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OwlBytes: 2024 FAU Spring Practice April 11th - Safeties and Notes

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 13 sessions in the lead-up to the Spring Game this upcoming Saturday.

Below is a quick glance at the makeup of the position for the Spring.

Key Returners: Armani Eli-Adams (Gr. 5-11, 193), Amari Wansley (R-Jr. 6-0, 174), Fabian Scott (Soph. 6-3, 180), Antonio Smith (R-Fr. 6-3, 190), Michael Cates (R-Soph. 6-2, 180).

Key Losses: Dwight Toombs II, Josh Moore, Carter Odell, Kaelen Skipper

Newcomers: Phillip Dunnam (Transfer/Indiana), Jaheim Miller (Recruit/Miami Norland), Curtis Janvier (Recruit/Chaminade-Madonna), CJ Heard (Recruit/Woodward - won't arrive until summer), Michael Wright III (Recruit/Palm Beach Gardens - won't arrive until summer), Kyle Boylston (Recruit/Trinity Christian - won't arrive until summer)

Here is the 11th and last of our parliament Owl position previews, beginning with three names from the safeties unit, and some notes from today's media availability.

Packing The Box

  • Expected to Lead Armani Eli-Adams: Barring injury, Eli-Adams stands poised to reclaim his spot at the forefront of the team. The challenges of the 2023 season, marred by early injuries that kept him sidelined, were a stark departure from his standout performance in 2022. During that campaign, Eli-Adams showcased his prowess with career-high statistics, tallying 69 tackles (42 solo), including two tackles for a loss of three yards, and securing an interception. Now, following a rigorous offseason of recovery and preparation, he enters the upcoming season with a renewed determination to prove himself as one of the team's premier defenders. With his resilience and tenacity on the field, Eli-Adams is primed to demonstrate that he remains a force to be reckoned with, fully capable of making a significant impact once again.

  • Expected to Lead 2.0 Up next would be Phillip Dunnam (pictured above). Listed as a defensive back, Dunnam has spent a lot of time at safety throughout this spring after transferring from Indiana during the offseason. Having contributed to all 12 games for the Hoosiers in the previous year, Dunnam showcased his prowess with impressive statistics, including 53 tackles (39 solo), nine pass deflections, and three interceptions. His knack for making impactful plays at a consistent rate presents a formidable asset for the Owls to deploy against their opponents, with defensive coordinator Roc Bellantoni noting that he has done well with his performances this spring.

  • Keep An Eye On Amari Wansley: When injuries depleted the safety position last season, Wansley emerged as a reliable option for the Owls. In 2023, he arguably delivered his most impressive performance yet in an FAU uniform, amassing a career-high 35 tackles (19 solo) and a pass deflection across 11 games. Notably, his standout display occurred against UTSA last October, where he tallied a career-best 12 tackles (five solo) against a formidable Roadrunner offense. With FAU bolstering its secondary, particularly at safety with the addition of three new players this upcoming summer, Wansley's response to heightened competition remains a focal point. Nonetheless, his productivity during spring camp suggests he's poised for ample opportunities in the secondary come Saturday's Spring Game.

  • Dark Horse Candidate Jaheim Miller: Arriving at FAU this spring following his graduation from Miami Norland High School, Miller (pictured above) brings an element of surprise to the safety position. Despite being listed as a cornerback on the online roster, Miller has been seen practicing with the safeties, showcasing his versatility throughout the secondary. According to defensive coordinator Roc Bellantoni, Miller, alongside other players, is in contention for a starting role at safety. Standing at 5-foot-10 and weighing 160 lbs, Miller's compact frame affords him remarkable quickness on the field. During his senior year, he demonstrated his playmaking ability by recording 27 tackles and securing an interception, returning it for an impressive 90 yards in 12 games. While Miller's ascent in FAU's depth chart may seem improbable, his agility adds an intriguing dimension to the team's defensive arsenal. His speed offers potential for impactful plays, particularly in situations where the team seeks to capitalize on athleticism against slower-paced opponents. As Miller continues to adapt to his surroundings and compete as a freshman, his chance to be a potential contributor to FAU's defensive strategy is a storyline worth monitoring.

OwlBytes for April 11th

  • Stopping The Runner Throughout Thursday's viewing, safeties coach Derrick Gibson (pictured top) had his players concentrate on movements opponents would make to trick them, demonstrating ways to prevent them from running past them. This presents the scenario where the opposing quarterback or running back has the ball in their hands and they are taking on the safeties pursuing them, an area where the defense has to capitalize on to prevent opposing offenses from having the upper hand. Armani Eli-Adams, Phillip Dunnam, Jaheim Miller, and Fabian Scott were among the players who did well during these drills.

  • From Hoosier to Hooter Transferring from Indiana to FAU this past offseason, Philip Dunnam (pictured above) said his decision to play for the Owls came down to his connection with his position coach Derrick Gibson. He's used this spring to focus on building chemistry with his new teammates so they are connected on every play. "I'm developing a bond with them and building a stronger relationship outside of football, so when we get on the field, it's easier to come together as one and play football and win games," Dunnam said.

Video Play

Offensive coordinator Charlie Frye, defensive coordinator Roc Bellantoni, safety Fabian Scott, and defensive back Phillip Dunnam headline 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 13 at noon.

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