Making Your Last Option Your Best Option Sports commentators often describe the game of football as a chess match and in many ways it is. When the chess match comes down to the last move, the last option you hope that you are in the strongest possible position. In the game of football, your strategy is bookended by special teams and those moves determine the way the game is played and the way the play ends.
The Owls relied on the kick-off leg of Greg Joseph 62 times in 2015. More than half of those kicks were not returned (33), which allowed the Owls to setup their defense. Joseph averaged 62.9 yards per kick-off and his net was 40.6 net yards per kick. Opponents elected to return the ball 27 times for an average 20.7 yards per return. It was Joseph, along with the entire kick-off unit that gave the inexperienced Owl defense a chance to defend the goal. That unit did not allow a touchdown to be scored despite facing several opponents with outstanding returners, including three in C-USA alone who had taken one to the house.
Once the kick-off or the first move is made, the specialist return to the sideline to wait and hopefully wait never to be called into action again unless it is an extra point attempt, where again Head Coach Charlie Partridge would look to Joseph who was a perfect 28-for-28 in 2015.
Should the need for an extra point attempt not come into play, Joseph still remains an option for Partridge's next move. The redshirt junior connected on 18 field goals a year ago and 14 as a freshman. His longest field goal was a 48-yarder in the final game of the year, a 33-31 victory and a game that saw Joseph make good on four of five field goal attempts. His lone miss of the game was a 49-yarder. On the year, Joseph made five field goals that were 40 or more yards.
Should the Owls not be within Joseph's range, the Owls boast two options in their punt team arsenal. Senior Ryan Rickel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) for the short punts. Rickel has 28 career punts and averages 35.4 yards per punt. Eighteen of his 28 punts have been dropped inside the 20. The second option would be Dalton Schomp (Seminole, Fla.). Schomp was primarily used for the longer boots but assumed all duties towards the end of 2015. The redshirt senior has been called into action 95 times in the last two seasons and averages 46.7 yards per punt. He averaged a national leading 48.0 yards per punt in 2015, with 35 sailing 55 yards or more and his longest was a 76-yarder at UTEP in 2015.
"Dalton is becoming a complete punter where we can rely on him for pooch punts and regular punts," said Charlie Partridge, FAU's head football coach.
Everyone returns in the kicking game including C-USA honorable mention and all-freshman team honoree long snapper Casey Winner (Tallahassee, Fla.), who provided every 2015 long snap and was perfect in PAT snaps.
When previewing the return game moves, there is a knowledge that every south Florida grown football team has options. The difference on which "chess piece" to use comes down to who can receive the ball under stress and then make something happen. The Owls have players with talent who can make an impact. Those players are gathered before each practice and called into action under stressful situations. The drills last about five minutes.
"We want to see who is doing the best job of receiving the ball under created stress," said Partridge. "Sometimes we try to distract them. We move the jugs around and put them in stressful positions."
Through the spring, it was Jalen Young (Belle Glade, Fla.) and Henry Bussey (Opa Locka, Fla.) who set themselves apart.
Jalen is the one with gifts to make something happen and also has embraced really catching the ball," added Partridge. "Henry Bussey is right there behind him. They are the two that we think can make a difference in a game and also take care of the catch, which is number one."
The Owls special teams pieces are in place. It is a unit that has the talent and ability to take over a game. They can flip the field for a better defensive position or can help the offense put points on the board.