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Miami Hurricanes Football: Q&A with Underdog Dynasty Previewing FAU

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NCAA Football: Southern Illinois at Florida Atlantic Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

We got together with Cyrus Smith of UD to get the scoop on the Owls.

Cyrus gave us the 411 on FAU’s D, their best players, how he expects the game to play out, plus much, much more.

Check it out below:

SOTU: Talk to us about the Owls' 4-2-5 defense. Who are the key players on that unit? And how do you think they will attempt to stop Brad Kaaya and the Hurricanes three headed monster at tailback?

UD: The 4-2-5 defense has been pretty successful for FAU dating back to when Carl Pelini was the head coach and its continued to be successful under defensive coordinator Roc Bellantoni. The defense essentially thrives off of man-to-man defense and will occasionally throw a blitz in but won’t do so often as Conference USA’s Preseason Defensive Player of the Year Trey Hendrickson needs no help getting to the quarterback. Hendrickson finished second in the nation last year with 13 sacks. Booker T. Washington product Ocie Rose is a player to watch for as he’s FAU’s best playmaker. Last week he sealed the game by forcing a fumble. Safety Jalen Young is also a playmaker and a hard hitter. Last week he also forced a fumble.

With an injury to DT Ray Ellis in the offseason which sidelined him for the season the Owls are really thin at DT. Add in the fact that not a single DT on the roster weighs over 300 pounds and I’m really worried the Owls will struggle to stop the run this season. True freshmen William Davis and Kevin McCray both saw significant time in the opener and both failed to make an immediate impact. Last week the Owls struggled at times stopping the run so I can only imagine what Miami is going to do.

SOTU: How good is Trey Hendrickson? What makes him such a force as a pass rusher? Does he have a shot at the NFL?

UD: Scouts are going to rave about Trey Hendrickson's size (6’4 270) and speed but what makes him so special is that he has a great motor and he doesn’t take off plays. He’s a speed rush end so a lot of the times you will see him blowing past the tackle positions. I think he has a good shot and was actually really surprised he didn’t enter the draft last year after such a breakout season. In a 4-3 scheme he’ll be solid, but I don’t think he’ll translate to a 3-4 defense if they use him as a drop end as I don’t think he has the lateral quickness for that.

SOTU: Which players on the offensive side of the ball should UM fans be worried about?

UD: Greg Howell had a great game last week with 128 yards and two touchdowns off of 16 carries. Tailback Jay Warren can also be productive if he holds on to the ball but after surprisingly seeing just one carry last week he may not see the field this week. Kalib Woods and Henry Bussey will get a lot of targets as both were reliable options for Jason Driskel last week but there are a lot of question marks on offense entering this game with not many proven playmakers aside from Howell.

SOTU: We know the Owls like to run a lot of tempo, jet sweeps, and zone reads. How good is their passing game in 2016?

UD: Suspect. Driskel (yes, former Gators quarterback Jeff Driskel’s younger quarterback) was decent last week, throwing for 287 yards and two touchdowns with zero turnovers but 85 of those yards came on a fluky, deflected touchdown reception. He got the ball out of his hands rather quickly which was something he had trouble with last year, but you won’t hear many FAU fans putting Driskel on a pedestal. The receivers are still inconsistent but nine different receivers recorded a catch last week so perhaps one could breakout. Tyler Cameron (former Wake Forest QB) has pretty good size at TE. I like him the most as far as pass catchers go.

SOTU: Give me your top 3 FAU players of all time.

UD: First off you have to go with the GOAT quarterback Rusty Smith. Second goes to Alfred Morris. Such a great talent wasted on abysmal FAU teams. Third I would say Trey Hendrickson

SOTU: What are the expectations for FAU this season? What type of season would be considered a success?

UD: Oh boy the expectation game. Ok some believe FAU football should be near the top of Conference USA every season (sounds familiar to Miami’s expectations right) and with this year’s schedule, coupled with how well Charlie Partridge has been recruiting, that crowd sees anything less than eight wins as a disappointment. The other crowd sees that despite the fact we will field a talented roster, our two-deep is littered with underclassmen and believes that a five-win season would suffice with the thought process of next season being FAU’s breakout year. Then you will have others who literally just want to see improvement but will be extremely frustrated at another three-win season.

Although I think the eight-win crowd is really underrating the top of CUSA East (especially with how well Marshall recruits south florida as well as the run WKU is currently on) I don’t think their far off. Partridge is 3-8 in one-possession games and this his is third year in Boca. Typically breakout seasons occur in year three. The talent is there and with this schedule I think the time is now for FAU to reach a bowl game. Anything less than six wins this year would be a disappointment raise concerns that FAU is struggling because of bad coaching.

SOTU: Last but not least, how do you see this game playing out? Who wins and why?

UD: Before the season started I thought FAU would give Miami a game similar to last year. Close for the first half, but eventually the ‘Canes pull away. But after seeing how lethargic and evenly match FAU appeared to be against an FCS team I’m worried about the prospects for the year. The team could have been looking ahead for this game but FAU has yet to reach the status of where they can afford to have a letdown against beatable teams. To me that was a major red flag. I see Mark Walton, Joseph Yearby, and Gus Edwards having a field day against an outmatched FAU defensive line and Brad Kaaya carving up FAU’s secondary with play action. Miami big, 45-17.

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Thanks again to Cyrus for working with us.

To learn more about the Owls and find great content on all your mid majors, be sure to check out Underdog Dynasty.