BOCA RATON — Florida Atlantic took the field for most of Tuesday without arguably its most valuable player, as reigning Conference USA MVP and junior running back Devin “Motor” Singletary (American Heritage-Delray) was limited in practice with what multiple sources called a “hamstring injury.”
Singletary, the program’s all-time leader in rushing touchdowns with 44, suffered the injury during Saturday’s scrimmage at Carter Park in Fort Lauderdale. Though Singletary participated in positional drills, he mainly spent practice in a black jersey on an exercise bike with other injured Owls.
Singletary did not participate in contact drills.
It is not known at this time how long Singletary will be out, though one source believes the running back will return — but be limited in how much he can do or see a lighter workload — as early as Thursday.
This is Singletary’s first notable injury in his nearly three seasons at FAU. Gerald Hearns (Dwyer) will likely take the bulk of first-team snaps for however long Singletary is out.
Singletary led Division I with 32 rushing touchdowns last year, but also led the nation with 301 carries.
FAU head coach Lane Kiffin will address the injury later Tuesday morning.
BOCA RATON — At only 21 years of age, Florida Atlantic running back Gerald Hearns has already written books, spoken at events and is planning to run his own business when his football career ends.
But when Hearns isn’t mapping out his future, the fifth-year senior is trying to soak in what could potentially be his final season of football. Part of the fun comes from Hearns enjoying increased carries as a first-team replacement running back to start spring camp.
“One thing about me (is) I can control what I can control,” Hearns said. “Things that I can control (are) coming up here every day, watching extra film. I control calling my coach to ask him questions or (FAU offensive coordinator Charlie Weis Jr.) if I’m unsure about a certain blitz or a particular play. It’s my job to control going home and re-reading over my install, coming back (the) next day and focusing on the small details.”
Controlling the effort he puts into things is nothing new for Hearns, a former star running back at Dwyer High who earned local attention for receiving the Coach Frank D.B. DiCocco Memorial Scholarship in 2014 because of his leadership and individual success in school. After starting his collegiate career at Florida A&M, Hearns joined the Owls in August 2016 and redshirted during FAU’s 3-9 season.
Though Hearns was lower on the depth chart last season, the redshirt junior had 11 carries for 67 yards late in blowout victories. Buddy Howell’s graduation created a spot higher on the depth chart, allowing Hearns — a four-year starter in high school — to compete for more carries and opportunities.
Hearns has joined his teammates in picking up tips from running backs coach and former Detroit Lion Kevin Smith. While many of FAU’s other running backs rely on their speed to make plays, Hearns continues to work with Smith on elusiveness and agility.
“(We’re working) on getting in and out of my cuts, working on my elusiveness and awareness as to understanding the defensive fronts,” Hearns explained. “This year would be a great year for me to show that (and) what I worked on in the offseason.”
Rising junior and 2017 Conference USA MVP Devin Singletary (American Heritage-Delray) called Hearns “amazing” and praised his teammate’s effort to earn more snaps.
“I take notes from him as far as the way he works,” said Singletary, whose Stallions played Hearns’ Panthers in high school. “He never takes any days off, on or off the field.”
Defense vs. offense: Lane Kiffin and the Owls ended practice with an interesting personnel change, as Singletary played linebacker and safety Jalen Young (Seminole Ridge) took snaps at quarterback in a five-on-five showdown. Known more for his speed and ability to score touchdowns, Singletary showed impressive strength with a hard hit on safety James Pierre.
“I played (defense) growing up since Little League, so it was fun to get back on defense,” said Singletary. “I kinda miss it. … I probably surprised a few people.”
When Kiffin and coaches looked for a quarterback, there was no hesitation in Young’s mind that he would be the man for the job. Young played quarterback for the Hawks in high school and enjoyed his brief return to the position.
“Just to play it for one play, it was awesome,” Young said, “I had a great time.”
BOCA RATON — John Franklin III caught national attention after allegedly running a 4.19 40-yard dash in a video he posted online. Come Tuesday, the quarterback-turned-receiver will have another opportunity to post the fastest 40-time ever.
All eyes, however, will be on Franklin, the former Florida State, East Mississippi and Auburn quarterback who switched to receiver with the Tigers last spring and transferred to FAU in August. Franklin caught seven passes for 95 yards and a touchdown with the Owls while adding 229 rushing yards on 16 carries, the majority of those coming as a Wildcat quarterback.
When Dwyer graduate Daniel Parr was demoted from the starting quarterback job in Week 4, Franklin became the de facto backup quarterback, just another stop in what Franklin has called a wild journey.
“Living it was even more crazy than talking about it,” Franklin told The Post last month. “I feel like everything happens for a reason and throughout all those stops and all those different journeys to those places, I learned a lot and I learned more about me in how I grew as a player, how I grew as a man. Each place taught me something different, and if I had to do it all over again, I would.”
Wide receiver Kalib Woods headlines the skill players hoping to impress scouts following a 2017 season in which he recorded 24 catches for 619 yards and five touchdowns. With one more catch, Woods would have been eligible to lead Division I in yards per catch. Woods was suspended for the first half of last season following a Jan. 2017 nightclub fight, but he was reinstated in October and named one of the team’s end-of-season captains.
Online court records show Woods, whose 135 catches for 2,106 yards and 10 touchdowns in his four seasons, is next scheduled to attend a plea conference on May 21. Woods caught two passes in the NFLPA Bowl in January and is a potential late-round pick despite the ongoing legal issues.
Twenty-eight of the 32 NFL teams attended last year’s FAU Pro Day, leading to 2016 C-USA Defensive Player of the Year Trey Hendrickson becoming a third-round pick of the New Orleans Saints. FAU has had a player drafted in six of the last eight NFL drafts.
Running back Gregory “Buddy” Howell Jr. told The Post on Saturday he is healthy after lingering issues in 2017 and is hoping to run a 4.4. Howell averaged a career-high 6.6 yards per carry for the Owls last season, rushing for 740 yards and five touchdowns.
After retiring in January to focus on school and completing his engineering degree, quarterback Jason Driskel will not participate in the Pro Day.
The following players will also participate in FAU’s Pro Day: running back Marcus Clark; wide receivers Henry Bussey III, Kamrin Solomon and Nate Terry; guard Jakobi Smith; defensive end Haiden Nagel; defensive tackle Jeremiah Taleni; defensive back Abdias Corgelas; kicker Greg Joseph (American Heritage-Delray); and punter Ryan Rickel.
Former Owls in Spring League: Any FAU fans who watch the Spring League for former Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel’s comeback attempt will see another familiar face, as former Owls quarterback/tight end Tyler Cameron has made the league’s North roster. Cameron, 24, played for the Owls from 2015-16 after transferring from Georgia Tech, recording 41 catches for 509 yards and a touchdown.
Ex-FAU running back Adrian Starling, who played special teams for the Owls in 2015, joins Cameron on the North roster as well.
BOCA RATON — Azeez Al-Shaair made it no secret that he wanted to stay on the field. Playing three months with a torn UCL in his elbow, as painful as it may have been, had to happen if Florida Atlantic was to continue winning games.
Having risked his elbow for the sake of the team, Al-Shaair, the all-time leading tackler in program history, has earned a bit of rest this spring. Partial rest, at least, as Al-Shaair is only able to participate in non-contact drills after undergoing surgery on Dec. 27.
“The process is supposed to take all this time and stuff like that, but understand I don’t throw a football or anything like that — I just tackle people,” Al-Shaair said Thursday. “It honestly hasn’t been bad at all.”
Al-Shaair was limited for the majority of last spring as well after labrum surgery, though he didn’t return to drills until late in camp. One bright spot the linebacker recently realized was that the process of cleaning up and repairing the elbow was less painful than his shoulder surgery.
Al-Shaair also acknowledged that knowing he’d be on the mend from the elbow injury contributed to his decision to return for his senior season. Had Al-Shaair entered next month’s NFL Draft, he likely would have been a late-round pick at best.
“You also understand that with everything at the combine, I just thought it would be the best decision to come back,” Al-Shaair said. “It wasn’t one thing more than another (which made me come back), just everything collectively would help me make the decision.”
Robison returns: After being suspended from Tuesday’s practice for a violation of team rules, redshirt freshman quarterback Chris Robison was reinstated and split first-team reps with De’Andre Johnson on Thursday.
Soroh finds new home: Senior defensive back Andrew Soroh, who split time between safety and linebacker last year, has officially been converted to a linebacker for the 2018 season. Soroh had 47 tackles last season, seeing increased playing time when the Kiffin brothers — head coach Lane and defensive coordinator Chris — started playing him as a hybrid.
“They called me a couple days ago, let me know that (the coaches) want you at linebacker now that they see some things in me,” Soroh said. “You have to embrace everything, no matter what position I play. I’m just excited to play this game, play this sport.”
Wright out: Sophomore wide receiver Willie Wright remains out of practice with a “medical issue” and is still considered day-to-day. Wright has attended both practices.
McGriff the running back? Junior wide receiver/tight end D’Anfernee McGriff can add another position to his resume, as the second-year transfer has seen snaps in the backfield. With sophomore Tyrek Tisdale out, McGriff could compete for more snaps in the backfield this spring.
Highlight reel: Playing running back, McGriff made a nice catch in the flat on second-team action with Robison, who briefly spent time with that unit. … All-American junior running back Devin Singletary is showing no signs of exhaustion, already showing off his trademark jukes and spins against the first-team defense. … Former “Last Chance U” star and redshirt junior defensive end Tim Bonner enjoyed his second straight strong practice.
BOCA RATON — Florida Atlantic quarterback Chris Robison’s indefinite suspension was more like a sick day, as the redshirt freshman quarterback was reinstated and practiced on Thursday morning.
Robison, who is expected to compete for the starting quarterback role this spring with redshirt junior and former “Last Chance U” star De’Andre Johnson, was suspended earlier this week for violating team rules. Sources told The Post on Tuesday that Robison, in his first full year with FAU after transferring from Oklahoma last summer, skipped a mandatory tutoring session.
Robison was previously dismissed from the Sooners for violating team rules and being arrested for public intoxication last April. Johnson and Robison split first-team reps on Thursday, though Johnson was the unofficial “starter” and began drills as the No. 1 quarterback.
“Like we just told our players, you got choices. We can’t make the choices for you,” Kiffin said on Tuesday. “If you don’t want to make the right choices, there’s punishments for them. I think our punishments are a bit more severe than most people would be, but we want to teach our guys they gotta do everything right.”
BOCA RATON — The Lane Train — and all that entails — has left the station for its second trip around the college football world.
Fresh off an 11-3 season which featured a Conference USA title and a Boca Bowl victory over Akron, Lane Kiffin and the Florida Atlantic Owls hit the Oxley Center fields Tuesday morning for one of 15 spring-camp practices.
“I thought the defense had a good day today … good leadership by those guys,” Kiffin said. “Lot of veterans coming back … Same issue (on offense) as a year ago, even though (there are) different players. We had a snap issue much like we did a year ago. Too many turnovers.”
Even with the turnovers, the start of spring camp marked a return to action for an FAU offense that averaged over 40 points per game last year. Former Florida State and “Last Chance U” quarterback De’Andre Johnson was a full participant in his first practice since undergoing surgery for blood clots in his arm last September.
Kiffin told his players early to avoid the “rat poison” and positive talk which came from the Owls’ first winning record since 2008 and first-ever C-USA title.
“(At) 7:45 this morning, we made sure we understood that this was a different team,” Kiffin said, adding he reminded his players their current record is 0-0. “(This has) nothing to do with what that team did. … (That was a) very special season, but that means nothing — like a preseason ranking.”
Kiffin drew from his past experience as a head coach to motivate his players, explaining that his 2012 USC Trojans were No. 1 in the AP preseason polls, but “ended up out of the rankings.”
All-American running back and Heisman Trophy candidate Devin “Motor” Singletary (American Heritage-Delray) was among the players who took Kiffin’s words to heart.
“It was good. Everything that we did, of course, that’s gonna be remembered forever,” Singletary said, pausing. “But it’s 2018! We gotta make a new name for ourselves.”
QB battle: With Chris Robison suspended indefinitely, Johnson took roughly 75 percent of the snaps on Tuesday. Kiffin indicated Robison could be back at any time, but the starting job is Johnson’s for the time being. Former walk-on and Cypress Bay quarterback Conor Miller is the backup until Robison returns.
Hold the line: Joining returning tackles Reggie Bain and Brandon Walton on the offensive line were guards BJ Etienne and Will Tuihalamaka and center Tarrick Thomas. Thomas primarily served as the backup center last season after starting four games in 2016 before suffering a season-ending injury.
Whyte in: Redshirt-junior running back Kerrith Whyte (Seminole Ridge) was a full participant in practice on Tuesday. Whyte was in a boot this winter for an Achilles injury.
Cameron impresses: JUCO transfer defensive tackle Charles Cameron showed no signs of struggling to adjust to the Division I level, blowing past offensive linemen without any issues. Cameron is the only player who signed with the Owls during the inaugural early signing period who is participating in camp this spring.
“He made a lot of plays out there,” Kiffin said of Cameron. “There’s no pads, but he was in the backfield.”
BOCA RATON — Florida Atlantic quarterback Chris Robison, who had hoped to win the starting job after transferring from Oklahoma last season, has been suspended indefinitely for violating team rules.
Multiple sources told The Post on Tuesday afternoon that the latest suspension is related to academics, as Robison did not attend a recent tutoring session. It is not known how many sessions Robison has missed.
Robison, 19, was dismissed from Oklahoma last summer for violating team rules and a public intoxication arrest in April 2017.
Owls coach Lane Kiffin, who compared Robison to former Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel after his first practice last August, acknowledged his disappointment while explaining the suspension.
“(He’s) not doing things right off the field and (it’s) not just that he hurt himself, but he hurt his team,” Kiffin said. “We’re trying to run basically two practices on two fields going with three quarterbacks.”
Kiffin said Robison’s suspension could be lifted at any point, though it is unclear how the suspension affects his battle with former Florida State quarterback De’Andre Johnson for the starting job. Johnson is working his way back from September surgery for blood clots in his arm and took roughly 75 percent of the reps on Tuesday.
Incumbent starting quarterback Jason Driskel retired earlier this year to focus on getting his engineering degree and former Dwyer star Daniel Parr transferred to Duquesne in December.
Walk-ons Conor Miller and Trent Wessel will serve as Johnson’s backups for the time being. Miller was the Owls’ third-string QB last year, while Wessel rejoined the team after being cut last summer.
“Like we just told our players, you got choices. We can’t make the choices for you,” Kiffin said. “If you don’t want to make the right choices, there’s punishments for them. I think our punishments are a bit more severe than most people would be, but we want to teach our guys they gotta do everything right.”
BOCA RATON — Florida Atlantic Owls head coach Lane Kiffin is down another offensive lineman on the eve of his second spring camp, as a team spokesperson confirmed that rising redshirt junior Jack Breshears is no longer with the program due to a lingering shoulder injury.
Breshears, 21, saw action in six games two seasons ago before suffering a season-ending injury in Oct. 2016. Though Breshears practiced last summer and was considered a potential option to win a starting offensive-line job before losing out to Jakobi Smith, the then-sophomore saw limited action before apparently re-aggravating the injury.
A source told The Post on Sunday night that Breshears “no longer had the same passion he did for football when (former FAU coach) Charlie Partridge was there.” Breshears was the rare out-of-state recruit by Partridge, signing with FAU from Batavia High School (Ill.) in 2015.
With most of last year’s starting offensive linemen graduating, Breshears would have likely had an opportunity to compete for a starting job.
Breshears is still attending classes at FAU in hopes of getting his business degree.
FAU is struggling to keep veteran offensive linemen healthy and ready to play. Fifth-year senior Matt Murphy retired last month to take a job with the athletic department’s marketing team, and former walk-on Matt Weiner, a Suncoast graduate who tore his ACL in August, is also not listed on the current spring roster.
Though tackle Bryan Beck is listed on the roster, there is skepticism that the rising redshirt junior will continue to play. A team spokesperson said Beck has not yet received a medical exemption, which would enable FAU to use his scholarship on another player while still paying for him to attend school, though he could apply for one later.
FAU will begin its second spring camp under Kiffin on Tuesday.
BOCA RATON — All aboard the Lane Kiffin Train for its second round, something likely no one saw coming when the well-traveled head coach arrived at Florida Atlantic in Dec. 2016.
Kiffin and FAU pulled off the improbable in 2017, winning their final 10 games after starting 1-3 to complete their first winning season since 2008. FAU posted its first winning record in Conference USA since entering the league in 2013 and dominated its opponents en route to not only winning the conference, but also its first bowl game since 2008.
Now, the pressure is on Kiffin — who verbally agreed to a six-year contract extension in December — and the Owls to replicate last year’s success. The challenge begins with the Owls’ second spring camp under Kiffin, which starts Tuesday at the Oxley Center.
Here are five storylines to watch as FAU begins its title defense.
1. Big-name quarterback battle: Kiffin promised a quarterback competition not even an hour after FAU’s 50-3 Boca Bowl win over Akron on Dec. 19, but the pieces and circumstances have changed quite a bit since then. Last season’s starter, Jason Driskel, has retired to focus on school and Daniel Parr (Dwyer) transferred to Duquesne, but “Last Chance U” star and former Florida State recruit De’Andre Johnson returns from blood clots which sidelined him for nearly all of 2017. Competing with Johnson is ex-Oklahoma recruit Chris Robison, who transferred to the Owls last August after violating team rules. Even if Kiffin doesn’t name a true starter by the end of spring camp, this year’s battle will have plenty of star power attached.
2. Will Devin Singletary’s workload be limited? Singletary ran for 1,920 yards and an FBS-best 32 touchdowns in his first year as the Owls’ primary running back, but lost in his success was the junior-to-be leading Division I with 301 carries. Singletary was adamant last season that he could keep working as much as the coaches needed him to, but Kiffin may want to ease his All-American back into action this spring. Without their Motor, the Lane Train only runs so far.
3. Can Charles Cameron transition from JUCO? Three-star defensive tackle Charles Cameron (Copiah-Lincoln C.C.) is the only player who signed during the inaugural Early Signing Period in December that will be in camp this spring. Other players who transferred from junior colleges, including defensive linemen Ernest Bagner and Tim Bonner, were open about their own troubles adjusting to Division I. Cameron, who could earn first-team reps following Jeremiah Taleni’s graduation, will try to avoid those same struggles.
4. Finding blockers may not be easy: FAU was already losing All-Conference USA center Antonyo Woods, left guard Roman Fernandez and starting right guard Jakobi Smith to graduation, but finding their replacements is becoming tougher by the day. Rising junior Jack Breshears retired due to a nagging shoulder injury and versatile backup Matt Murphy took a job with the athletic department. Former walk-on and Suncoast alum Matt Weiner’s status is uncertain after tearing his ACL last August.
There is good news for Kiffin and new offensive-line coach John Garrison, however: All-CUSA tackle Reggie Bain and Brandon Walton will both return for their senior and junior seasons, respectively.
5. Who’s really calling the shots? Kiffin hired Charlie Weis Jr., 24, to be the offensive coordinator of a team that averaged over 40 points per game last year. Kiffin allowed Kendal Briles to run the offense last year while the first-year Owls coach took more of a hands-on role with both the offense and defense for the first time in his career. Will Kiffin aim for the same balance with the baby-faced Weis, who isn’t much older than the team’s longest-tenured players?