The Florida Atlantic football team held their first practice of mock game week at the Schmidt Complex practice field on a sunny Tuesday morning.
Head coach Tom Herman made himself available to media following the session, alongside newly named quarterback Casey Thompson.
Herman gave an explanation of his decision to have Thompson be the starting quarterback for the Owls ahead of their season-opener against Monmouth on September 2nd, following solid competition with Daniel Richardson among the other QBs in the group.
"It was a heck of a battle…it just felt like through two and a half weeks when Casey is at his best, he gives us the chance to win every game," Herman said.
"D-Rich was great about it. He's one of everyone's favorites in the locker room, including mine. He's a mature guy that understands that he'll be ready when needed, I have no doubt about that."
Here are some notes from today's media observation period.
OwlBytes for August 22nd
Handling Expectations The biggest struggle the Owls had was maintaining composure under the weight of expectations, which resulted in them having five wins for three consecutive seasons. Wide receiver Lajohntay Wester believes this year will be different for one main reason. "You could just tell that everybody on the team is bought in. Everybody on the team is following Herman. Whatever Herman says to do, everybody is 10 toes in…and that's all you can ask for a team from a head coach," Wester said.
Underdog Mentality With the tight ends group getting banged up due to injury, one player has shined among the rest: Zeke Moore (pictured left). A freshman coming from Roswell High School in Georgia, Moore has made the most of his opportunities throughout fall camp despite joining a position with more experienced players. "For me, it's about trying to prove myself to my teammates and to build their trust. That's the biggest thing I feel like you have to do as a freshman is to build trust with your teammates and coaches because without that, you won't get the opportunity," Moore said. He even garnered the praise of Herman, who said during his presser on Monday that Moore has had "one hell of a camp" and would get plenty of reps throughout the season. "A lot of hard work goes into it so being able to be recognized makes it more worth it," Moore said.
Getting Back Up To Speed Tight ends Elijah Brown and Jackson Sumlin practiced some non-contact drills throughout the session. Herman mentioned on Monday that the team was planning to reintegrate them into their plans throughout the week. Having sustained injuries prior to fall camp, they seem to be conditioning themselves to return to their in-game form and be key players for the Owls' offense this season.
Strong Bond The biggest difference Herman sees from Casey Thompson since their days at Texas from 2018 to 2020 is his ability to read the game. "The speed of the game has certainly slowed down for him…he's not Lamar Jackson or Michael Vick but his above-average athleticism, when the opportunities present themselves, can do some damage with his speed as well," Herman said. From Thompson's perspective, he senses that Herman coaches with more freedom and enjoyment than what he had at Texas. "He is still strict and disciplined but he has a lot more fun now…I think he and his family really like living in Boca Raton and that was a big reason why he took this job so it is just good to see him at a good place in life," Thompson said.
Final Word The aura of togetherness emanating from the team continues to become clearer as each day passes by. Casey Thompson has shown throughout fall camp that he has prepared himself well and lets his experience do the talking with the leadership traits he has developed over time. With the season-opener just 11 days away, the Owls are looking to be getting stronger and more united as a unit with the talent they have in their arsenal.
Head coach Tom Herman, wide receiver Lajohntay Wester, tight end Zeke Moore, and quarterback Casey Thompson headline today's Coach's Corner.
The Owls will return to the Schmidt Complex practice field on Wednesday morning, with defensive coordinator Roc Bellantoni being available for interviews.