FAU’s De’Andre Johnson, John Franklin III, Tim Bonner featured on Netflix’s ‘Last Chance U’ special

De’Andre Johnson throws during spring football practice at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton on March 22, 2018. (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)

Present at the 2017 Birmingham Bowl to watch former East Mississippi teammate Dakota Allen and the Texas Tech Red Raiders, Florida Atlantic defensive end Tim Bonner chuckled at a question from a fan: Is FAU head coach Lane Kiffin “a nut?”

“He just crazy,” Bonner tells the fan. “He’s crazy as a mother——. He fun, but he cool, though. I like him.”

Bonner’s reunion with Allen is one of the features in the new Netflix special “EMCC & Life After.” The special serves as a spin-off of “Last Chance U,” the critically acclaimed documentary series about JUCO powerhouse East Mississippi Community College. Former FAU wide receiver John Franklin III was on the series’ initial season in 2016, which detailed the Lions’ 2015 season, while Bonner and current Owls quarterback De’Andre Johnson appeared on the second season, which debuted last July.

After two years at EMCC, “Last Chance U” moved to Independence College (Kan.) for the third season. To coincide with the new season’s premiere, Netflix also released an hour-long episode serving as a “where are they now?” special for some of the key characters from the first two seasons.

Johnson signed with FAU in Dec. 2016, shortly after the school hired Lane Kiffin. Bonner signed with the Owls two months later and Franklin, who joined Auburn after his stint at EMCC, transferred to the Owls in August.

“It’s been a magical season, I can honestly say that,” Johnson says. “Team going from 3-9 for the past three seasons and just having Coach Kiffin come in, change the whole identity, the whole culture.”

Roughly seven minutes are dedicated to the three stars, detailing their 2017 seasons and their love of Kiffin. Though they were both viewed as transfers who could provide immediate impacts, Johnson missed most of the season with blood clots and Bonner was mainly a special-teams player. After switching from quarterback to wide receiver, Franklin caught seven passes for 95 yards and a touchdown, adding 229 yards and two scores on 16 carries, mostly as a Wildcat quarterback.

Johnson was surprised when he learned Franklin was transferring to FAU, a move that came less than a month before the Owls began their season against Navy on Sept. 1.

“I’ve watched him go through being in Florida State’s quarterback room to going to East Mississippi’s quarterback room, to then going to Auburn,” Johnson says. “And so when John went to receiver, I’m like, ‘How is he taking this?'”

“For my last year, I just really wanted to get a little experience before I got into the next level,” says Franklin, who signed with the Chicago Bears as an undrafted free agent and will attempt to play cornerback in the NFL. “I ultimately knew if I wanted to play at the next level, I was going to have to make that change. I wanted to do it now before I got into the next level and it’s too late.”

Other topics explored in the special include former EMCC academic counselor Brittany Wagner’s 10 Thousand Pencils foundation, Lions coach Buddy Stephens celebrating a 2017 National Championship, Allen’s redemption at Texas Tech, and running back Isaiah Wright’s legal issues. Wright is currently in jail for his ties to a 2017 homicide in Tennessee.

Currently fighting Oklahoma transfer Chris Robison for the starting quarterback job, Johnson praised Kiffin as a “dynamic play-caller.” Both Johnson and Bonner, who was one of the defense’s top players this spring, are expected to have major roles for the Owls this season.

As he did while at EMCC, Bonner steals the show with one-liners, comparing Franklin at one point to the popular cartoon character, Franklin the Turtle. While signing an autograph for a fan, Bonner makes reference to his nickname “Slim Boogaloo” and poses with young fans of the show.

“It’s cool to go to another state and city and they know who I am,” Bonner said. “I ain’t ever think it would come up like that, but they be real-deal liking me or something. It’s different, but I’m still myself, like I ain’t changed nothing.”

[Heisman in Paradise: FAU places billboard of star running back Devin Singletary on I-95]

[FAU coach Lane Kiffin: “What’s the most important thing? Long-term health, or how the game looks?”]

[Will Florida Atlantic find quarterback of future in either De’Andre Johnson or Chris Robison?]

[Beyond Devin Singletary, how good can Florida Atlantic’s running backs be this year?]

[Rising star sophomore Willie Wright headlines deep Florida Atlantic wide receiver core]

[After impressive 2017 season, junior Harrison Bryant ready to lead talented FAU tight end group]

[Brandon Walton, Reggie Bain remain steady offensive tackles for FAU amid changing offensive line]

Florida Atlantic quarterback Chris Robison reinstated from suspension

Florida Atlantic quarterback Chris Robison, after redshirting last season, is expected to compete for a starting role this spring. (FAUsports.com)

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.”

Florida Atlantic Owls begin second spring camp under Lane Kiffin

FAU head coach Lane Kiffin at practice in Boca Raton, Florida on March 23, 2017. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

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.”

FAU quarterback Chris Robison suspended indefinitely by Lane Kiffin

Florida Atlantic quarterback Chris Robison, after redshirting last season, is expected to compete for a starting role this spring. (FAUsports.com)

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.”

Five storylines to watch as Lane Kiffin, Florida Atlantic begin spring camp

FAU players celebrate 41-17 win over 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 — 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?

[DeAndre McNeal headlines Florida Atlantic offensive players to watch this spring]

[“Last Chance U” star Tim Bonner leads FAU defenders to watch in spring]

[Former Auburn wide receiver Kyle Davis will get second chance at FAU]

[Ex-West Virginia WR Jovon Durante expected to make waves at FAU this spring]

Lane Kiffin, Florida Atlantic change focus to ‘national’ recruiting plan

Florida Atlantic Owls head coach Lane Kiffin at the Cheribundi Tart Cherry Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, Florida on December 19, 2017. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

BOCA RATON — Lane Kiffin began his tenure at Florida Atlantic in Dec. 2016 by saying he wasn’t intending to send any types of messages, subliminal or otherwise.

After his second recruiting class, Kiffin has sent two vocal messages: FAU is en route to becoming a “national program” and the foundation of the old program, a heavy recruiting base in South Florida, is being left in the past.

[RELATED: Five takeaways from Lane Kiffin’s second recruiting class]

“When we came here, there were people that said there so many great players [that] there is no reason to go outside South Florida,” Kiffin said earlier this week. “I get that and … we’re going to recruit South Florida. It’s more important than any other area, but at the same time, too, we didn’t come here to be the old FAU. We came here to be a national program.”

Among the nearly 20 players Kiffin signed this year, Palm Beach Lakes defensive back Teja Young was the only high school player to come from Palm Beach, Broward or Miami-Dade counties. Former Tulane center Junior Diaz (Miami-Central) and ex-West Virginia wide receiver Jovan Durante (Miramar) each played high school football south of FAU.

Kiffin did add two local stars as preferred walk-ons, with Dwyer defensive end/linebacker Dalton Hustad signing with the Owls on Wednesday and Seminole Ridge offensive lineman Nicholas Screicu doing the same on Friday.

“How many programs only recruit their area, national programs?” Kiffin asked. “They don’t. … You want to be a top-20 program year-in and year-out. You don’t say, ‘I’m going not going over there.’ We’re developing into a national program that we can go into California, we can go into Alabama, we can go into Georgia.”

With FAU having long been considered a realistic option for local players who either don’t have many Division-I offers or who want to stay closer to home, Kiffin’s decision to stray away from his base has some worried about the long-term implications. Former FAU coach Charlie Partridge made such a habit of recruiting within South Florida that 49 of last year’s Conference USA-winning Owls came from the aforementioned South Florida counties.

Though Palm Beach Lakes High coach Al Shipman has tried selling his players for years on the potential good of leaving Florida to “experience some different things,” FAU’s newest philosophy of focusing less on local kids might not work out.

“I think if you don’t recruit the hot bed of the country, you’re making a big mistake,” Shipman told The Post. “You’re making a huge mistake. This is the most-recruited state in the country and for you to openly … say you’re going to recruit this area less, I just personally think that’s mistake. Like a Teja, you have a lot of local kids who want to stay home and have that opportunity.”

FAU has officially signed a total of 10 in-state players among their 17 total recruits this year, down from 13 (of 24) last year and 17 (of 19) in 2015. Of last year’s 12 in-state high-school recruits, however, five came from the three South Florida counties.

Quarterback De’Andre Johnson (2016) and Diaz both opted to return to Florida after out-of-state stints, though Johnson had originally signed with Florida State in 2015 before being dismissed following an assault charge.

“The issue, I think, with FAU is that now they’re more known so they can go outside the county and grab kids they think might be better,” former Seminole Ridge High coach James Parson added. “I think when Kiffin came in, they went (with) a lot of bigger-school, D-I guys who weren’t happy, got those guys and some JUCO kids. … When [Partridge] was there, Charlie brought a few more Palm Beach County guys in.”

Parson did bring up a point that may interest some local players in wake of the changes at FAU. With its heavy emphasis on recruiting locally, Keiser University — which will play its first season this fall under former Oxbridge coach Doug Socha — could become the next FAU in terms of its in-state impact.

“Keiser snatched up a lot of guys,” Parson said. “You can actually stay at home and go to Keiser!”

FAU QB De’Andre Johnson will not have medical redshirt for lost 2017 season

FAU quarterback De’Andre Johnson (14) pitches out during a drill in Boca Raton, Florida on March 23, 2017. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

BOCA RATON — Despite missing nearly all of the 2017 season as a redshirt sophomore, Florida Atlantic quarterback De’Andre Johnson will play the 2018 season as a redshirt junior, an FAU spokesperson told The Post on Tuesday.

The prized signing of Lane Kiffin’s first recruiting class last year, Johnson — well known for playing at East Mississippi Community College and starring on Netflix’s “Last Chance U” — played just one game in 2017 before undergoing emergency surgery in September for blood clots in his arm. He missed the rest of the season. In his one appearance, a Sept. 1 loss against Navy, Johnson completed two of three passes and was intercepted once.

The FAU spokesperson said Johnson could still apply for a medical redshirt later but will not do so now. Applying for a hardship waiver has been ruled out at this time as well.

Johnson, a former Florida State enrollee who was dismissed from the program following a 2015 assault charge, was Kiffin’s first signing at FAU in Dec. 2016. As recently as this past December, teammates were optimistic about Johnson returning to form for the 2018 season.

Shortly after his surgery, Johnson was named a game captain for the Owls’ Sept. 30 win over Middle Tennessee. Johnson also worked out with the team during practices and stood on the sideline during home games.

Johnson has been officially cleared for spring camp and likely will compete with former Oklahoma quarterback Chris Robison for the starting job. FAU currently has a commitment from three-star quarterback Cordel Littlejohn (Roswell, Ga.) and will bring Gulf Coast quarterback Kaden Frost to fall camp as a preferred walk-on. Neither of last year’s starting quarterbacks, Daniel Parr (Dwyer) and Jason Driskel, will be with the team in 2018 having, respectively, transferred and retired after the Owls’ Dec. 19 Boca Raton Bowl win.

FAU announced earlier this week that it will begin its spring camp March 20.

Signing Day 2018: Tulane center Junior Diaz transferring to Florida Atlantic

BOCA RATON — With Seminole Ridge alum Antonyo Woods set to graduate, Florida Atlantic coach Lane Kiffin needs a new center. He seems to have found him.

Tulane center Junior Diaz, who earned his undergraduate degree in December, has confirmed through social media that he will be using his last year of college eligibility at FAU as a grad transfer. Diaz would immediately be able to play and would seemingly be the odds-on favorite to replace Woods, one of seven Owls named to Conference USA’s all-first team in December.

“I can’t get wait to get to work with Coach Kiffin,” Diaz wrote in a Twitter note announcing the commitment.

Diaz returns home to South Florida after playing at Miami Springs High and claiming first-team All-Dade County honors as both a junior and senior. Current Owls offensive tackle Reggie Bain was a high school teammate of Diaz, and the two could start together once again.

Kiffin added several notable grad transfers prior to his first season at FAU, including former Florida State and Auburn quarterback-turned-receiver John Franklin III and defensive tackle Jeremiah Taleni. At this time, Diaz is the Owls’ only graduate transfer this season, though Kiffin could add more in the next few months.

FAU also landed a commitment from JUCO center Zack Bennett in January.

Owls quarterback chart taking shape: Gulf Coast quarterback Kaden Frost announced Monday night that he will be committing to the Owls as a preferred walk-on. Frost is only the second quarterback to commit to FAU this year, joining Roswell (Ga.) quarterback Cordel Littlejohn.

“I have a lot to prove and I feel that their offensive scheme is a great fit for myself … and that I will be able to become the best QB I can possibly be,” Frost told The Post in a Twitter message.

FAU is also expected to get good news about one of its current quarterbacks. FAUOwlAccess.com reported on Tuesday morning that De’Andre Johnson, who missed the bulk of last season following surgery for blood clots in his arm, is expected to be cleared for spring camp. An ex-Florida State signee who played at East Mississippi Community College after an assault incident in Tallahassee, Johnson headlined last year’s signing class before serving as the backup for one game to former Dwyer star Daniel Parr.

One source told The Post on Monday that Kiffin may make a statement on Johnson’s status during his signing-day press conference Wednesday.

Johnson would join Oklahoma transfer Chris Robison and last year’s backup Conor Miller as the team’s top three quarterbacks in spring camp. Parr and last year’s starter, Jason Driskel, are no longer on the roster after, respectively, transferring and retiring.

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.