The top 10 Florida Atlantic football players you need to know for the 2016 season.
DE Trey Hendrickson, Sr.
FAU must overcome a few sizable losses up front. Fortunately, Hendrickson is back for one final season. He’ll be the face of the Owl D in 2015, working nonstop to collapse the pocket. Hendrickson is already the school’s all-time sack leader, notching 13.5 to go along with five forced fumbles a year ago. Now up to 6-4 and 265 pounds, he’s continued to add muscle, yet hasn’t lost any of his closing speed. Hendrickson is an NFL talent, and he’ll be out to prove it this fall.
LT Reggie Bain, Jr.
Bain, FAU’s anchor of the O-line, could another step forward in his evolution by being named to the 2015 All-Conference USA Second team. An agile 6-4, 295-pounder, he’s the kind of heady, fundamentally sound blocker who’d translate well to center if the Owls had a need. Bain endured some rough spots in pass protection early in the year, but addressed them and should continue evolving into one of the league’s top left tackles.
LB Azeez Al-Shaair, Soph.
Al-Shaair showed no resemblance to a wide-eyed rookie in his first season of action. He played with competence, energy and boundless enthusiasm, leading the Owls with 94 tackles and seven stops for loss. Built more like a strong safety at 6-2 and 215 pounds, Al-Shaair flies around the field looking to get his nose in the action. With more snaps and fewer missed tackles, he’ll be among Conference USA’s most productive defenders this season.
P Dalton Schomp, Sr.
Schomp got his shot to play only after Sean Kelly left the team two years ago, and he’s made the most of the opportunity. He led the country with a 48-yard average, earning First Team All-Conference USA for his powerful leg and hang time. Schomp, who gives way to Ryan Rickel on pooch punts, will spend his senior year fine-tuning his craft in an effort to attract more interest from NFL scouts.
SS Jalen Young, Soph.
Florida Atlantic’s youth movement in the secondary produced numerous future stars. Young was arguably the most active among the rookies in 2015. He started 10 games, finished third on the team with 69 stops and picked off three passes, including one for a touchdown. Despite being only 5-11 and 175 pounds, Young is not timid about pressing up to the line to stop the run.
NB Ocie Rose, Soph.
Rose was one of the handful of young Owls to make a statement in 2015. As a rookie nickel back, he started five games and earned honorable mention All-Conference USA for making 41 tackles, three picks and two forced fumbles; two of his three touchdowns were on pick-sixes. Rose possesses terrific size, 6-2 and 185 pounds, athleticism and instincts. Now, he just needs more reps and study time to take his game to another level.
CB Herb Miller, Soph.
The hope around the program is that Miller is about to become the top pass defender, a successor to Cre’von LeBlanc in the secondary. As a true freshman, he started 10 games, finishing with 29 tackles and a team-high seven pass breakups. At 6-2 and 185 pounds, Miller is ideally sized to match up with the league’s longer receivers. And with a full year behind him, he’ll be even more confident as a sophomore.
RB Greg Howell, Jr.
The Owls will stage auditions for a feature back this offseason, a role Howell is hoping to play. He’ll get plenty of competition from senior Jay Warren, though Trey Rodriguez, who ran well as a rookie, was suspended from the team in the spring. The 6-1, 205-pound Howell led the team with 598 yards and three scores on 133 carries, and could see more action now that scrambling QB Jaquez Johnson has graduated.
LB Nate Ozdemir, Jr.
Ozdemir stepped up to become one of the defense’s emotional leaders when injuries struck the linebackers a year ago. He’s a high-motor 6-2, 230-pounder who started nine games and finished fifth on the team with 61 tackles. Ozdemir figures to again be slotted in the middle, where his blue-collar work ethic will help elevate a unit with a lot of potential.
LB Robert Relf, Sr.
The anticipated emergence of Relf never materialized in 2015, the result of an early-season shoulder injury. The Phoenix, Ariz. native started to lay a foundation two years ago by opening all but the finale and ranking fourth on the team with 65 tackles. Relf possesses ideal size for outside linebacker, 6-3 and 230 pounds, now needing to get healthy and improve his instincts and big-play ability.