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?
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 — Florida Atlantic head coach Lane Kiffin is no stranger to contracts and agreements ending early, whether voluntarily (as seen in Tennessee) or with someone else making that decision (either on a tarmac or a projector).
There’s one deal Kiffin made after signing with the Owls in Dec. 2016, though it may not be notarized and signed, that the second-year FAU coach is sticking to in 2018: traveling to Liberty City for a football practice.
“I said (at the beginning), ‘listen, you ain’t gonna do it one time, we gotta do a two-year deal,” said Luther “Uncle Luke” Campbell, the rapper-turned-high school coach and football icon. “Because so many people are not gonna believe that it’s happening and so many kids (are) gonna love that it’s happening! For it not to happen again at least one more time, it would be hard on the kids.”
Campbell and his local fans, many of whom know the hip-hop legend for his coaching rather than his days with the 2 Live Crew and raps feuds, will have another chance to see Kiffin’s Owls practice in Liberty City on Saturday, April 14. FAU will also visit Fort Lauderdale’s Carter Park on April 7.
In the weeks leading up to their historic 11-3 season last summer, FAU traveled to Charles Hadley Park on Aug. 5. — though Kiffin was not in attendance that day, instead attending the funeral of father-in-law and former Florida quarterback John Reeves. Campbell still wasted no time that day in praising Kiffin, calling him a “rock star” when many were still doubting how the former Raiders, Tennessee, and USC head coach would fare at Florida Atlantic.
“Last year, that was a freakin’ treat for the kids to be able to have a college team come into the heart of Liberty City,” Campbell told The Post by phone. “[Liberty City is] the mecca of football … I had guys who played NFL calling up, they couldn’t believe it. They were looking at it on Twitter, on social media, and they just couldn’t believe it. A college team was playing on the park where they grew up at!”
Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman, former All-Pro wide receiver Chad Johnson (or Ochocinco, depending on the day), and ex-Miami Hurricanes star Duke Johnson — now with the Cleveland Browns — were among those to get in touch with Campbell.
Former Hurricanes running back Clinton Portis was among the ex-NFL players to visit Kiffin and the Owls last year, a list which also included future Hall of Fame receiver Calvin Johnson and Pro Bowl quarterback Daunte Culpepper. Campbell and Culpepper were joined by Dolphins running back Kenyan Drake for the Owls’ Nov. 3 win over Marshall. Drake’s teammate and Dolphins offensive lineman Ja’Wuan James also tweeted his intentions to see the Owls practice this spring.
“We wanted to get out as much as we could,” Kiffin said last summer of the “road practices.” “It allows maybe some people who can’t get up here to come see us, whether it’s coaches, players or fans.”
Campbell added that the Owls coming to Liberty City again also provides examples of stability and hope for the younger fans, many of whom come from single-parent households.
“It’s a real tough area as far as dads leaving kids,” Campbell said. “When these kids get showed a lot of things, they get a lot of things taken from them. Just being able to say, ‘look. they’re gonna do this again next year,’ that’s a great thing.”
Campbell said that construction on Hadley Park’s football stadium, which was scheduled for this spring, has been pushed back to accommodate FAU’s arrival.
Times for the Owls’ practices this spring, including the visit to Hadley Park, have yet to officially be announced, but last year’s open scrimmage began at roughly 3 p.m. The Post obtained an email sent to students last month for a volunteer football job which said Tuesday and Thursday practices this spring would be held between 9 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Saturday practices are expected to be held from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
BOCA RATON — Florida Atlantic scored four early runs and, with help from a hot bullpen, kept a dangerous Miami Hurricanes offense from coming back in a 5-4 win on Wednesday night.
Winning for the sixth time in seven games, FAU (6-1) jumped out to a hot start against the Hurricanes (3-5), batting around in the first inning. Junior shortstop Tyler Frank led off with a double, his fifth hit in nine at-bats since moving to the leadoff spot on Saturday, and finished with his third multi-hit performance in as many games.
“It’s what you dream of, playing in front of crowds like this,” Frank said of a night on which FAU attracted nearly 1,900 fans. “In front of your university, students, it’s awesome. It’s a good time.”
Sophomore Nick Prather pitched four innings, allowing four hits and three runs while recording four strikeouts. Throwing only 63 pitches, Prather is the only Owls starter this season to have fewer than 10 total innings pitched.
“As he matures, he’s gonna get better because his delivery has a lot of stuff in it,” Owls coach John McCormack said. “Guys that physically aren’t mature yet have a hard time repeating that type of delivery. I think he’s gotta continue to work on his mechanics and physical conditioning.”
Relievers Jordan Poore, Blake Sanderson and Weston Clemente held the Hurricanes to one run before Miami loaded the bases with no outs in the 8th. Drew Peden proceeded to strike out two then induce a lineout to end the threat.
Miami again threatened to tie things at 5 in the ninth, but a lineout to second baseman Eric Rivera gave the Owls their first win in four games against the Hurricanes.
FAU improved to 7-18 against Miami under McCormack, an impressive improvement from the 7-54 record the Owls had against the Hurricanes prior to 2009.
Morris honored: McCormack announced shortly before first pitch that FAU would be giving longtime Hurricanes coach Jim Morris a week-long, expenses paid stay at the Boca Resort. Morris will be retiring following this season after 27 years and nearly 1,100 wins with the Hurricanes.
“He was ahead of the curve and he knows what he’s doing,” McCormack said. “I wanted to do it for me, for our fans and for him.”
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.”