The Owls began their second week of Spring Practice Tuesday afternoon, and the defensive line had a productive session by utilizing their movement and strength to get through the drills defensive line coach Roosevelt Maggitt Jr. put out for them.
"We're a little bit undersized compared to what I've been around the past few years but they play hard," defensive coordinator Roc Bellantoni said last Thursday on the defensive line. "They're quick, they're explosive, they want to be really good, they're open to some different things, and they know how to make themselves better."
Below is a quick glance at the makeup of the position for the Spring.
Key Returners: Evan Anderson (Jr. 6-3, 356), Latrell Jean (R-Jr. 6-3, 295), Marlon Krakue (Sr. 6-3, 230), Chris Jones (Jr. 6-4, 245), Decarius Hawthorne (Jr. 6-2, 295), Jaden Wheeler (Jr. 6-3, 287), Jacob Merrifield (R-Soph. 6-3, 290), Marlon Bradley (R-Jr. 6-4, 240).
Key Losses: Jaylen Joyner, Jake Holaday, Keem Green.
Newcomers: Richard Thomas Jr. (Fr. 6-2, 245 - transfer/Indiana), Kiemar Brown-Richardson (Fr. 6-5, 255 - 3-star recruit/Georgia Military).
Co-Defensive Coordinator and Cornerbacks coach Brandon Harris made himself available to media for the first time this spring.
"It's been physical, and that's what we need," Harris said. "We want to be a physical football team. In the first couple of practices, they realized that when they step on the field to be Florida Atlantic, we got to be physical.
With day four of spring practice now over, here is the fourth of our parliament Owl position previews, beginning with three names from the defensive line, and some notes from today's media availability.
Holding The Line
- Expected to Lead Evan Anderson: Barring injury, Anderson would be the leader of the pack. Despite missing five games last year due to a foot injury, he made an immediate impact on the field keeping opposing offenses in check with his strength by making 27 total tackles (10 solo) in seven appearances landing himself on C-USA's Second Team. His best performance came against UTEP last October where he had eight tackles (one solo). With him now completely recovered from the injury, Anderson would be important to the Owls' defensive success while maintaining his health. Coming after him would be Latrell Jean. Jean continues to improve his game year after year, putting up his most production last year with 24 tackles (10 solo) including 4.5 for a loss of 12 yards and making 2.5 sacks for a loss of nine yards. His best night occurred against UCF last September where he made five tackles and got a sack against the Knights. Maintaining his upward trajectory in production, Jean could be seen as a potential leader in the position after Anderson.
- Keep An Eye On Decarius Hawthorne: Hawthorne (pictured above) could be worth keeping tabs on. Like Anderson, he missed time on the field due to injury but in the the nine games he took part in, Hawthorne produced 11 tackles (six solo) with 2.5 of them being a loss of seven yards. His most noteworthy performance came against Purdue last September where he turned in three solo tackles with one of them creating a loss of three yards. If he can continue to build on where he excelled in last year while maintaining his health, he could be a force to be reckoned within the defensive line.
- Dark Horse Candidates Richard Thomas Jr.: Thomas Jr. might be the most intriguing player in this position. He joined the Owls via transfer from Indiana after riding the Hoosier bench for one season. Prior to that, he played under former NFL player Patrick Surtain Sr. at American Heritage High School where he put up career-highs in sacks (10) and tackles for loss (16) in his senior year. As someone who garnered a 4-star rating and was seen as one of the best defensive ends in Florida and in the country by ESPN, Thomas Jr. might take advantage of his opportunity at FAU to fulfill his potential. Another player who could emerge from the shadows is Kiemar Brown-Richardson. Joining the Owls this January coming out of Georgia Military College, Brown-Richardson appeared in 10 games where he racked up 29 tackles which included 16 for a loss of 89 yards, with nine of those tackles being sacks for a total loss of 78 yards. He helped the Bulldogs finish with an 8-2 record and a perfect 7-0 at home, limiting opponents to 66.8 rushing yards, 158.4 passing yards, and 13.3 points per game. With the Owls looking to become more efficient defensively, Brown-Richardson could be a convincing option to consider given his prior success.
OwlBytes for March 21st
- Standing Their Ground The defensive line was physical and relied on their reflexes throughout today's session. In the drills, defensive line coach Roosevelt Maggitt Jr. (pictured below) praised Jacob Merrifield and Jaden Wheeler for their positioning and timing to get past the arm block he had on. Decarius Hawthorne and Deondrick Harper were also effective during practice.
- More Defensive Responsibilities Not only did Brandon Harris keep his position as cornerbacks coach, but he also gained a promotion to share defensive responsibilities with Roc Bellantoni as co-defensive coordinator once head coach Tom Herman took in the reins. "I was blessed by coach Herman to be able to be in a position to get the title and just continue to show my hard work and dedication to this program," Harris said. "Working for coach Roc is wonderful because this is coach Roc's defense, and we all buy in and love his vision." Harris was key to the development of cornerbacks Romain Mungin and Justin McKithen, who both gained significant playing time last season as a result. "He helped me with the small details. He's the type of coach to focus on those little details because those small details could turn into big details," McKithen said.
Co-Defensive Coordinator and cornerbacks coach Brandon Harris and cornerbacks Romain Mungin and Justin McKithen headline Video Play.
After taking a break Wednesday, the team will be back on the field for Thursday's practice.