FAU senior Jake Miednik looking to become Owls’ ace pitcher

Jake Miednik from FAU’s media day. (Jake Elman / The Palm Beach Post)

BOCA RATON — For the first time in years, Jake Miednik is pitching for someone other than himself.

As harsh as that may sound, it’s a point that Florida Atlantic baseball coach John McCormack was clear in making about his senior lefty, who will start on opening night against George Washington on Friday (6:30, FAU Baseball Stadium).

“Jake, for the first three years of his collegiate experience, played because he wanted to get drafted,” McCormack said during FAU’s Media Day on Monday. “And he worried about who was in the stands and he worried about what was going to happen next, as opposed to being in the moment with his team.”

A preseason All-Conference USA pitcher, Miednik (Parkland-Stoneman Douglas) won seven games and posted a 4.88 ERA in 86 2/3 innings. Miednik’s 75 strikeouts were the most on the team and 12th-best in C-USA.

After barely beating out rising junior Kyle Marman for the No. 1 pitching spot, Miednik acknowledged that last year’s transition from Walters State CC (Tenn.) wasn’t easy, in large part because of the expectations he’d placed upon himself.

“I kind of played for myself trying to get drafted and everything,” Miednik said. “But being a senior now and, technically, this could be my last year, a lot of things are different. I want to enjoy it more.”

One of only two pitchers to start double-digit games (joining senior Alex House, who was drafted by the Houston Astros last June), Miednik’s final regular-season start was his best, with the then-junior tossing eight shutout innings against Old Dominion. Miednik described himself as “numb” that day, striking out six just days after returning to the team following his grandfather’s death.

McCormack praised Miednik’s ability to rise to the challenge and his “playing for the love of the game.” With House having graduated, Miednik is the only full-time starting pitcher returning to the rotation. Marman made two starts last season, putting up a 4.50 ERA in 20 games and striking out 31 batters in 28 innings.

“I hope that for his sake, the maturity results in a good year … and for our sake,” McCormack said.

Despite the attitude change, Miednik — who has acknowledged he pitches best when “angry” — said he will continue to feed into his emotions on the mound.

“That’s definitely always been the key for me, just trying to be as angry as possible so I can do what I do best,” Miednik said.

FAU’s leading receiver Kalib Woods suspended following arrest

FAU wide receiver Kalib Woods (4) during the Florida Atlantic University Owls spring scrimmage football game in Boca Raton, Florida on April 22, 2017. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

BOCA RATON — Less than two months before the start of training camp, Florida Atlantic University has suspended redshirt senior and star wide receiver Kalib Woods indefinitely following an arrest on Tuesday morning.

Woods, who caught 68 balls for 934 yards and a touchdown in 2016, was officially charged with two counts of felony battery and was released on $50,000 bond from Palm Beach County’s Main Detention Center.

Online records show that Woods, a Jacksonville native, was arrested by FAU police and was booked shortly before 11 a.m. on Tuesday morning.

“We are aware of the matter with Kalib Woods,” FAU released in an official statement Wednesday. “He was suspended from the team on Tuesday and will remain suspended pending the outcome of the charges.”

Chuck King of FAUOwlAccess.com reported Wednesday night that the arrest stemmed from a January incident at a bar involving a female patron. Woods reportedly denied that he was there on Jan. 13, the night that an incident report was filed.

A warrant for Woods’ arrest was issued last month. Court documents state that while Woods can continue to attend classes — FAU’s second summer semester begins June 26 — he is not allowed contact with the victim or witnesses.

In addition, Woods is prohibited from using weapons or social media. As of late Wednesday night, Woods’ Twitter account was deleted, though his Facebook account remained active.

Woods, one of the few remaining players left from Carl Pelini’s first team in 2013, was expected to play a big role for the Owls in 2017. Woods enters the campaign only 52 receptions behind Cortez Gent’s school record and 1,005 behind Gent’s record for receiving yards.

Woods, who will turn 23 in September, served as a captain last season and took part in last week’s satellite camps as a volunteer coach. With a strong senior season in new offensive coordinator Kendal Briles’ scheme, Woods could raise his draft stock and become FAU’s first offensive player selected in the draft since Alfred Morris in 2012.

Now, Woods’ future in an Owls uniform remains uncertain.

Ironically, the team’s official Twitter account released a promotional video on Wednesday featuring Woods along with several other players. The video remained up even after the arrest was made public.

Woods will be due in court on June 27 for an arraignment.

Lane Kiffin, FAU offer scholarship to 13-year-old QB son of Tee Martin

Lane Kiffin, the newly announced head coach of Florida Atlantic University football, speaks to the press at FAU Stadium in Boca Raton on December 13, 2016. (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)

Lane Kiffin is back scouring the middle-school ranks for the next quarterback prodigy.

This time around, Florida Atlantic’s head football coach reportedly has his sights set on Kaden Martin, a seventh-grader out of Redondo Beach, Calif. Fox Sports’ Bruce Feldman first reported the news.

The 5-foot-11, 175-pound Martin is the son of former Tennessee quarterback and current USC offensive coordinator Tee Martin. The younger Martin is also a promising baseball player, according to Feldman, with a fastball clocked in the 80s. The elder Martin worked under Kiffin during his time with the Trojans.

“I’m just extremely proud and appreciative for the opportunity for Kaden,” Tee Martin told AL.com. “He and Coach Kiffin have always had a great relationship. I’m thankful.”

These aren’t uncharted waters for Kiffin.

In 2010, he landed a commitment to USC from then-seventh-grader David Sills. Kiffin was fired before Sills finished high school. Sills decommitted from the Trojans and wound up playing wide receiver at West Virginia.

Former members of Kiffin’s USC staff later told Bleacher Report’s Matt Hayes that Sills’ uber-early recruitment was a way to bring attention to the program.

“Lane’s thought was any news was good news,” one staffer said. “He knew it would be the lead story everywhere.”

No matter Kiffin’s intentions now, the end result is the same — the Owls are all over the national radar.

Martin clearly has some athletic promise, but he’s a class of 2022 member who has yet to take a high school snap. There’s no telling what type of recruit he’ll be by that point, or even if Kiffin will still be calling the shots in Boca Raton. Kiffin hasn’t coached in one spot longer than the three-plus seasons he spent at USC.

But none of that matters now. FAU has gone viral because of Kiffin … again.

FAU’s Trey Hendrickson selected by New Orleans Saints in 3rd round of 2017 NFL Draft

Defensive end Trey Hendrickson and coach Charlie Partridge at the end of the Owls’ victory over UTEP on Saturday, Nov. 12, 2016. (Getty Images)

TREY HENDRICKSON, DE
FLORIDA ATLANTIC 
6’4″, 267 pounds

Hendrickson, the 2016 Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year, was drafted with the 39th pick in the third round (No. 103 overall) of the 2017 NFL Draft by the New Orleans Saints.

Bio:

Once looked at as nothing more than a two-star recruit from Apopka who showed potential as a situational defensive end, Hendrickson dominated in Conference USA play en route to becoming the top defensive player in FAU history.

Breaking out onto the national scene after a 13.5-sack performance in 2015 — as well as nearly helping the Owls upset the Florida Gators in Gainesville — Hendrickson finished with 9.5 sacks in 2016 despite being double- and triple-teamed on nearly every play.

Hendrickson also shined on special teams, leading the nation in blocked kicks with four, including one against the Hurricanes in Miami.

Though his future at defensive end remains uncertain as teams have contemplated moving him to linebacker, the Saints are getting a steal by picking Hendrickson in the third round.

Scouting Report: 

Pros: Strength and a high motor, even against double or triple teams. Displays an excellent vision on defense and made improvements in stopping the run this past season. Dominant on special teams and forcing turnovers, as evidenced by his nation-best four blocked kicks in 2016. Fantastic swim move that will only get better in the NFL. High leadership capabilities that helped keep an FAU locker room fresh and motivated even through three straight losing seasons.

Cons: Could still be too small to play defensive end, and a change to linebacker at the NFL level is possible. Needs to work on his awareness, especially against quarterbacks who will call multiple audibles. Emotion is good, but often shows too much emotion and doesn’t take failure well. “Needs to do better job of thumping and setting a strong edge. Plays too tall in his tackle-end twist transitions, allowing blockers under his pads.” — Lance Zierlein, NFL.com

NFL Combine results:

40-yard dash: 4.65 seconds (did not run at FAU’s Pro Day)
Vertical jump: 33.5 inches
Broad jump: 122 inches
Three-cone drill: 7.03 seconds
20-yard shuttle: 4.20 seconds
60-yard shuffle: 11.43 seconds

The expert says:

“His lack of length on the edge will be a turn-off for some, but he flashes enough to warrant a third-day draft selection as a backup 4-3 defensive end who could continue to develop as a rusher with additional work.” — Lance ZierleinNFL.com

Would Lane Kiffin have led Alabama to a national-championship victory?

Offensive Coordinator Lane Kiffin of the Alabama Crimson Tide talks to Jalen Hurts #2 of the Alabama Crimson Tide against the Washington Huskies during the 2016 Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl at the Georgia Dome on December 31, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

In the pantheon of sports’ greatest what-if questions, the hypothetical inquiry of, “What if Lane Kiffin had coached Alabama’s offense in the national championship?” seems pretty low on the pecking order.

But for fans of the Crimson Tide — and Kiffin himself — the scenario apparently still warrants a mental examination.

Kiffin did a lengthy interview with Fox Sports Radio’s “Outkick the Coverage” and was asked if he thought the game would have played out differently had he retained his post. The new FAU football skipper said he couldn’t answer that.

“I don’t know that,” Kiffin said. “There’s no way to know that.

“[Then-offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian] was put in a very difficult situation. Whatever it was, a week, eight days or whatever and all of a sudden you’re calling the game. So like you said, it’s the hardest one to try to figure out. … If it would have been different and had I been there, that meant I would have won — if that is the case, I don’t know that. It wouldn’t have had anything to do with anything about Sark. It would have been the players being comfortable of what they know.”

Alabama lost the title game to Clemson 35-31 on a last-second touchdown after relinquishing a 10-point fourth-quarter lead.

The Owls hired Kiffin to replace Charlie Partridge as their new head coach in mid-December, about a month before college football’s finale. Kiffin originally planned to run Alabama’s offense through the end of its playoff run but that idea was scrapped in a reportedly mutual agreement one week before the contest.

Sarkisian left Alabama after the loss to take the same position with the Atlanta Falcons. Brian Daboll, who led the Miami Dolphins offense in 2011, now calls the shots in Tuscaloosa.

Lane Kiffin, FAU sued by former Alabama WR for reneging on job offer

Lane Kiffin, the newly announced head coach of Florida Atlantic University football, shakes hands with Spanish River football coach Bill Ceasar at FAU Stadium in Boca Raton on December 13, 2016. (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)

Before Lane Kiffin roams the sidelines in his first official game as Florida Atlantic University’s head coach, it appears he and the university will need to deal with some legal issues.

According to SEC Country, former University of Alabama wide receiver Antonio “A.C.” Carter filed a fraud lawsuit on Tuesday against Kiffin, FAU and the state of Florida alleging that Kiffin misled him regarding a position on FAU’s coaching staff.

Carter claims that Kiffin used his relationship with a four-star running back recruit to entice the junior college transfer to sign with the Owls. Though the lawsuit does not name the recruit, it does mention that the recruit was from Carter’s hometown of Tallahassee, played in junior college and was once a four-star prospect who had signed a letter of intent with the University of Florida. According to SEC Country, FAU signee D’Anfernee McGriff fits the profile of the unnamed recruit.

The lawsuit alleges that shortly after the prospect accepted a scholarship at FAU, Carter was informed that he did not pass the required background check, forfeiting his candidacy for the one-year, $40,000 assistant strength and conditioning coach position that he claims he was offered.

Despite sending documentation to the university showing that the two misdemeanor charges on his record had been resolved, Carter’s inquires went unanswered. Carter claims that he even went as far as to wait outside of FAU athletic director Pat Chun’s office for several hours, only to have Chun refuse to meet with him, according to SEC Country.

Carter, who says that he was responsible for recruiting three FAU signees, claims that Kiffin assured him that the process leading to his employment at the university was “done,” leading him and his wife to quit their jobs and travel to the campus to help with recruiting, according to SEC Country.

This isn’t the first time in Kiffin’s brief tenure as FAU head coach that his coaching staff has been an issue. Kiffin’s hiring of Kendal Briles, who was mentioned in the Baylor sexual assault scandal lawsuit, his hiring of two assistant coaches from Ole Miss, which is being investigated by the NCAA, and his hiring of defensive-line coach and recruiting coordinator Eric Mathies, who was arrested for a DUI in 2014, have all sparked controversy.

Read more at SEC Country.

Former FAU coach Charlie Partridge resurfaces at Pittsburgh

Coach Charlie Partridge leads his team in drills during fall camp. (Palm Beach Post staff photo)
Coach Charlie Partridge leads his team in drills during fall camp. (Palm Beach Post staff photo)

After only a few months away, Charlie Partridge is back in the college football coaching ranks.

The former Florida Atlantic head coach has joined Pat Narduzzi’s staff at the University of Pittsburgh. Partridge will serve as defensive line coach, one of several assistant positions he filled during his first stint at the school from 2003-07.

“I am honored to have the opportunity to return to Pitt and work with Coach Narduzzi and his staff,” Partridge said in a statement. “I’m fully aware that the University of Pittsburgh is a special institution in an amazing city with a top-notch football program that competes at the highest level in the ACC. I look forward to applying all the lessons I’ve learned since previously being here while also learning from this tremendous staff.”

Partridge spent three seasons at FAU, posting identical 3-9 records in each. Before coming to Boca Raton, he held assistant head-coach positions under Bret Bielema at Wisconsin and Arkansas.

Partridge’s defensive resume is littered with success stories.

During his first tenure at Pittsburgh, he worked with Scott McKillop, the nation’s leader in tackles in

2007 and a 2009 fifth-round draft pick by the San Francisco 49ers. At Wisconsin, Partridge’s line included J.J. Watt, a three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year. At Arkansas, Partridge coached Trey Flowers, who helped the New England Patriots with 2.5 sacks in their Super Bowl LI victory. At FAU, Partridge helped Trey Hendrickson become the program’s all-time sack leader.

Partridge, a Plantation native, has also been lauded for his recruiting skills and South Florida ties. Two of his three recruiting classes at FAU were graded among Conference USA’s top three.

“Charlie’s familiarity with Pitt is a major asset and the fact that he has experience as a head coach will benefit our entire staff,” Narduzzi said. “His reputation as a strong recruiter is highly deserved and will serve us well all across the ACC footprint, including Pittsburgh.”

Lane Kiffin says horrible Signing Day hype video was ‘a trick’

Lane Kiffin, the newly announced head coach of Florida Atlantic University football, shakes hands with Spanish River football coach Bill Ceasar at FAU Stadium in Boca Raton on December 13, 2016.  (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)
Lane Kiffin, the newly announced head coach of Florida Atlantic University football, shakes hands with Spanish River football coach Bill Ceasar at FAU Stadium in Boca Raton on December 13, 2016. (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)

Comatose coach squinting through sunlight? Check. Choppy editing and cheesy soundtrack? Check and check.

FAU and first-year football coach Lane Kiffin used the above recipe to create either the week’s most awkward or most sneaky-genius hype video ahead of National Signing Day.

The video, which was posted to and later deleted from FAU’s official Twitter account, was objectively cringeworthy. It had the enthusiasm of a child sleep-walking through daily chores and the soundtrack of a mandatory corporate retreat.

All of that helped it catch viral fire, pushing FAU into the national spotlight in a week typically reserved for college football’s superpowers. That the Owls subsequently enjoyed their best signing day ever — tops in Conference USA, 72nd overall on 247 Sports — suggests the clip actually helped, not hurt, their sales pitch.

That, Kiffin said Wednesday, was the plan all along.

“That was a trick,” Kiffin said of the non-hype video. “We did it so bad because we knew we would get so much attention. That was actually on purpose.”

Some remain skeptical even after the explanation. If the video was intentionally atrocious and made solely as an attention-grabber, why did FAU feel the need to expunge it from its Twitter feed?

But no matter the intent, the clip served its purpose. The Owls were buzzing across the football landscape and continue to do so after Kiffin’s first recruiting haul.

FAU announced 24 signees Wednesday. The class included 15 three-star players, according to 247 Sports, including former Florida State quarterback De’Andre Johnson, former Texas wide receiver DeAndre McNeal and former Miami safety commit Ahman Ross. McNeal, the nation’s No. 8 junior college receiver, picked FAU over UCLA.

Maybe the Bruins should have invested in their own awful (but maybe purposely awful) recruiting video.

FAU coach Lane Kiffin rescinds scholarship offer days before Signing Day

Lane Kiffin, the newly announced head coach of Florida Atlantic University football, speaks to the press at FAU Stadium in Boca Raton on December 13, 2016.  (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)
Lane Kiffin, the newly announced head coach of Florida Atlantic University football, speaks to the press at FAU Stadium in Boca Raton on December 13, 2016. (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)

New Florida Atlantic football coach Lane Kiffin has already made national noise, and it’s not all the kind of noise he would like.

According to the Orlando Sentinel, the Owls skipper rescinded a scholarship offer to Orlando-Dr. Phillips athlete D.J. Charles. Making matters worse, the move was made just ahead of National Signing Day on Feb. 1, leaving the two-star prospect scrambling for a home he thought he’d already found.

When Kiffin was hired in December, Charles began getting the cold shoulder from the new regime. His phone calls yielded only voicemails, and a Twitter connection with Kiffin’s brother and FAU defensive coordinator Chris Kiffin only increased the confusion.

“He followed me on Twitter, so I followed him back,” Charles told the Orlando Sentinel, “and then he hit me up on DM, saying ‘Hey D.J., what’s up’ … and then he asked me, ‘Why did I decommit from FAU.’”

But Charles never decommitted. He asked why the new coaching staff hadn’t communicated with him and was told — a few times — that they would review his film and get back to him.

When no one did, Charles’ father, Lebert Charles, called the school and eventually received word the scholarship offer was no longer on the table.

This situation isn’t unique to Kiffin and Charles. Scholarship offers aren’t always honored after coaching changes, as play styles and subsequent needs change. New UConn football coach Randy Edsall pulled an offer to linebacker Ryan Dickens seven months after he verbally committed to the school.

Charles had been locked in at FAU since October. At the time, the 5’9”, 190-pounder told the Orlando Sentinel he felt, “relaxed, more comfortable now. I can just think about finishing up my senior year and I don’t have to worry about what school I’m going to.”

Now, Charles is back to worrying and racing to find an open spot he didn’t plan on needing.

Florida Atlantic, FSU, USF all seen as teams on the rise looking to 2017

Lane Kiffin, the newly announced head coach of Florida Atlantic University football, speaks to the press at FAU Stadium in Boca Raton on December 13, 2016.  (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)
Lane Kiffin, the newly announced head coach of Florida Atlantic University football, speaks to the press at FAU Stadium in Boca Raton on December 13, 2016. (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)

By Zach Buckley

Florida’s college football scene is collectively rising.

At least, that’s the view of Athlon Sports, which pegs five different Florida schools as programs on the rise or ones to watch in 2017.

The first distinction went to three teams: Florida State, Florida Atlantic and South Florida.

The Seminoles finished last season eighth in both the AP and Coaches polls after edging past Michigan 33-32 in the Orange Bowl. The Seminoles lost star running back Dalvin Cook, who’s NFL-bound following a year with 1,765 rushing yards and 20 total touchdowns. But they’ll have another summer of seasoning for redshirt-sophomore-to-be quarterback Deondre Francois (3,350 yards and 20 touchdowns), plus incoming five-star running back Cam Akers.

The Owls’ outlook shines mostly due to changes in the coaching ranks. Head coach Lane Kiffin and offensive coordinator Kendal Briles (from Baylor) both need to repair their reputations, but each was deemed a character risk worth taking for their football minds. Former four-star FSU quarterback De’Andre Johnson is seeking his own second chance after being dismissed by the ‘Noles when video surfaced of him punching a woman at a Tallahassee nightclub in 2015.

The Bulls lost head coach Willie Taggart to Oregon but grabbed former Texas and Louisville front man Charlie Strong to replace him. South Florida also returns quarterback Quinton Flowers, who accumulated 42 touchdowns last season while passing for 2,812 yards and rushing for another 1,530.

Miami and Central Florida were both listed as programs to monitor.

The Hurricanes must find a replacement for quarterback Brad Kaaya. Still, Miami went an encouraging 9-4 during its first season under head coach Mark Richt, while Mark Walton ran wild (1,117 rushing yards and 14 scores) and Wellington product Ahmmon Richards broke Michael Irvin’s freshman receiving record with 934 yards. 

The Knights saw a six-win improvement during head coach Scott Frost’s first year at the helm. Quarterback McKenzie Milton passed for 1,983 yards and 10 touchdowns as a true freshman.