Following the 2016 Spring Season, we sat down with Florida Atlantic University Head Football Coach Charlie Partridge to review the spring season and to take a more in-depth look at the Owls, position-by-position.
The majority of the interest lies on the offensive side of the ball and the changes made by newly-hired offensive coordinator Travis Trickett. Let’s just say the Owls kicked it up a notch. The pace of practice was elevated and no man was left standing (around). If you were not involved in the action, you were shadowing and nowhere was it more noticeable than at quarterback where FAU had two QBs running each play and both were evaluated on every snap.
Spring practice offensive buzz words were “progression”, “pace”, “breaking barriers” and “competing”. It all starts up front which is where the position-by-position focus will begin.
Head Coach Charlie Partridge named Trickett as FAU’s offensive coordinator on December 11. Partridge had first became aware of Trickett while coaching at Arkansas. As the Razorbacks’ Assistant Head Coach and defensive line coach, Partridge was in charge of game planning for Samford, an FCS member. Through film study, Partridge recognized the chess match the Samford Bulldog offensive coordinator played, “punch-counter-punch”.
Following the game, Partridge respectfully sought out Trickett. Three months later, Partridge took over the helm of the Owls and began his collegiate head coaching career and he continued to build his relationship with Trickett, especially noting Trickett’s Florida recruiting ties. When the opportunity presented itself, Partridge made the phone call to Trickett and invited the football coaching legacy (his father is FSU offensive line coach Rick Trickett) to become a part of the Owl football program, as FAU’s offensive coordinator.
Trickett took the opportunity one year, three months and four days following that Arkansas vs Samford chess match which saw Partridge and the Razorbacks pull away with a 31-21 victory.
But, the tale of coach respect doesn’t end there.
Trickett was faced with hiring a new offensive line coach less than a month into his new position. While getting up to speed on the Owls 2016 recruiting class, the returning Owls, going back and forth to Birmingham for the Holidays and preparing to move to south Florida, Trickett made a long-promised phone call. He called Garin Justice. Justice was someone Trickett had coach while serving as a student coach at West Virginia. Trickett and Justice also had served together as FSU graduate assistants. While the familiarity was there, would Justice leave Concord University, in his home state of West Virginia where he served as the head coach? The duo reunited on January 7th with Justice agreeing to become Florida Atlantic’s offensive line coach.
They had watched hours of game film together. The system was familiar to both. And, Trickett knew the importance the offensive line would play in his goals for FAU’s offense.
The first “barrier” to achieve the “pace” the Owls would face was intensive off-season training – a program designed to make the Owls bigger and stronger. With strength and size a focus, the endurance became a factor early on during spring drills. The linemen would be asked to move faster and further and would need to adjust to the playing speed, knowing that endurance training would come during the summer months. And despite returning a veteran line, the 2016 spring season was much different than anything they had experienced.
“Three guys that stood out this spring were Dillon DeBoer, Reggie Bain and Antonyo Woods,” said Partridge. “They were the three that probably had the best spring. This offensive system has really been a great fit for Dillon. He is so athletic and he was able to withstand the tempo. As his confidence grew, his leadership and aggressiveness reached a new level. He has really gone to another level.”
DeBoer, one of 12 football players selected league-wide as a C-USA All-Academic honoree, is expected to return as the starting center. DeBoer has the experience to stabilize the veteran line as well as either quarterback under center.
Antonyo Woods posted an outstanding spring after gaining more playing time in the fall of 2015. He was the most consistent on the line throughout spring practice and simply came to work every single day. Woods, a pre-med major, caught onto the scheme, the calls and the footwork faster than most of the linemen, which put him ahead of the game. Woods saw time at right guard a year ago and was used as an extra blocker. His strength and intelligence allow the coaching staff to use him anywhere along the line but, he is expected to see the majority of his time at guard.
Bain, a two year starter at left tackle, was the only returning starter who had played for just one collegiate position coach and one offensive coordinator. His adjustment took three or four practices to get acclimated to the new tempo. But, with the pressure from Hendrickson and his competitive nature he broke through that “barrier”.
“When he [Bain] made the choice, it was really a choice that you could almost see happen, he went to another level. He finished blocks outside the frame of the video. He is leading and he is demanding other guys around him to raise their level of play. If they aren’t living up to it, he is either getting them there or moving on. Reggie has had the best spring and the best segment of practices that I have ever seen him have,” added Partridge.
Returning to the right side of the line will be senior Kelly Parfitt. Parfitt transferred in 2014 and saw his first action in ’15 as both a center and right tackle. Parfitt was held out of the spring practice while recovering from injury but remained vocal and engaged in practice and is expected to return to a veteran line which returns four starters.
The four returning starters will be pushed by the deepest offensive linemen corps the program has had since winning the Sun Belt Conference Title and moving to Conference USA. Roman Fernandez, a high school teammate of Antonyo Woods, had an outstanding spring and fall in 2015 until he was sidelined for the season, weeks before the first game. He returned to the practice field and was once again putting together a good spring until an ankle injury held him out the final weeks. Fernandez is expected to be in the lineup and like Woods is one of the strongest players on the squad.
Another expected to see playing time in 2015, the only player to spell Bain in 2015, is redshirt sophomore Byers Hickmon. Hickmon is described as the most gifted player in the offensive lineman’s meeting room. He has the size and athletic ability to become a special player. Hickmon’s ability to break down the “barriers” is heavily anticipated and will strengthen a veteran line. He is joined by redshirt freshman Jack Breshears, redshirt sophomore Matt Weiner, who saw time at center a year ago, as well as redshirt sophomore Siffo Pierre, who contributed to special teams in 2015, and Richard Williams, who redshirted a year ago. Also working with the unit are redshirt junior Jakobi Smith along with redshirt freshman Tarrick Thomas and Bryan Beck.
As the “O” lineman continue to transition to a faster tempo and break their individual barriers, they will allow the quarterbacks to make their progressions, taking what is given, whether it is on the ground or through the air, which will allow the Owls to be more balanced and competitive.
Incoming Freshmen Signees:
Brandon Walton, 6-5, 300, Largo, Fla (Seminole)
Ean Biancardi, 6-5, 285, Lake Wales, Fla. (Lake Wales)