Schnellenberger was 77 years old when he announced on August 11, 2011 that he would retire at the end of the 2011 season. The deep-voiced, mustachioed icon led the Miami Hurricanes to the 1983 national title. He was hired to start the FAU football program which began play in 2001, and he guided the Boca Raton school to a 11-year record of 58-74 (30-44 since becoming a fully qualified FBS member in 2006), including 2-0 in bowl games. He is 158-151-3 overall, but only 4 of his previous 26 campaigns have finished with his team ranked in the Coaches’ or AP polls. The Owls were a dismal 1-11 in his final season.
2011 Record: (1-11, 0-8 in Sun Belt)
Head Coach: Carl Pelini (first time Head Coach)
OFF. COORDINATOR: Brian Wright
DEF. COORDINATOR: Pete Rekstis
Last Bowl Game: 2008 Season Motor City Bowl: beat Central Michigan 24-21
Returning Starters (Offense: 6; Defense: 8: Specialists: 1)
Key Defensive Returnees: LB David Hinds (101 tackles), LB Randell Johnson (91 tackles, 4 sacks), LB Andrae Kirk (89 tackles)
Key Offensive Returnees: WR DeAndre Richardson (32 receptions)
Top Recruits: DE Shalom Ogbonda (Scout.com’s #132 DE), OLB Joshua Ballesteros (Scout.com’s #144 OLB), QB Melvin German (JUCO)
Offense – The Owls football program scored a grand success on Oct. 15, 2011, with the official unveiling of its sparkling new on-campus stadium with a view of the Atlantic Ocean.
Unfortunately, that was the only time that the home team scored that day.
FAU’s embarrassing 20–0 loss Western Kentucky, in which it crossed midfield only twice, was merely the lowest point of a season that had precious few offensive highs. Six times in their 11 losses, the Owls scored seven points or less, and none of the other 119 teams in the FBS accrued fewer yards.
Now Alfred Morris, FAU’s career rushing leader, is gone, as is the old-school pro-style system. The spread is in. It is endorsed by new coach Carl Pelini, and it will be choreographed by former Montana State coordinator Brian Wright, whose offenses in the FCS produced plenty of points with a balanced run-pass ratio.
So, while Graham Wilbert is back — after an unimpressive debut as the starting quarterback — the 6’6? fifth-year senior was in a battle for snaps all spring, and figures to be through the fall. There isn’t much experience at the skill positions, and the situation got worse when senior (and former fullback) Xavier Stinson was dismissed from the team. The coaching staff has high hopes for tight end Nexon Dorvilus and receivers DeAndre Richardson, Marcus Cunningham and William Dukes. But, clearly, no one should expect explosiveness immediately.
Defense – After improving from miserable to something still far short of mediocre in 2011, this unit will undergo major changes in 2012. Actually, it underwent one unexpected change during the offseason.
Marvin Sanders, the former secondary coach on Pelini’s successful staff at Nebraska, was initially hired to spearhead the team’s transition to a 4-3. But Sanders quit to become the defensive backs coach at USC, and Pelini reached out to Pete Rekstis, whose was the coordinator at Miami (Ohio) last season.
Rekstis will have eight returning starters, though it was made clear early in camp that no jobs are necessarily safe.
Jimmy Jean is a good athlete for his size on the defensive line. There’s some stability in the linebacking corps: Randell Johnson (4.5 sacks) will be expected to apply pressure, while David Hinds is one of the team’s surest tacklers. In the defensive backfield, Keith Reaser is a hard hitter, and Treon Howard showed good signs in his first season as a starter.
Special Teams – The Owls weren’t often in position to score, so Vinny Zaccario was limited to 11 field goal attempts, seven of which he made. Marcelo Bonani replaces Mickey Groody, who punted a ridiculous 219 times over the past four seasons.
Schedule: FAU 2012 Schedule
It would be really hard to play worse than the 2011 team, so again the bar is low. If FAU can win three games, I think the fans would be happy, especially considering the Pelini is implementing new offensive and defensive schemes and he not only inherited an awful team, but one that was formed around a pro-style offense. The fan base was traumatized by last season, so any sign that the team has turned things around will be welcomed. And that doesn’t mean wins, it just means not getting embarrassed. Going 2-10 and being competitive in four of those losses would be a big step forward. Anything better than that would be considered overachieving. I can’t tell you how bad the Owls were last year. Nearly every game was settled by halftime, and the only question was just how bad they were going to be beat.
“We have come a long way,” Pelini says. “We still have a long way to go, though.”
2012 Prediction – 2-10
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