WR Cortez Gent

2007 Statistics

Coach: Howard Schnellenberger
41-42, 7 years
2007 Record: 8-5
at Oklahoma State LOST 6-42
at North Texas WON 30-20
at Kentucky LOST 17-45
at UL-Lafayette WON 39-32 (OT)
at Florida LOST 20-59
at FIU WON 55-23
at Troy WON 38-32
Memphis WON 44-27

2007 Final Rankings
AP-UR, Coaches-UR, BCS-UR

2008 Outlook

The name Howard Schnellenberger may have the most football heritage related to it of any name still active in college football. Huh? Many of the more recent fans in this sport won’t realize that, along with Bowden and Paterno, Schnellenberger represents a “who’s who” cross-section of football over the past 50 years – he played for Paul “Bear” Bryant (Kentucky) before coaching under George Allen (NFL Rams) and Don Shula (part of the 1972 undefeated season). His exploits in winning Miami’s initial national title (1983) are info that shouldn’t be quite as unknown, nor should what he did in putting Louisville football on the map.

Now you see he’s got a pretty loaded situation down there in south Florida and you may wonder, “Is this guy’s team over-inflated by the hype-creators in the media?” Like at his other career stops, the answer is a resounding “NO!”

Just look at the numbers and how this squad has been slowly, methodically brought up the college football food chain to the point where the Owls now enter their third season of FBS-level play. With basically two-star prospects – what’s left after the in-state big boys pick the best and the rest are scattered to other BCS-level programs like USC, Oklahoma and Ohio State – Schnellenberger has, since arriving on May 1, 1998, put yet another piece of his amazing legacy in place. The 10-year plan has now landed Florida Atlantic in our Preseason Top 50 for the first time.

This year will see lots of the same faces on both sides of the ball. That works more easily on offense since those Owls already groove as one unit. Rusty Smith is another one of these amazing QBs no one knows about, even down here. Behind Heisman winner Tebow and Oklahoma State’s Zac Robinson, Smith was the top sophomore QB in the nation last year. Hitched to his success, the passing game will again flourish. Like so many smaller FBS schools, the challenges are in establishing a running game to keep FAU’s defense off of the field. Rose and Pierre have enough punch to wear defenses down – if they could earn FAU’s third-best 2007 ground effort of 152 yards against South Florida’s No.34 run defense (the same one that stopped Auburn and West Virginia), their potential is known and excuses disintegrate. The line can pass block (allowed only 16 sacks) with authority, so most of the two-deep returning should mean the staff can lean on them for consistent hole creating. The only challengers who will stop this offense will be Texas and Michigan State.

That means the defense becomes the pivot for more (or less) wins. Just as many starters are back on this side, but with much less upon which to hang their collective hats. The run stopping seems like the biggest bolstering project, so six of the front seven’s starters returning is a good start. The line has the size many mid-majors lack, and the LBs are similarly sized for stopping the BCS-sized runners. The corners are possibly the best at any smaller school; with even second- and third-rate recruits coming out of that region, speed and man-to-man skills abound. Replacing both safeties looks doable, so ratcheting up the Owl’s stopping power can potentially occur.

As per the norm here, a new season means a new slate of tough, BCS-aligned non-conference opponents. Going to Austin will again measure FAU against the best. Minnesota again looks beatable, and playing UAB offers the Owls an achievable path to going .500 prior to the Sun Belt slate. Then the two biggest conference games happen right away, securing the Owl’s fate likely by the schedule’s halfway point.

It may make some cringe, but we definitively believe that another quality program is emerging from the Sunshine State, one good enough to soon impact the national landscape (like USF did in beating Auburn and West Virginia in just their eighth year). Can Florida Atlantic become ranked this year? Well, that isn’t likely, and making it to the polls may take a few more teams like the one they’ll field this year to achieve those incremental steps that get a team there. Remember when no one could conceive of Miami or Florida State becoming an elite program? Well, if history is the ultimate lesson, then expect Fort Lauderdale to soon become another hotbed of college football.

Projected 2008 record: 9-3
TE Jason Harmon
QB - 4.5 DL - 3
RB - 3 LB - 3.5
WR - 4 DB - 3
OL - 3.5 ..
2007 Statistical Rankings
Total Off:
Sacks Allow:
Total Def:

Passing: Rusty Smith, 281-479-9, 3688 yds., 32 TD

Rushing: Charles Pierre, 170 att., 782 yds., 7 TD

Receiving: Cortez Gent, 64 rec., 1082 yds., 9 TD

Scoring: Warley Leroy, 19-27 FG, 44-46 PAT, 101 pts.

Punting: Keegan Peterson, 40 punts, 40.2 avg.

Warley Leroy, 19-27 FG, 44-46 PAT, 101 pts.

Tackles: Frantz Joseph, 131 tot., 64 solo

Sacks: Robert St. Clair, 4 sacks

Interceptions: Tavious Polo, 7 for 17 yds.

Kickoff Returns: DiIvory Edgecomb, 48 ret., 24.1 avg., 0 TD

Punt Returns: Tavious Polo, 18 ret., 2.8 avg., 0 TD


OFFENSE: B.J. Manley-TB, Jarrid Smith-OG
DEFENSE: Josh Pinnick-DE, Cergile Sincere-WLB, Kris Bartels-SS, Taheem Acevedo-FS

The main reason we have the Owls ranked so highly is because of Sun Belt Player of the Year and the school’s single season record holder for passing yards and TDs, 6’5 junior Rusty Smith. Smith was good for 3,688 yards (12th most in FBS), 32 TDs (T-8th most) and only nine INTs, but he won’t be taking off for big downfield gains anytime soon. In this extremely balanced attack, lots of guys get the ball via air delivery, and Smith knows which of his targets he wants for specific tasks. Schnellenberger has a sound “old school” approach with Gary Nord to apply his recent innovations, and with Smith to run the offense, it’s in good hands. Backup Jeff VanCamp is not quite the same passer, but provides a ground dimension Smith lacks.

The rest of the ground attack is distributed amongst multiple backs. The main Owl RB is Charles Pierre, a guy who pounds it between the tackles as well as he takes a corner. Willie Rose is even more punishment, plastering guys with or without the ball. Rose is money – he had the best average per carry for Owl backs with 10 or more (5.3), and he only lost six yards in his 63 carries, with 38 catches and seven receiving TDs to bolster his totals. And speaking of backs that get the ball through the thick Fort Lauderdale air, DiIvory Edgecomb led the team with his 17+ yards per catch average. That’s accomplished since Edgecomb – who missed 2006 due to academic ineligibility, but came back strong last year – lines up on the outside, thus creating matchup problems, and his best chances for success are in open space. Broward County single-season rushing record holder Mike Barasch looks like a nice addition to the stable of backs, but he should redshirt with so many in front of him. Look for the name Alfred Morris to pop up after the fullback had a huge spring.

Chris Bonner is the main WR threat to also get carries, but TE Rob Housler’s 68-yard TD run versus Florida International was the longest run for any Owl on the year (27 yards more than the next longest run by Rose; it was also the second-longest play from scrimmage). Housler is an ex-long jump competitor, so he will continue to get his chances to break plays of many sorts. All-Sun Belt Cortez Gent is the pride of Chiefland and the receiver with the nation’s 25th-most yards last year. Well-sized like the other catchers, Gent tied the school record for most TD catches in a season (nine) as he proves to be somewhat unstoppable in this league. Conshario Johnson was kept underneath most of the time, but he has the speed to really stretch the field, like he did more as a freshman. The job of deep threat has been Bonner’s lately, so it’s in good hands. Like Gent, Jason Harmon is tough to cover, even when you know he’s likely getting the ball. The team’s top snarler in 2006 and not much more than a WR, he’ll keep doing the “Harmon Hop” into the endzone to close out his senior year (but will give way to a tackle-eligible for more push when that’s needed). TE Grant also offers little in the form of protection, but his upside when downfield makes him a popular choice here for those two-TE sets.

Obviously, the key to having the nation’s 13th-ranked pass protection is a stout line and, especially, a strong set of tackles. Led by two seniors on the outside, FAU looks good up front with four returning starters and decent size for this league. Brandon Jackson moved over from guard to his current left tackle spot with great effectiveness, but he will have to stay sharp to hold off Williams again (the two battled weekly last year). Bookend Rizzo is All-Sun Belt and a starter for three years throughout numerous injuries, and the former walk-on can play elsewhere if needed. The leader is Nick Paris, who moved over from guard and has started in the middle ever since. A calming agent, Paris is up 10 more pounds for battling those tougher, BCS foes. Miller is huge and started at center against Troy, proving effective enough in real game situations to earn the tentative nod at left guard. Ex-DE Matlock can also play center, but his mobility at guard works just as well. The line has started together going on three years now, with perennial brides-maids Jarrett MacDonald and Vinnie Henderson capable of stepping in with their versatility.

The ability for these 11 guys to coordinate their actions is impressive. A year wiser, they should again be the offensive class of the Sun Belt.


QB Rusty Smith


Returning Starters/
Key Players
QB Rusty Smith-Jr (6-5, 212) Jeff VanCamp-So (6-5, 210)
FB Willie Rose-Jr (6-1, 227) Kyle Watkins-Sr (6-2, 210)
TB Charles Pierre-Sr (5-9, 195) DiIvory Edgecomb-Sr (5-10, 185)
WR Cortez Gent-Jr (6-2, 170) Lester Jean-So (6-3, 185)
WR Conshario Johnson-Jr (6-1, 186) Chris Bonner-Jr (6-3, 195)
TE Jason Harmon-Sr (6-3, 210) Jamari Grant-Jr (6-5, 200)
Rob Housler-Jr (6-5, 210)
OT Brandon Jackson-Sr (6-3, 245) Lavoris Williams-So (6-3, 280)
OG Kevin Miller-Jr (6-3, 304) Ryan Wischnefski-So (6-2, 310)
C Nick Paris-Sr (6-1, 290) Samuel McRoy-So (6-4, 249)
OG David Matlock-Jr (6-2, 285) Jarret McDonald-Sr (6-5, 290)
OT John Rizzo-Sr (6-3, 280) Vinnie Henderson-Sr (6-5, 270)
K Warley Leroy-Sr (5-10, 170) Ryan Paros-Jr (5-11, 185)



Ok, so nine teams went over the 30-point barrier on the Owl D last year. The mixed results seen in ‘07 must be interpreted to be understood, for things aren’t as bad as some stats might lead many to believe. The only times teams went over 40 points were when FAU played BCS teams (three times, and they even beat Minnesota 42-39), and besides the loss to then-No.5 USF and the triple-OT loss to La. Monroe, the Owls won the rest of the times (four) foes shot over 30. The games against major offensive programs like Florida, Oklahoma State, and Kentucky were tough to defend for the mostly two-star level recruits found here. But there is little excuse – even if the offense bails you out much of the time – to allow 30 points to Sun Belt foes if you claim to be a team seeking national respect. The other suspect stat was the rushing D – allowing 4.7 yards per carry and nearly 175 per game isn’t good…yes, the bigger programs gashed the Owl line pretty good, but there is no excuse in allowing 317 rushing yards to La.-Lafayette and 207 to La.-Monroe.

Lots of starters inhabit the line, so tough times can hopefully mean improved results via lessons learned. This is a nicely sized DL, one big enough to hold up girth-wise against any sized OL. The biggest impact is felt from Robert St. Clair, the end who led the entire team in sacks (four) and led all linemen in tackles. Big Jermaine Council improved steadily after taking over the other end slot. Dino Cox is being found inside these days, a hybrid of sorts that can bounce outside if needed. Ex-TE Mike Hancock is a beast at 6’7, and he rotates in for St. Clair so often that he could start and only see the field for a few more reps than what he already sees it as a reserve. Jervonte Jackson earned all-conference status by earning a stat line like St. Clair’s. Savidge’s knee injury last year was costly, but Mertilus stepped in adequately. These two will battle once Savidge is 100%. Consistency is all that is missing; the right big men are in place and just have to prove they can do the job.

The “Bone” award is given weekly (and at year’s end) to the Owl making the biggest hit. Local product Frantz Joseph had to go all the way to Boston College before realizing that he just wanted to stay home, but the multi-Bone winner (won 2006’s Ramon Rickards Memorial Bone Award, named after the Florida Atlantic DE who died that same year) is the biggest impact player on the team. He rules his middle post well enough that he’s made the Butkus and Lombardi Award watch lists, and well enough to set the team record for single-season tackles (his 131 last year led Sun Belt). A major contributor since his first snap, Andre Clark just keeps incrementally improving each year, making his senior year highly anticipated. Still, George Allen passed him to start the last four contests of ’07. Lockley also has a solid enough presence (two fumble recoveries, one blocked kick) to make a case for starting. Depth is there, especially in the middle.

The pass defense took on even more water, allowing 70 more yards per game from the previous year (when they ranked 16th in the nation). Going from allowing 16 TDs to 27 will usually elicit more losses, but the reverse was true, thus giving the secondary a reprieve until this September. The corners are as good as any pair in the nation. Only two other pairs have more than Tavious Polo (7) and Corey Small’s (5) 12-combined interceptions. But the passing yardage increases means the all-or-nothing style practiced by the Owls corners is often suspect. Hill has the size and worked on his technique in the off-season enough that he looks like an every-down CB. Greg Joseph is the first piece of the safety puzzle – the Orlando native was the state’s 170-pound wrestling champ (2003) and proved to be of great worth in nickel packages. The bigger risk is in starting Ed Alexander in front of Cardayle Brantley. Brantley was the main reserve in the deep middle in every game of ’07, so Alexander must be an upgrade to now make the grade. Knowing how well the offense can operate, the pressure on the D increases, especially with so many starters back.


LB Frantz Joseph


Returning Starters/
Key Players
DE Robert St. Claire-Sr (6-2, 250) Michael Hancock-Sr (6-7, 240)
DT Jervonte Jackson-Sr (6-5, 300) Jarvis Givens-Fr (6-3, 300)
DT John Mertilus-Jr (6-2, 288) Josh Savidge-Jr (6-2, 280) (inj.)
Dino Cox-So (6-3, 240)
DE Jermaine Council-Jr (6-5, 275) Jamere Johnson-Fr (6-4, 220)
SLB Andre Clark-Sr (6-1, 220) Ted Czepiga-Sr (6-0, 230)
Kris Rush-Sr (6-0, 220)
MLB Frantz Joseph-Sr (6-1, 229) Michael Lockley-So (6-2, 220)
WLB George Allen-Sr (6-0, 220) Ed Bradwell-Jr (6-1, 200)
Malik Eugene-So (6-3, 200)
CB Corey Small-Sr (5-10, 170) Tavoris Hill-So (6-0, 170)
CB Tavious Polo-So (5-10, 160) Erick McIntosh-Jr (6-0, 180)
ROV Greg Joseph-Sr (5-11, 195) Carldayle Brantley-Sr (6-1, 200)
FS Ed Alexander-So (6-1, 172) Austin Jensen-So (6-1, 190)
P Mickey Groody-So (5-11, 170) Keegan Peterson-Jr (6-0, 185)




Warley Leroy is solid from inside of 40 yards, but Marathon’s Ryan Paros could get a shot if Leroy again struggles from further out. The Owls already use a dual-punting system – Groody took over for Peterson and offers more control in his tries. Polo isn’t the right guy for PRs after his 2.8 ypr average proved such. Edgecomb is expandable to this area, and he needs to get that assignment.