SBC 2009 Preview for Florida Atlantic.

Cortez Grant, Florida Atlantic FootballHoward Schnellenberger, enters his ninth season as the Owls head coach and his 11th at the University. Schnellenberger, the 1983 National Coach of the Year, is known as a program builder. He resurrected the University of Miami, culminating in UM’s first national championship. He pulled the University of Louisville from the Nation’s forgotten into a top-10 team. He has built FAU from scratch and is currently listed No. 12, by the NCAA, in victories by active FBS head coaches (148-125-3, .542).

Rusty Smith will return for his third season as an Owl starter. The senior from Jacksonville holds nearly every FAU passing record. He was the 2007 Sun Belt Player of the Year and the 2008 Preseason Player of the Year. He guided the Owls to back-to-back bowl victories and earned bowl game MVP honors in both.

The state of Florida is arguably the best state in the country for college football, earning the National Championship Title two of the last three seasons. In that time FAU is the only team in the state to win bowl games in both 2007 and 2008.

Bowl records since 2006 when FAU officially became Bowl Eligible:
UF (35-6, .854) ........................................2-1 bowl wins
USF (26-13, .667) .............................2-1 bowl games
FSU (23-16, .589) .............................2-1 bowl games
FAU (20-18, .526) ............................2-0 bowl games
Miami (19-19, 500) .........................1-1 bowl games
UCF (18-20, .474).............................0-1 bowl games

As a start-up program, the Owls soared through the Division I-AA ranks setting records along the way. FAU declared its intent for Bowl Subdivision status in 2003, began the move in 2004 and 2005 and was officially eligible to play for a bowl opportunity in 2006. In the three seasons that FAU has held full Bowl Subdivision status, the Owls have played in two bowl games.

Rusty Smith, Florida Atlantic FootballFlorida Atlantic is the only team in the Sun Belt Conference history to win back-to-back bowl games.

Senior Frantz Joseph anchored the 2007 and 2008 FAU defense. Joseph led the SBC in tackles both seasons and concluded his three-year career ranked No. 17 by the NCAA in Career Tackles Per Game at 9.35. FAU will showcase three new linebackers in 2009 with Michael Lockley expecting to step in at MLB.

The Owls will return three-year starters at both wide receiver positions and at tight end. The receiving corp’s careers are parallel with quarterback Rusty Smith as all started on the scout team together in 2005. The group will also welcome the return of tight end Jason Harmon whose explosive ability sparked the 2007 season. Harmon along with the return of 2008 starter Jamari Grant will provide a two-tight end set that will be hard to defend.

William Rose will return to the backfield as the most dominant fullback in the Sun Belt Conference. Rose averages 5.0 yards per carry and 6.9 yards per reception. He has 11 career scores.

The offensive line will be anchored by three-year starter David Matlock. Matlock has had knee surgeries each of the last two off seasons but has yet to miss time on the field. Matlock has been part of an offensive line that has provided protection for the prolific passing attack as well as for a program that despite sharing ground duties between three rushers saw its first individual gain 1,000 plus yards in a single-season.

The defense will look to Josh Savidge for its experienced senior leadership. Savidge drew his first start as a true freshman against Oklahoma State in Pro Player Stadium. He played every game that followed until a knee injury in the fourth game of his junior season forced him to the sideline. He returned in 2008 to play and start in every game. Savidge recorded 28 tackles, including five for a loss of 12 yards.

First Photograph: Cortez Gent returns as one of the most potent receiving threats in the Sun Belt.

Second Photograph: Rusty Smith was named the MVP of both the 2007 R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl and the 2008 Motor City Bowl.

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