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Five Questions Going into 2010

It's that time of year again and excitement is in the air. As Florida Atlantic prepares for a trip to Birmingham, AL to open the 2010 season on Thursday, here are five of the most significant questions waiting to be answered for the upcoming year:

1. Can RB Alfred Morris repeat his super sophomore year?

Morris was the surprise of 2009 after moving from FB to RB to replace an injured Jeff Blanchard. All Morris did was tally over 1300 yards with a 6.4 yards per carry average and 13 touchdowns. Expectations are high for the newly announced 2010 Doak Walker Award candidate. Morris has all of the physical tools for a repeat campaign in 2010. However, his success will depend heavily on a rebuilt offensive line. Also expect Blanchard to be getting in the rotation, which will mean that Morris' carries might be down a bit from last year. Given the new O-line and Blanchard's presence I would be surprised if Morris exceeds the 1300 yard mark this year. Regardless, Morris should break 1000 and have a very nice follow-up year to his coming out party of 2009.

2. How will QB Jeff Van Camp handle being in the spotlight and having to replace FAU's all-time passing leader?

This question seems to have a pretty straightforward answer. Van Camp came in last year and logged 5 starts after Smith went down with a shoulder injury. He has the experience necessary to lead this team and all signs point to a confident QB who will have success. Van Camp not only has a strong arm, but also brings mobility to the backfield. The biggest challenge that the senior signal caller will face is taking over the role of "true starter" and offensive leader for the Owls. Remember, last year Van Camp did start 5 games, but he did so in relief of an injured Smith. He will now have a chance to make his own mark on the FAU program.

3. Will the rebuilt offensive line gel enough to allow for the success of FAU's talented skill positions?

The offensive line has been a big question mark since the spring. Fall Camp has not been favorable to the new group as many have been hampered by injuries. The loss of projected starting center Jordan Sessa was probably the biggest blow to the line. Working in a new center this close to the season opener is always disconcerting. With all of the other injuries upfront it will be remarkable if FAU can go into the UAB game with five healthy bodies to protect Van Camp and provide a push up front for Morris and company. If the O-line can get healthy and gain some cohesiveness it could mean a big year for a talented FAU offense. If not, at least Van Camp has some scrambling ability.

4. Who will step up at tight end?

Tight end (TE) is always a staple in the pro-style offense that FAU runs. Last year TE Jason Harmon led all receivers in catches, yards, and touchdowns. Yes that is correct, he led all receivers including wide receivers. But Harmon has graduated and that means that the TE position is up for grabs. Rob Housler is coming back after missing last year due to injury. He is athletic, and has shown flashes of brilliance, but has also not been nearly as consistent as his physical talent should allow. This, coupled with a full year off, means that the TE position is in question. RS Sophomore Darian Williams could challenge Housler for the starting TE position. He gained valuable experience last year and looks as though he is poised to have a breakout year in 2010. Expect both players to see plenty of action.

5. Has the defense improved and matured after a poor showing in 2009?

The biggest difference between the 2009 defense and the 2010 defense is experience. It all starts up front. The line returns Dino Cox, Jamere Johnson, Daniel Joseph, and Kevin Cyrille. These four combined for 34 starts last year. The experience that they gained in 2009 should go a long way in 2010. The line-backing corps also brings experience into 2010 with Michael Lockley and Malik Eugene leading the way. David Hinds, Yourhighness Morgan, and Alex Pattee will also see the field at LB. The secondary is led by safety Marcus Bartels, who paced the team in tackles in 2009 and looks ready to have a big year again in 2010. Ed Alexander, Tavious Polo, and Tarvoris Hill bring a combined 30 starts from last year into this season. The experience from front to back on the defensive side of the ball should result in significant improvements for a unit that gave up an average of 220 yards rushing, and nearly 34 points, per game.

Bottom Line:

The Owls are looking to rebound after going 5-7 last year on the heels of consecutive bowl appearances in 2007 and 2008. The SBC has some talented teams in MTSU and Troy. However, parody is the first child of the Sun Belt Conference and the title always seems to be up for grabs in late November. September 2nd's contest in Birmingham, AL will initially serve in telling us whether FAU has found the answers to put themselves in a position to challenge for the league title. If my instincts are right, FAU will be a part of the conversation when they face MTSU and Troy in back-to-back games to close out the season.


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