BOCA RATON — Lane Kiffin’s first recruiting class at Florida Atlantic proved to be a hit, as the Owls won 11 games and a Conference USA title. Will his second class do as well?
A year after his first signing class included “Last Chance U” stars and former Power 5 players, Kiffin and FAU enjoyed another strong signing day this time around.
With the early signing period and the normal national signing day, Kiffin added nearly 20 players who will be expected to help FAU repeat as C-USA champions.
“Our thought was, let’s make sure that we keep ourselves available and spots open to be able to sign the best players that we can,” Kiffin said. “I think that model worked, we battled a lot of Power 5 schools on a lot of these kids and our coaches did a really good job.”
[RELATED: Updated list of FAU commitments and signings]
Five takeaways from FAU’s signing day:
1. Lane has his quarterback(s)
Jason Driskel and Daniel Parr (Dwyer) may be gone, but Kiffin now has two quarterbacks for the future in Chris Robison and Cordel Littlejohn. Robison still figures to be the favorite in spring camp, but the addition of Littlejohn – especially after redshirt junior De’Andre Johnson was cleared for action – adds an unexpected layer to the quarterback battle. Last year’s quarterback battle alone proved that the least-expected candidate (Parr won the job out of camp, only to lose it early in the season to Driskel) will have a chance to start under Kiffin so long as they perform to expectations.
“We bring quarterbacks in as true freshman and we give them a shot – I liked the Cordel story,” Kiffin said. “This was a school that (Illinois) had and one of those things where he just becomes available … this is a dynamic player that can run, can throw, and a really special kid.”
2. No major flips
Signing day had plenty of last-minute choices and flips across the country, but nearly every recruit who had announced either a prior commitment to FAU or narrowed the Owls to their top three schools signed with the school Wednesday. FAU did get a surprise signing in Austin (Ala.) offensive lineman Marquice Robinson, who had interest from Auburn and Mississippi State before they shied away because of academic concerns.
Robinson has reportedly righted the ship and could be an interesting option to earn playing time in 2018 if he qualifies academically.
“I want a shot at playing in the NFL, and Coach Kiffin and his staff have a lot of experience at getting guys to that level,” Robinson told the Decatur Daily at his signing day ceremony.
3. Defensive line surprisingly earns heavy focus
Maybe we shouldn’t be so surprised that Kiffin prioritized the defensive line when Hunter Snyder, Ernest Bagner, and Steven Leggett all will graduate after this season, but FAU added two JUCO defensive linemen in Charles Cameron (Copiah-Lincoln, Miss.) and Marcel Southall (Tyler, Texas). Given how Jeremiah Taleni – a proven starter at Pittsburgh who arrived as a grad trasfer – was the only transfer lineman to really contribute last season, Kiffin’s decision to stockpile talent with shortened eligibility in the trenches is a curious choice.
4. FAU quietly upgrades wide receivers
No wide receivers may have been among the players to sign with FAU on Wednesday, but former West Virginia wideout Jovan Durante and ex-Auburn Tiger Kyle Davis are both among the official signing class after transfers in the past six months. FAU also added JUCO wideout Nero Nelson (Copiah-Lincoln) and DeSean Homes (College of the Canyons) during the early signing period.
Kalib Woods and Kamrin Solomon may be gone, but Kiffin and new offensive coordinator Charlie Weis Jr. will have plenty of tools to play with at wide receiver – and don’t forget, catch/yards/touchdown leader Willie Wright is only entering his sophomore season.
5. Linebackers, secondary among positions left out
Not every position was going to be addressed, but the failure to add another linebacker was notable. Three-year starter Azeez Al-Shaair is entering his senior season and Rashad Smith is a rising junior. The same arguably goes for the secondary, where Armani Adams, Meiko Dotson and athlete-turned-cornerback Teja Young (Palm Beach Lakes) were the Owls’ only signings this year.