- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
BOCA RATON — As he enters his third season as Florida Atlantic's head football coach, all eyes will be on Willie Taggart.
Looking to improve after last season’s disappointing 5-7 finish when the Owls lost four straight and missed out on a bowl game appearance, FAU will be hoping its last season in Conference USA is successful - or there could be some changes.
Before heading to the American Athletic Conference (AAC), there are some promising young players and new assistants joining numerous returners to give FAU fans hope for the 2022 season.
There is a noticeably different level of excitement coming from Taggart, 10-11 in his two seasons at FAU, and the players that was seen during the spring and summer practices. Those inside the program believe they have a chance to make a big leap, starting with the season opener at home on Saturday, August 27 at 7 p.m., against the Charlotte 49ers.
Taggart looks at 2022: How Willie Taggart, FAU football are prepping for 2022 amid conference, NIL changes
Here are the keys to a successful season for the Owls in 2022:
N'Kosi Perry ready to lead a consistent offense
FAU’s offense last season was anything but consistent. On fire in games against FIU, Charlotte, Fordham and Georgia Southern, it wasn’t hot in games that mattered.
In their losing streak to end the season, the Owls failed to eclipse more than 17 points in any of those four games. Dropped passes and penalties were two of the leading factors resulting in the stagnant attack.
To move past 2021's woes, Taggart made a big change by hiring former Middle Tennessee offensive coordinator/QBs coach Brent Dearmon. The 38-year old coach has already made a big impact on the team as players have praised his intensity and creative play-designs.
Along with Dearmon, starting quarterback N’Kosi Perry is back for a second year in Boca Raton - and sixth college season overall - after an up-and-down 2021. Perry, the former Miami Hurricanes starter, missed spring practice in 2021, joining the team late. Now that he’s been here through a full season and off-season, his leadership ability has emerged.
Among the skill players, receiver LaJohntay Wester looks to improve after a great freshman season when he led the team with 702 yards and four touchdowns. Besides Wester, others expected to be at the end of Perry's passes are Jahmal Edrine, Tony Johnson, Javion Posey and Je’Quan Burton. Another new coach is leading that group, Billy Gonzalez.
The running back room last season was led by playmaker Johnny Ford, but he should be complemented by Larry McCammon, Kelvin Dean, and Marvin Scott.
Fans have been waiting for an exciting offense to return since former head coach Lane Kiffin bolted for Ole Miss. That remains to be seen, but with a new offensive coordinator, a talented, veteran quarterback, an improved offensive line and solid players at the skill positions, it all has the makings to be better than the 10th scoring offense in C-USA in 2021.
Owls must have an aggressive defense
On the other side of the ball, the team will look different from last year after Todd Orlando took over from Mike Stoops as defensive coordinator.
The defense helped FAU stayed competitive in a good portion of its games, but the lack of a consistent pass rush was an issue.
FAU finished in the bottom three in Conference USA in sacks, but that should change as Orlando’s MO is an aggressive, blitzing defense.
The Owls defensive line will be led by nose guard Evan Anderson who’s alongside edge rusher Jaylen Joyner and end Decarius Hawthorne.
Orlando likes to blitz his linebackers so look for Morven Joseph, Jaleel McRae, and Eddie Williams, who the coach has repeatedly mentioned, to be active in that area. Those three will be trying to replace the departed Caliph Brice and Akileis Leroy.
The secondary will be an intriguing position group. It will be led by safety Teja Young, who’s been named one of the three team captains. Besides being a leader, Young is one of the best safeties in the conference and has been building up other defensive backs such as Dwight Toombs, Romain Mungin and Daemon Hill.
FAU was third in the conference interceptions last year, but the Owls must replace Zyon Gilbert, who's currently trying to make the New York Giants roster.
Owls Two-Deep Depth Chart
The Owls are currently finishing up their depth chart for the start of the 2022 season and it should be made public early in the week.
Here is a projected one, compiled with the help of Rick Henderson of the FAU Owl’s Nest and Kevin Fielder of Owls 247:
FAU starting and backup quarterback, and other offensive starters
QB 15 N'Kosi Perry 10 Willie Taggart Jr.
XWR 86 Jahmal Edrine 87 Jordan Young
YWR 83 LaJohntay Wester 16 Tony Johnson
ZWR 8 Je'Quan Burton 11 Javion Posey
TE/HB 81 Austin Evans 47 Carter Boatright
RB 3 Larry McCammon 5 Johnny Ford
LT 69 Brendon Bordner 70 Malcolm Lamar
LG 78 Dorian Hinton 66 Deshawn Richardson
C 63 Nick Weber 64 Federico Maranges
RG 75 Marquice Robinson 79 Kamaar Bell
RT 71 Chaz Neal 73 Alex Atcavage
Florida Atlantic starters on defense
EDGE BB 0 Jalen Joyner 19 Morven Joseph
DE 90 Decarius Hawthorne 97 Jaden Wheeler
NG 8 Evan Anderson 7 Latrell Jean
DE 94 Keem Green 49 Chris Jones
Will LB (Rover) 3 Eddie Williams 29 Jamie Pettway
Mac (Mike) LB 14 Jaleel McRae 29 Jamie Pettway
NB 22 Jayden Williams
CB 16 Daemon Hill 24 Michal Antoine
CB 20 Romain Mungin 11 Justin McKithen
SS 4 Teja Young 30 Armani Eli Adams
FS 31 Dwight Toombs 28 Marquis Johnson
FAU's 2022 kicker, punter, returner and long snappers on special teams
KO 43 Logan Lupo 38 Morgan Suarez
FG 38 Morgan Suarez 43 Logan Lupo
P 46 Riley Thompson 43 Logan Lupo
LS 45 Nick Marino 58 Philip Barbar
H 10 Willie Taggart Jr. 58 Philip Barbar
PR 83 LaJohntay Wester 8 Je'Quan Burton
KR 83 Je'Quan Burton 83 LaJohntay Wester
This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: Willie Taggart, FAU Owls football depth chart for last season in C-USA