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Spring Finale: 2024 FAU Red vs. White Game & Notables

Spring Football signifies a fresh start for teams, a chance to leave behind the past and unearth their potential for the upcoming season. For the Florida Atlantic Owls, this significance was palpable as they wrapped up their second Spring Game under the helm of head coach Tom Herman.

The culmination occurred on a vibrant Saturday afternoon at Howard Schnellenberger Field, where the Red Team squared off against the White Team, with quarterbacks switching sides throughout the event. Over 100 recruits were in attendance to watch the Owls showcase themselves in the Spring Game.

In contrast to last year's contest, which ended in a 42-17 blowout in favor of the Red Team, both teams went back and forth with one another throughout the day.

The Red Team struck first by jumping out to a 10-1 lead with a passing touchdown from quarterback Cam Fancher and a 47-yard field goal from kicker Robert Hammond III. The White Team responded with 10 consecutive points, via a 26-yard field goal from kicker Morgan Suarez and a touchdown pass from quarterback Tyriq Starks (pictured top via Rick Henderson) to tight end Zeke Moore, taking the lead to enter halftime.

Second half started out with a bang, with running back CJ Campbell taking the ball to the house for a 75-yard touchdown with Team Red retaking the lead. The White Team kept fighting back, using a four-yard rushing touchdown from running back Gemari Sands. However, Team Red landed the final blow with a 49-yard passing touchdown from quarterback Tyriq Starks to wide receiver Joseph Young and a two-point conversion to come out with a 25-18 victory.

For the final time this spring, head coach Tom Herman made himself available to media.

"The portal gets a bad rep and probably rightfully so, but the one good thing is that all of these guys that returned could have gone anywhere they wanted and they chose to stay here," Herman said.

"There's just a much deeper feel of buy-in and togetherness. And hopefully you kind of saw that today a little bit in our effort. We didn't play perfect, but we made plays on both sides of the ball and the biggest thing is we played with a lot of effort and a lot of physicality and that was fun to see."

Here are some observations we made from today's action.

Spring Game Notables

  • Quarterback Duel The Owls might not have an issue at quarterback if they don't acquire one from the transfer portal, especially with how Tyriq Starks and Cam Fancher played today. For example, both quarterbacks completed 24 out of 41 passes for 251 yards and three touchdowns combined in the first half. "We went and signed Cam Fancher for a reason because there's a need at that position and he certainly fills that need. But what it has done is it's taken a guy like Tyriq Starks, who has already had some exponential growth in our time here, and it's elevated his play," Herman said. Starks seemed to have the edge over Fancher, getting two of those scores with 136 yards on nine completions while Fancher got picked off twice by the defense. With Starks arguably having the better day, the competition for the starting job continues with Herman having two players who can make significant impacts with their play-calling.

  • Receptions For Everyone Last season showcased an FAU offense that was over-reliant on former receiver Lajohntay Wester making most of the catches to keep them competitive in games. Today's game showcased a lot of chances be given for the receivers to make plays. In the first half, 24 passes were completed to 14 eligible players with eight of them being wide receivers. The overall distribution of the passes was noted by Herman as a benefit for the team to not be one-dimensional with their receiving corps. "That means we've got a lot of depth and a lot of quality that too. There's not a cliff, so to speak, so that's good," Herman said. "We'd love a superstar in that room, but the fact that we got six to eight guys that we feel really good about, I think it is a real positive." Wide receiver Omari Hayes (pictured below via Rick Henderson) shined with seven receptions in the first half for a total of 55 yards and a touchdown, his longest being for 23 yards. "I feel like we distributed the ball well. I feel like everybody got targets Looking at it, I felt like the ball got spread around and everybody got opportunities to make plays," Hayes said.

  • Portal Preparation With the transfer portal opening on April 16 for the second signing period, the Owls may look to make some moves therein. Herman addressed the possibility of some players coming in or out, saying he's had some preemptive conversations with players important to the team. "I'm always worried. You're never not because they're still 18-to-22 year old men that surprise the heck out of me every day. But we're in a really good place as a team and there'll be names going in the portal, but I don't anticipate any that we don't foresee and or aren't okay with," Herman said.

  • Takeaways Galore Throughout spring camp, defensive coordinator Roc Bellantoni emphasized the importance of the defense forcing as many takeaways as they can to improve from how they performed in that area last season. It would be safe to think he was pleased with their display throughout the day, creating three takeaways with all of them being interceptions. Two came from redshirt freshman safety Antonio Smith and the remaining pick was from Jayden Williams, who played more at safety during the game. "In practice, We haven't been getting as many takeaways as we wanted. And Coach Roc instilled in us (to have) three takeaways a game, and that's what we did today," Williams said. He was impressed with Smith's performance, breaking out with two picks despite being one of the more younger players on the team. "I tell Antonio a lot that if he continues to have the confidence, then he can be one of the best players on the field and I really mean that," he stated.

  • Tight End Play Similar to last year's Spring Game, the tight ends were sparingly used in pass catching situations. Zeke Moore caught an 11-yard pass from Tyriq Starks for a touchdown and Wyatt Sullivan (pictured above via Rick Henderson) caught the other pass for 10 yards in the first half. On a day where the receivers dominated the numbers in receptions, the tight ends mainly focused on being successful with their blocking against opponents. "As a tight end, especially in my role, you don't get those chances too many times so when you get to throw the ball in the end zone, you gotta come down with it. And it's always fun. Even if it's in practice, it doesn't happen a whole lot so anytime I'm very grateful for that," Moore said.

  • Preferring The Pass In the entire first half, the Owls passed the ball 41 times while only running the ball 22 times (excluding eight rushes from the quarterbacks). Considering how FAU typically looks for a balance between the run game and pass game, this noticeable difference has given a possible indication that the team may roll with a pass-heavy offense while looking to their running backs on occasion when the 2024 season comes around.

Video Play

Head coach Tom Herman, cornerback Jayden Williams, wide receiver Omari Hayes, tight end Zeke Moore, and quarterback Cam Fancher 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 2024 season, their second in the American Athletic Conference.

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