Spring Football presents the opportunity for a program to start a year anew, move on from the events of the prior season, and look beyond what they are capable of to discover their true potential for the next season. For the Florida Atlantic Owls, this was especially apparent after experiencing their first Spring Game under head coach Tom Herman.
Herman and the Owls ended Spring Football with a bang on a bright Saturday afternoon with the annual Spring Game at Howard Schnellenberger Field between the Red Team and the White Team, which saw the quarterbacks switch sides throughout the day.
Following a tight first 20 minutes with the White Team possessing a 10-7 lead, the Red Team got in complete rhythm and never looked back. They outscored the White Team 35-10 for the rest of the game which included four consecutive touchdowns from their end to finish with a final score of 42-17.
The receivers were effective throughout the day, totaling for five of the eight touchdowns scored with three of them coming from the Red Team. Jymetre Hester had the most receiving yards with 85 followed by tight end Jackson Sumlin's 68 yards and running back Zuberi Mobley's 55.
Tackling was a strong point for the Red Team, especially from inside linebacker Jarrett Jerrels. He put up a game-high 12 tackles (five solo) to elevate the defense and keep the White Team's offense at bay. The Red team made 68 total tackles to the White Team's 38, showcasing their strength and awareness as a defensive unit.
For the final time this spring, head coach Tom Herman made himself available to media.
"I hope the people who have seen previous teams have seen a change in physicality, a change in effort, and a change in the ability to love each other, to play for each other, and to put yourself aside and play for the guy next to you," Herman said. "The message is loud and clear, and the guys are really trying to live that culture every day, and it's been fun to watch."
Here are some observations we made from today's action.
Spring Game Notables
- Richardson Looking The Part The Owls might not have an issue at quarterback if they don't acquire one from the transfer portal, especially with how Daniel Richardson played today. Richardson looked as sharp as ever, completing 18 of his 22 passes (81% accuracy) for 238 yards (44 long) and three touchdowns throughout the afternoon with quick movement and excellent precision on his throws. "When the ball is snapped, you got to play with what the defense gives you and Daniel did a really good job with finding the open guy and finding his read of what the defense dictated," Herman said.
- Secure Protection The Red Team succeeded in executing their offensive plays, not only thanks to quarterback Daniel Richardson (pictured below) but also the offensive linemen for giving him plenty of time to make his throws. They gave him excellent protection from the White Team's defense by not allowing a single sack.
"The offensive line definitely helped me get started with getting the ball to the receivers' hands," Richardson said. Offensive lineman Chaz Neal shared similar sentiments by complimenting the unit for setting up a strong pocket for the quarterbacks to take advantage of. "I love our o-line and love the way everything's going. We just got to keep it going," he said.
- Open For Business The transfer portal opened today for the second signing period and the Owls may make some moves therein. Additionally, since Tom Herman took over, the Owls have amped up their high school recruiting efforts in-state under the "Tri-County Takeover" mantra. It has turned out to be very effective with an estimated 150 recruits attending the Spring Game. "We need to make sure that the young men, especially from Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach County, understand that we are their hometown Division I college football team and we want them to take a lot of pride in that," Herman said. He also remarked that it's not just the recruits in the local area that are seeing the program as an attractive destination. "The program that we're building, it has really resonated not just in the tri-county area, but also across the state," he said.
- When Opportunities Open Up Wide receivers Omari Hayes and Jymetre Hester, who did not see playing time last season, made the most of their chances throughout the Spring Game. Both totaled four receptions each for 119 yards combined with Hester getting an excellent touchdown pass from quarterback Daniel Richardson, as the duo are competing in what is a deep group of talented wide receivers. "The opportunities have been few and far in between for those two guys but they made the most of them," Herman said. "Those guys are getting better every day, and they are definitely going to help us this year."
- Tight Catches Tight end production was lacking last year with the only touchdown scored from that position coming from Austin Evans, who is now pursuing NFL aspirations. However if today was any indication, the position may be a focal point at times for the 2023 slate. Jacob Pasley (pictured top), Jackson Sumlin, and Carter Boatwright combined for 128 yards on six receptions on Saturday with Sumlin collecting a 44-yard touchdown. Given the overall performance shown by this trio today, offensive wrinkles will likely continue to evolve when they return for fall camp.
Head coach Tom Herman, quarterback Daniel Richardson, offensive lineman Chaz Neal, defensive tackle Jacob Merrifield, and running back Kobe Lewis headline the last video play for Spring Football.
With Spring Football over, the team will be on hiatus until they gear up for fall camp starting in August as preparation for the 2023 season, their first in the American Athletic Conference.