Throughout the spring, he has been focusing on getting better in every part of his game. "Coach Perkins taught me a lot about identifying fronts, identifying defenses, and that has expanded my game to make a lot of things a lot easier," he said. Like quarterback Daniel Richardson, Lewis also reunites with offensive coordinator Charlie Frye when he played under him at Central Michigan from 2019 to 2021.
- Competition For The 1s With Spring Football entering the final stretch, head coach Tom Herman has begun to energize the team by putting together what appears to be his starting rotations for offense and defense. During the team's scrimmage, Daniel Richardson, Larry McCammon III, Zuberi Mobley, *Jahmal Edrine and Tony Johnson led the offense while Evan Anderson, Jaylen Wester, Josh Moore, Armani Eli-Adams and Jayden Williams commanded the defense. It gives a sign that Herman's starting to put the pieces together, and the players on the outside looking in would need to showcase more competitiveness to ensure they are part of the puzzle. You can visit our previous OwlBytes to see the players who might be starting for the team this year.
Running backs coach Chris Perkins and running backs Larry McCammon III, Zuberi Mobley, and Kobe Lewis headline today's video play.
The team will divide themselves into two groups later tonight and hold a practice on Friday to prepare for the annual Spring Game taking place at Howard Schnellenberger Field on April 15 at noon.
* Edrine has entered the transfer portal since the posting of the article.