Signing Day 2018: Florida Atlantic has benefited from recent last-minute flips

Florida Atlantic Owls running back Devin Singletary (5) is congratulated by Florida Atlantic Owls head coach Lane Kiffin after a touchdown against the North Texas Mean Green at the 2017 Conference USA Football Championship at FAU Stadium in Boca Raton, Florida on December 2, 2017. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

BOCA RATON — For any Florida Atlantic fans concerned about how Lane Kiffin’s second signing day will go, one thing should ease your nerves.

In recent years, when signing day finally arrived, the Owls have had success convincing some of their main targets — some of whom have become the team’s top players — to flip at the last minute.

[RELATED: Check out FAU’s 2018 recruiting class as it currently stands]

For proof, look no further than running back Devin Singletary, who two years ago this month was all set to sign with Illinois. Singletary, then a two-star prospect by Rivals, was set to go to a Power 5 program led by former Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith … until he flipped to FAU and then-Owls coach Charlie Partridge on signing day.

“It feels great to stay home,” Singletary told The Post after making his choice. “Why not? Why change my climate? I’ve been playing in this my whole life.”

Staying in his “climate” has paid off for Singletary, who after only two seasons is FAU’s all-time leader in rushing touchdowns with 44 and counting. This past season, Singletary was also named the first All-American and first Conference USA MVP in school history.

FAU landed another key, Power 5-bound prospect via signing-day flip in that same recruiting class, when Homestead linebacker and three-star recruit Rashad Smith — all set to sign with Syracuse and then-new head coach Dino Babers — decided to stay in the Sunshine State by signing with the Owls. Smith had previously flipped from FAU to Syracuse the previous month before changing his mind on signing day.

One of only two freshmen to start a game on defense in 2016, Smith led the Owls with six sacks this past season and enters next month’s spring camp fully entrenched as one of two starting linebackers alongside Azeez Al-Shaair.

The flips weren’t limited to Partridge’s classes, though, as three-star wide receiver Willie Wright — originally headed for Memphis — signed with FAU last year. Wright became the first true freshman in FAU history to lead the team in catches (56), receiving yards (657) and receiving touchdowns (6).

FAU’s 2018 recruiting class will continue to take shape before Wednesday’s National Signing Day, but if recent history is any indication, some of the more productive freshman this upcoming season will have made a last-minute choice to play under Kiffin.

And if those players do flip, expect them to do so with a sentiment similar to what Singletary said two years ago.

“I know we’re going to be able to do a lot of great things,” the running back said. ‘This program is definitely about to explode very soon.”

Lane Kiffin, FAU get commitment from three-star quarterback Cordel Littlejohn

BOCA RATON — Florida Atlantic head coach Lane Kiffin has potentially found his quarterback of the future.

North Carolina quarterback and three-star recruit Cordel Littlejohn (Lincolnton) took to Twitter on Sunday evening to announce he would be committing to FAU. A former Illinois commit, Littlejohn was in Boca Raton this weekend to tour the university.

In a posted note that thanked his parents and coaches, Littlejohn said he was “thankful” for the recruiting process.

Standing 6-4, 185 pounds, Littlejohn threw for 3,654 yards and 50 touchdowns to seven interceptions as a junior in 2016, but was held to seven passing touchdowns against eight picks this past season. Littlejohn did run for 620 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground.

Littlejohn cannot sign his letter of intent until Feb. 7, though his potential arrival adds another element to FAU’s quarterback battle. Both of the Owls’ starting quarterbacks from 2016 and 2017, Daniel Parr (Dwyer) and Jason Driskel, are no longer with the program. Parr announced he would be transferring to Duquesne University shortly after the Owls’ 50-3 win over Akron in the Boca Raton Bowl, while Driskel announced his retirement from football earlier this month.

If Littlejohn does sign with the Owls, he would likely compete with former Oklahoma recruit Chris Robison and former Mr. Florida honoree De’Andre Johnson for the starting quarterback job. Johnson’s future in football remains uncertain after September surgery for blood clots in his arm, though teammates are reportedly more optimistic about the former Florida State quarterback’s return to form than they were during the season.

FAU is familiar with an Illinois commit changing his mind for Boca Raton, as former American Heritage running back Devin Singletary did exactly that two years ago. Singletary led Division I 32 rushing touchdowns this past season and was named Conference USA’s MVP for his efforts.