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OwlBytes: 2024 FAU Spring Practice March 16th - Defensive Backs & Notes

The Florida Atlantic football wore pads for the first time throughout Spring Practice this Saturday afternoon, ending the first week with the opportunity to showcase all of their strength now available to them. For today, the defensive backs will have the spotlight.

"We've seen some encouraging signs. A bunch of guys are out there letting it loose, letting their athletic ability show," said cornerbacks coach Brandon Harris. "It's a long way to go. The details of our work has to improve, the way we're coaching and what we're asking them to do, getting our messages across to get them to understand that everything matters."

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

Key Returners: Daedae Hill (Sr. 5-10, 190), Jayden Williams (R-Jr. 5-11, 185), Darius McClendon (R-Sr. 6-2, 190), Michal Antoine Jr. (Sr. 6-0, 193), Chris Tooley (Soph. 6-0, 160), Zeroun Skinner (R-Jr. 6-1, 176), Dai'Sean Stevens (R-Jr. 5-9, 180)

Key Losses: Romain Mungin, Jarron Morris, Jalen Huff, Jaden Outar, John Wester Jr.

Newcomers: Cameron Goggins (Transfer/Georgia Military), Logic Hudgens (Transfer/Monroe College), Phillip Dunnam (Transfer/Indiana), Wendol Philord (Transfer/Keiser), Kahzir "Buggs" Brown (Transfer/Maine), Lawrence Johnson (Recruit/Miami Palmetto), Jaheim Miller (Recruit/Miami Norland)

Here is the third of our parliament Owl position previews, beginning with three names from the defensive backs, and some notes from today's media availability.

Ball Hawks

  • Expected to Lead Kahzir "Buggs" Brown: Dubbed after the iconic Looney Tunes character, Brown (pictured top, left) emerges as a focal point as he transitions from Maine to join the team. Concluding last season with notable statistics, including 61 tackles (17 solo), 5.5 tackles for loss, seven pass breakups, and two forced fumbles for the Black Bears, Brown's versatile abilities make him a formidable presence across various positions. Proficient at cornerback, strong safety, free safety, wide receiver, linebacker, kick returner, and punt returner, Brown is poised to make an immediate impact, utilizing Spring Practice to refine his skills as he enters his senior year with a wealth of experience. Another player who may have starting potential is Cameron Goggins. He hails out of Georgia Military College as a JUCO transfer, demonstrating his skillset as a two-way player on offense and defense. The latter is where he was most effective, having a total of 60 tackles (31 solo), seven interceptions, and four pass deflections. The 6-2 180 lb frame he possesses allows him to make game-changing stops in quick fashion, presenting himself as an appealing option for the defense to possibly utilize as he looks to stand out from the crowd during spring camp.

  • Keep An Eye On Daedae Hill: Hill (pictured above) would likely be competing for a starting spot, but considering the additions the team made in the secondary, how he responds to the overall growth in talent is worth keeping track of. In the 2023 season, he showcased his skills by recording a career-high 41 tackles (23 solo), along with six pass deflections and two interceptions across 12 games. His standout performance came in the Owls' season finale against Rice, where he tallied nine tackles (seven solo) and secured an interception. Following him is Jayden Williams, a player who is approaching a campaign where he may need to step up by making big plays on a consistent basis. Williams contributed significantly in eight games during the 2023 season, accumulating 34 tackles (21 solo), one tackle for loss, two pass deflections, two fumble recoveries, and an interception. Utilized primarily as a nickelback, he delivered standout performances against Illinois and Tulsa, amassing a total of 14 tackles (eight solo) against both teams. If he can maintain this level of performance throughout the entire season while avoiding injuries, Williams has the potential to emerge as a significant piece in the secondary.

  • Dark Horse Candidates Lawrence Johnson: Johnson (pictured below) stands poised to capture the attention of coaches with his potential to start, but a lot remains to be seen with spring camp only being through one week. Hailing from Miami Palmetto High School, Johnson showcases his talent as a cornerback, accumulating 22 tackles (20 solo), along with two interceptions and two blocked field goal attempts. Standing at 6 feet tall and weighing 175 pounds, he possesses the necessary combination of speed and strength to execute swift and powerful tackles against formidable adversaries. Given the opportunity, Johnson could make a significant impact for the Owls heading into the upcoming fall season. Up next is Chris Tooley, who made his mark in the Owls' season finale against Rice, tallying six tackles (four solo) in a standout performance. Despite serving as a reserve throughout the 2023 season, Tooley aims to leverage Spring Camp as an opportunity to continue impressing his coaches and solidify his role in the defense, especially amidst a retooled secondary.

OwlBytes for March 16th

  • Making Plays Without Fear What cornerbacks coach Brandon Harris wants to see out of the secondary is being more vocal, directing traffic on the field, and increase their ball production. "We talked about being able to attack the ball, not being afraid to make a play," Harris said. The last thing he also wants to see is physicality at the position. "We want to leave spring ball with the offense saying, "man, those DBs are physical like they'll hit you, they'll get off blocks, and they'll make tackles in the run support,"" he said.

  • Comfortable Switch One player is making a switch to wide receiver, which is Justin Mckithen. Having played at cornerback for the Owls since 2020, Mckithen saw an opportunity to help out the team by switching over to the offense in a position he is familiar with. "I wanted it, and the coaches on the offensive side, they wanted it also and they brought me in like no other," he said. He returns to the position he played back in high school, getting 23 catches for 547 yards and five touchdowns at New Hampstead. "I'm trying to get back out there and help the offense put points on the board and help in anyway I can. I'm just happy to be back on the offensive side of the ball."

Video Play

Cornerbacks coach Brandon Harris, defensive line coach Roosevelt Maggitt, cornerback/wide receiver Justin Mckithen, and defensive end Marlon Bradley headline Video Play.

The team will be back on the field Tuesday morning to begin the second week of Spring Practice.

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