Pecoraro, a former defensive coordinator at Alcorn State and North Alabama, will replace Kiffin’s younger brother, Chris, who took a job as the San Francisco 49ers’ pass-rush specialist last month. Under Pecoraro, Southern Miss finished 20th in the nation in total defense, allowing only 331.9 yards per game. The Golden Eagles defense also ranked 45th in the country in points per game, giving up just over 24.
Pecoraro spent two seasons in Hattiesburg and has prior experience in the Sunshine State, coaching three seasons as the defensive quality-control coach at Florida State and coaching on five total bowl teams. Pecoraro began his coaching career at Webber International University in 2004 and also worked as the team’s recruiting coordinator.
The Owls begin their spring camp on March 20.
FAU has yet to officially confirm the hiring. This story will be updated as more information is made available.
BOCA RATON — Luther “Uncle Luke” Campbell always has something to say about one of three things: hip-hop, his beloved Miami Hurricanes and football.
And the former 2 Live Crew star loves talking college football. When coaching veteran Lane Kiffin was named Florida Atlantic’s head football coach in Dec. 2016, Campbell was quick to tweet his allegiance to FAU. He quickly became friends with the Owls coach, and invited the team down to Liberty City’s Charles Hadley Park last August. Kiffin and FAU will hit the road again this year during spring camp for a second practice in Liberty City on April 7.
In an exclusive, lengthy phone interview with The Post, Campbell discussed the current state of college football in Florida, and he began with the Lane Train in Boca Raton.
Campbell on the rise of FAU: “From what I’ve seen, the future looks real good for this team. The culture, the coaches … obviously Lane changed the culture along with the coaches. The strength coach (Wilson Love), I just love him. I learn so much from him being a high school coach — I talk to him all the time. I call (Love) up and see how he pushes the kids to the maximum. Football, when it’s on that level, everybody is good — it’s just a matter of the individual who’s pushing them. Do they really want to (work hard) for that coach?
“Obviously, those guys who have been just getting beat down for years turned their season around in one year because they bought into the program and bought into everything else that the coaches preached (to) them.”
Campbell on the state of Florida football: “It’s great because the best part about it, I always say, is there’s so many more opportunities for these kids to be able to go to college. I tell people all over the country, I tell my friend Snoop Dogg, I tell my friends in Texas and get into arguments all the time with (Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, who played high school in Georgia and spent 2007-08 with the Florida Gators) about who’s got the best football players. I always remind him that Florida has the best players because we got the best football. I mean, it’s football all over the place and (it’s) good football!”
Campbell on jumping on the FAU bandwagon: “I went when (former FAU coach Charlie) Partridge was coaching! I always liked going out (to FAU). I’ve been going to FAU games for probably the last six years, have a good time … I just feel like it’s the best atmosphere for football.”
Campbell on predicting FAU’s success: “Everyone jumped on me last year when I said FAU is gonna win its conference, FAU is gonna win its bowl game. FAU has the best coaching staff of all the teams in the state of Florida.”
Campbell on the Hurricanes’ biggest need entering 2018: “One thing about me is that I call a spade a spade. I looked at Miami’s staff and I always say — and I’ll say it right now — we need an offensive coordinator. I love Miami.”
Miami had the fifth-best scoring offense in the ACC (29.1 points per game) and seventh-best total offense (403.4 yards per game) in 2017 under second-year offensive coordinator Thomas Brown. Miami averaged 34.3 points (6th) and 425.9 yards (8th) in 2016.
Campbell on former Florida State and current Texas A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher: “I said Jimbo Fisher has lost a little bit of spunk and he lost some good guys off his staff. When you looked at Lane’s staff at the time with him and (former Owls offensive coordinator Kendal Briles) and (wide receivers coach and Miami Northwestern star Gary “Flea” Harrell), I mean he had some hot coaches over there. So to see (Kiffin) win like that, that was a no brainer (putting Kiffin over Fisher).”
Campbell on the importance of recruiting from Florida: “You can recruit the nation, but you’re in the backyard of that area. (FAU recruiting heavily in-state) is something that happened because (former FAU coach Carl Pelini, who was 5-15 in 20 games with the Owls before resigning in Oct. 2013 amid alleged drug use) was like, ‘OK, I ain’t getting no kids from Dade or Broward County. What he did, it was just a matter of time before he got sent out (of) the room.”
Campbell will continue to have plenty of takes on FAU and the Sunshine State’s other collegiate teams as the spring and summer go on. When FAU begins its spring camp on March 20, look for Campbell and Kiffin to talk shop both on the field and on Twitter.
BOCA RATON — Between his Twitter antics and his coaching style, high school players have quickly taken to Lane Kiffin. Those same players will have a chance to meet and learn from the Florida Atlantic coach this summer.
Owls tight ends coach Clint Trickett, one of Kiffin’s first hires last year and a former starting quarterback at Florida State and West Virginia, announced on Twitter that the program will host seven camp days this June as part of the “Lane Kiffin Football Camp.”
“We are looking forward to the Lane Kiffin Football Camps this summer,” a statement from Kiffin reads. “Players who attend the camp will learn the fundamentals of football as well as new techniques they can take with them and use during their upcoming season in their path to a championship. Make this your best season yet! See you all this summer in paradise!”
Kiffin held a similar event his first summer at FAU, hosting a satellite camp which featured Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh and now-Florida State coach Willie Taggart among others. Kiffin’s predecessor, Charlie Partridge, held a camp in 2016 alongside Ohio State coach Urban Meyer.
FAU has yet to announce what other schools, if any, will take part in these camps.
BOCA RATON — After allegedly running a 4.19 in a practice 40-yard dash, Florida Atlantic receiver John Franklin III’s numbers at the National Scouting Combine fell a bit short of historic.
Franklin and NLAE, the company representing the former “Last Chance U” star, confirmed to The Post that the speedy ex-quarterback ran a 4.32 in Indianapolis. Using laser technology to better gauge his pure speed, as opposed to his reaction time, Franklin instead ran a 4.40.
Franklin’s manager, Eugene Oldridge, said that the wide receiver was not sick or battling any type of injury.
“Just (a) bad time, I guess,” Oldridge wrote in a text.
In a video posted last week, the receiver ran what trainer Travis Shelton called a 4.19 dash, which would break the record set by now-Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver John Ross’ 4.22 at last year’s NFL Combine. Franklin’s 4.32 would have been the third-fastest time at last year’s NFL Combine, behind only Ross and Ohio State’s Curtis Samuel (4.31).
In his first year as a wide receiver after moving from quarterback while at Auburn, Franklin caught seven passes for 95 yards and a touchdown while adding 229 rushing yards on 16 carries. Franklin also served as FAU’s backup quarterback for most of the season, though he only threw one pass.
Franklin will have a chance to better that time and come closer to Ross’ record at FAU’s Pro Day on March 27. Franklin told The Post he will run the 40 that day even after partaking in the combine.
Other 40-yard dash times from the National Scouting Combine had not been released at the time of publication.
BOCA RATON — Referring to former Florida Atlantic wide receiver John Franklin III’s five years in college as a “journey” would be like saying Franklin’s head coach with the Owls, Lane Kiffin, enjoys using social media. It’s a major understatement.
A three-star recruit from South Plantation when he signed with Florida State in 2013, Franklin played two years with the Seminoles — winning a national championship in 2013 as Jameis Winston’s backup — before transferring to East Mississippi Community College, best known for the Netflix series “Last Chance U.” After a year in Scooba, Franklin transferred to Auburn and played quarterback for the Tigers in 2016 before returning home to play for Kiffin’s Owls last August.
“Living it was even more crazy than talking about it,” Franklin told The Post earlier this 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.”
Now, after going viral for allegedly posting a 4.19 40-yard dash time, Franklin is preparing for the National Scouting Combine in Indianapolis and hoping his blazing speed can earn him job in the NFL.
“(I’m just hoping to show) the transition has been expanded upon, that it was working at FAU,” Franklin said. “Whatever I need to play in (the NFL), I can showcase my ability in front of all those top-level scouts.”
In his first year as a wide receiver after moving from quarterback while at Auburn, Franklin caught seven passes for 95 yards and a touchdown while adding 229 rushing yards on 16 carries. After Dwyer alum/quarterback Daniel Parr’s demotion from the starting job in Week 4, Franklin essentially served as the Owls’ backup quarterback and often operated out of a Wildcat formation.
Franklin says he will continue to play wide receiver at the NFL level, so teams may be willing to look past the 23-year-old’s lack of experience at the position and give him a chance based on his speed. Franklin will have a chance at the combine on Wednesday to tie, or even potentially break, the 4.19 time he ran in a video posted last week.
There’s a history of college quarterbacks transitioning into successful NFL wide receivers, with New England Patriots star Julian Edelman having been a starting signal-caller at Kent State. Former Pittsburgh Steelers stars Hines Ward (Georgia) and Antwaan Randle El (Indiana) both played wide receiver in the NFL after spending time under center in college.
“I don’t try to compare — I pick up little things here and there,” Franklin said. “I’m just trying to perfect my best version of myself. … Even when I started playing quarterback, I figured that at the next level, I’d have to play receiver just because of my skill set and my speed, really. That’s appealing to put outside and use in multiple ways.”
Though Franklin was slowly phased out of the receiving game as true freshman Willie Wright emerged and Kalib Woods dominated after returning from suspension, the fifth-year senior remained a viable threat in the offense because of his legs.
Franklin also agreed with recent FAU signees that Kiffin and his staff give him a good chance of making it to the NFL.
“I feel like that’s a very appealing thing and from my experiences at FAU, that was the first time we practiced a similar schedule (to that of pro teams),” Franklin said. “Just the fact that we weren’t always out there practicing, but we were getting work in and I feel like that correlates to how the NFL is now. … This is a great environment, a great atmosphere and this is how (things would be) at the next level.”
“I don’t think my journey was supposed to be easy, clearly,” Franklin said, “but for some reason I’m still where I am today. There’s a reason behind it — and I don’t know it now — but I know it’s a blessing through the struggles and I think all that was preparing me for (now).”
BOCA RATON — When defensive tackle CharlesCameron arrived in Florida from Mississippi last month, the three-star recruit immediately knew what topic was off-limits.
“I came from Copiah-Lincoln and we played East Mississippi one time,” Cameron said, referring to the junior college that currently fields two FAU players and tight ends coach Clint Trickett. “That was the time we beat them, but I ain’t gonna bring that up to them.”
Cameron, 21, was one of five players to sign during the inaugural early signing period on Dec. 20 and has already reported to FAU for workouts. Trickett, then the Lions’ quarterbacks coach in a loss to his future player, was instrumental in recruiting Cameron to Boca Raton.
The 13th-ranked defensive tackle in this year’s JUCO recruiting class by 247.com, Cameron (6-3, 305 pounds as officially listed by FAU) had ten sacks and 54 tackles over the past two seasons for the Wolfpack. With starting defensive tackle Jeremiah Taleni having exhausted all years of eligibility, Cameron could potentially work his way into first-team reps during spring practice.
“Hopefully, I can bring leadership and be a big impact on the defensive line,” Cameron said. “(Showing the) defense can hold up, that motivates me.”
Owls coach Lane Kiffin said on Signing Day that Cameron has already impressed in the team’s conditioning program.
“We were able to watch him work out and like a lot of kids (who come in), it’s a change from junior college,” Kiffin said. “It looks like he’s done a good job of staying in shape, fit right in there, and it’ll be exciting to get him in the mix.”
FAU has had strong results with two recent defensive line transfers. Taleni finished second on the Owls with five sacks after arriving in August following a transfer from the University of Pittsburgh, while Brandin Bryant — who spent a year at Fort Scott Community College (Kan.) in 2011 — tallied 9.5 sacks and 25 tackles for loss from 2012-15, earning stints with the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks and New York Jets.
Copiah-Lincoln teammate Tre’Veon “Nero” Nelson, a three-star wide receiver and the No. 2 JUCO wideout in this year’s class, also signed with FAU in December and will arrive in the spring. Kiffin did something similar in his first recruiting class, signing EMCC teammates quarterback De’Andre Johnson and defensive end Tim Bonner.
Cameron said he enjoyed Kiffin’s infamous Twitter antics and was excited to play under the veteran head coach.
“He’s a really nice coach, real cool,” Cameron said. “(There were) no problems with the coaches.”
Cameron and FAU will begin practicing on March 20 in a spring camp which also features visits to Ft. Lauderdale (April 7) and Miami (April 14).
BOCA RATON — The good news for Florida Atlantic star linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair, as he traverses the school’s Boca Raton campus, is that the rising senior is finally being recognized by some of his classmates.
The bad news, if one wants to call it that? Every conversation with Al-Shaair and other students includes them asking him the same question: What is Owls coach Lane Kiffin like?
“That’s the No. 1 question you’re gonna get!” a laughing Al-Shaair told The Post on Thursday.
Al-Shaair, Kiffin, and the rest of the 2017 Owls were honored at halftime of what turned out to be the FAU men’s basketball team’s 79-76 overtime loss to Rice. Al-Shaair and All-American running back Devin “Motor” Singletary (American Heritage) briefly spoke to fans, while wide receiver Kalib Woods gleefully held up the team’s Shula Bowl trophy.
As teammates posed for pictures after the ceremony, Al-Shaair spoke about how happy he was for the team to be recognized after an 11-3 campaign and a Boca Raton Bowl win over Akron. FAU had won a combined nine games from 2014-16 before Kiffin was hired in Dec. 2016. Several outgoing Owls players joined the team for one final reunion on Thursday night.
“Since I’ve been here as a freshman, those guys have been here, so this is like the last hurrah,” Al-Shaair said. “For a final, final last time and they’re going to build their lives. … It was good to see them.”
Given where FAU was only a year ago — not to mention Al-Shaair, who missed all of last year’s spring camp with a labrum injury — the senior linebacker said it was a different feeling to be part of a school-wide celebration like this.
“I think it was more so weird during the season as we were winning (because) it was a new feeling,” said Al-Shaair, who elected to return to FAU for his senior season rather than take a chance by declaring for April’s NFL draft. “Now, it’s something that we want to build the tradition for and the foundation has already been laid down. So if this was a year ago and we were talking about this, I think it’d be pretty weird.”
The often-controversial Lane Kiffin has lent his opinion to college football’s latest controversy: Who is the real national champion?
While Alabama, where Kiffin served under Nick Saban from 2014-16 as the team’s offensive coordinator, won its second College Football Playoff in three years last month, Central Florida has proclaimed itself the “true” national champion after going 13-o under Scott Frost. UCF was the only FBS team to finish the season undefeated, with win No. 13 coming against SEC powerhouse Auburn in the Peach Bowl.
So who does Kiffin, entering his second season at Florida Atlantic after posting an 11-3 record in his first year, believe to be the champion? He opted for the Crimson Tide, as Kiffin explained in a podcast appearance on “The Mitch Davis Show.”
Still, Kiffin has loads of respect for what UCF did on the field.
“I don’t know that we would [claim the national title like UCF], but they see that they had a great season,” Kiffin told Davis in an episode released Wednesday. “Finishing up by beating Auburn and they think they can beat the two teams from the SEC (Georgia and Alabama) who went to the national championship. There’s something to it.”
Several times this past season, Kiffin praised UCF’s sudden turnaround from 0-12 in 2015 to undefeated two years later, including saying he wanted his own team to follow the Knights’ model.
Kiffin also spoke about FAU’s non-conference schedule, which includes a Sept. 1 matchup with CFP semifinalist Oklahoma and a showdown with none other than UCF on Sept. 21 in Orlando. UCF and the AAC announced last week that the FAU-UCF game, originally scheduled for Sept. 22, would be moved forward one day in advance to accommodate national television.
“(We have a) very competitive schedule, but you never know when you schedule things how good teams are going to be because teams stay up and down,” Kiffin said.
FAU will begin its spring camp on March 20 and will hold its annual spring game on April 21. Kiffin announced earlier this week that the Owls will hold road practices in Ft. Lauderdale’s Carter Park (April 7) and Miami’s Charles Hadley Park (April 14).
BOCA RATON — Florida Atlantic head coach Lane Kiffin has talked about wanting to turn the Owls into a “national program.” Two of Kiffin’s best players, at least for one night, helped the coach make some progress in his goal.
Star running back and reigning Conference USA MVP Devin Singletary (Delray-American Heritage) and linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair, both of whom were first-team All-CUSA players this past season, were honored by the 63rd Touchdown Club of Columbus Awards as players to watch in 2018. Singletary led Division I with 32 rushing touchdowns and finished 80 yards shy of 2,000 as a true sophomore, while Al-Shaair finished third in the nation and led C-USA with 146 tackles.
“I would like to thank the Touchdown Club for inviting me to Columbus,” Singletary said through a university spokesperson. “I also want to thank them for labeling me as a player to watch in 2018.”
Singletary, who became the first Owls player in program history to be named an All-American, inspired a Heisman campaign throughout the season with his record-setting numbers. As FAU fans jumped on the #Motor4Hei5man movement, Singletary ran for more touchdowns in a single season than previous program leader Alfred Morris did from 2008-11. Morris had 27 touchdowns before becoming a sixth-round pick of the Washington Redskins in 2012.
Al-Shaair, a former USA Today All-American Freshman in 2015, surpassed Frantz Joseph as the leading tackler in program history in the Boca Raton Bowl and announced immediately after the 50-3 win that he would return to FAU for his senior season.
Singletary joined Justice Hill (Oklahoma State), Benny Snell Jr. (Kentucky), Alexander Mattison (Boise State), David Montgomery (Iowa State) and Darrell Henderson (Memphis) as running backs who were honored. Al-Shaair was one of three defensive players honored alongside Nick Bosa (Ohio State) and Buffalo Bulls linebacker Khalil Hodge.
BOCA RATON — Led by junior shortstop Tyler Frank (Delray-American Heritage) and outfielder David Miranda, the Florida Atlantic Owls baseball team is looking to rebound from a disappointing 2017 season; disappointing, at least, by the program’s standard.
Despite being the No. 3 seed in the Conference USA tournament, FAU narrowly missed out on the NCAA Tournament and a chance to compete for the College World Series. FAU will begin its season Friday night (6:30 p.m., FAU Baseball Stadium) against George Washington University.
“I really like our team — the make-up of this team is really good,” Owls coach John McCormack said this week. “To have pieces of the puzzle in terms of pitchers and catchers and infielders, it’s extremely important to have talented guys, but the makeup of this team … they care about each other and care about representing Florida Atlantic.”
Here are five storylines to watch as the Owls try to return to the NCAA Tournament and re-establish themselves as C-USA heavyweights.
Miranda looks to build off powerful 2017:
With most of the team’s offense suffering from inconsistency last season, Miranda stepped up to lead the Owls with 12 home runs, 51 RBIs and a .590 slugging percentage — and is only back for his senior year because he went undrafted in last June’s MLB Draft. Named to the All-Conference USA Preseason Team last month, a leaner, fitter Miranda will be expected to improve on last year’s numbers in an effort to show MLB teams he’s worth drafting.
“We see FAU baseball as legit, and we win every year,” Miranda said. “We don’t put any pressure on ourselves. We expect ourselves to do what we do every year. … In baseball, you can’t put pressure like that, just show up and be like, ‘I gotta hit. I hit 12 [home runs] last year so I gotta hit 20 this year.”
Can rotation newcomers step up?
Though junior Kyle Marman made two starts last season in his 20 appearances, left-hander Jake Miednik (Parkland-Douglas) is the only full-time starting pitcher returning. After winning seven games and leading the Owls with 75 strikeouts last season, Miednik will step into the ace role vacated by current Houston Astros farmhand Alex House. Transfer Vince Coletti (Palm Beach State) will start Sunday’s game and sophomore Nick Prather, who pitched 11 games in relief last year, will fill out the rotation.
Nick Swan and Marc Stewart, who started a combined 12 games last season, will begin the season in the bullpen.
Will Rivera, Pages avoid sophomore slump?
FAU is hoping it has a duo of the future in outfielder-turned-second baseman Eric Rivera and catcher Pedro Pages, but both will have to improve on solid freshman campaigns. A Conference USA All-Freshman outfielder, Rivera hit .256 with 13 doubles, six home runs and 31 RBIs and led the team with five outfield assists. He will spend the 2018 season at second base as Stephen Kerr’s replacement.
Pages hit .243 with four homers and 24 RBI, drawing 17 walks to just 22 strikeouts as a freshman. With fifth-year senior Kevin Abraham likely to play more of a DH role, Pages will be expected to catch the majority of the time.
FAU may try to play a game or two at the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches again, but don’t expect the Owls to replicate the Houston Astros’ sabermetric-driven efforts. McCormack said that between the team not having any of the more advanced equipment and FAU playing far fewer games than the 162 a big-league team plays, the Owls will continue to rely more on traditional stats — though some advanced stats, such as where players hit the ball and how opposing pitchers work in certain situations, will be involved in game-planning.
“When you’re playing Central Florida and you’ve got 43 at-bats on the guy, I don’t know if the statistics show up the same [as opposed to a major-league veteran],” McCormack said. “I think it’s really difficult in college with a small sample size.”
How high is Tyler Frank’s ceiling?
Given that Frank was named to the Golden Spikes Watchlist and could play his way into becoming a first-round pick in June’s MLB Draft, the junior shortstop is easily the most valuable player on this year’s team. Look for Frank to build off a brilliant sophomore season and, like another former Stallion in Owls running back Devin Singletary, perhaps be named Conference USA’s Player of the Year this spring.