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Early Wisconsin football 2017 preview: Week 2 vs. Florida Atlantic

Underdog Dynasty looks at the new regime in Boca Raton.

NCAA Football: FAU Press Conference Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Gone from Florida Atlantic is former Wisconsin Badgers defensive line coach and co-defensive coordinator Charlie Partridge. The well-respected former UW assistant was relieved of his duties after three 3-9 seasons with the Owls, this after following Bret Bielema to Arkansas.

Welcome back to the head coaching ranks, Lane Kiffin. The former Oakland Raiders, Tennessee Volunteers and USC Trojans coach who most recently served as Alabama’s offensive coordinator for three seasons will now lead the Owls’ program in Boca Raton.

Wisconsin welcomes Florida Atlantic to Camp Randall Stadium on Sept. 9. Underdog Dynasty’s Cyrus Smith previewed the new regime and what the Owls could bring to Madison in the second game of the season.

Former Wisconsin defensive coordinator Charlie Partridge was fired after last season, and Florida Atlantic hired Lane Kiffin to replace him. How has the response been to Kiffins hire and the staff hes put in place, especially with the addition of former Baylor assistant Kendal Briles as offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach?

The response to Kiffin has been euphoria with a mixture of wait-and-see. FAU and FIU are in Miami’s shadow in South Florida, so it’s great to see the Owls in the national media.

Kiffin pretty much burned every bridge on his way out of Tuscaloosa. His antics with the hype video were largely laughed at until he made waves on National Signing Day and gave FAU the best class in Conference USA. In typical Lane fashion, he followed that up by making an appearance at a Boca nightclub #LetsBeJerks. As an FAU alum I can tell you that after years of toiling as a major G5 underachiever, a lot of FAU fans are going to be OK with the antics as long as he wins. So far he’s done exactly what we hoped for: recruit Florida well and give attention to the university.

With that said, the response to his staff has been mainly looked upon negatively, in large part due to the hire of Kendall Briles as his offensive coordinator as you mentioned. Kiffin’s response to Briles being added to the staff has rubbed many people the wrong way, myself included. I really wish Briles wasn’t on the staff but alas, here we are. With Butch Davis at rival FIU, the pressure is on for FAU to succeed. FAU fans are already on high alert that this could blow up in our face given Kiffin’s shenanigans. Time will tell if that comes to fruition.

Who are the key contributors coming back for the Owls?

On offense, the contributors rely mainly in the backfield. Sophomore Devin Singletary is an explosive runner and provides a dynamic one-two punch with senior Greg Howell, who is more of a between-the-tackles runner. Both were excellent last season despite a poor passing offense. Kalib Woods is the lone consistent receiver and he could really blossom should former Florida State quarterback De’Andre Johnson live up to the hype.

From last years team, who will they have to replace?

On defense is where FAU could have some major issues. With the departure of future NFL draft pick Trey Hendrickson on the line, all of FAU’s significant contributors reside in the secondary. Ocie Rose and Jalen Young were outstanding freshmen two seasons ago but regressed drastically last year. We’ll see how they look in Chris Kiffin’s new 4-3 defense this year as the Owls transition away from the 4-2-5.

Trey Hendrickson Highlights (FAU Athletics/YouTube)

Which player or players could be a breakout candidate?

Quarterback De’Andre Johnson. FAU’s quarterbacks were abysmal last season as Jason Driskel (yep, Jeff Driskel’s younger brother) and Daniel Parr failed to keep defenses honest. Kiffin and Briles have had huge success with dual-threat quarterbacks and Johnson fits that bill. Being that FAU president John Kelly and athletic director Pat Chun were part of the vetting and recruiting process, I’d be shocked if Johnson wasn’t the starter when FAU plays Wisconsin. He put up huge numbers in the JUCO ranks but he scared away a lot of teams due to his altercation at Florida State in which he hit a woman. With Johnson, Kiffin and Briles in Boca Raton, FAU has essentially become Second Chance U, if you will. Johnson has major potential and I expect him to be dynamite this season.

Which position battle(s) are worth watching this spring?

We still don’t know how Johnson looks in an FAU uniform and the quarterback play in this new offense, so that’s worth watching despite the formality that the competition appears to be. Wide receiver is going to be something to watch as well, as there aren’t any proven threats behind Kalib Woods. But I’m keeping my eye on the front seven. FAU has been hapless against the run in the past three years and it could be worse without Trey Hendrickson. Given the new staff, we could see a bunch of new names earning recognition in the spring on the d-line and at linebacker. Although the defense has underachieved recently, Partridge did a really good job recruiting. FAU is a talented team. We’ll see how well it develops under Kiffin and co.

2017 Wisconsin Football Schedule

Date Opponent Time (CT) Spring Q&A Preview
Date Opponent Time (CT) Spring Q&A Preview
Sept. 1 Utah State 8 p.m. Mountain West Connection
Sept. 9 Florida Atlantic 11 a.m. Underdog Dynasty
Sept. 16 at BYU 2:30 p.m. Vanquish the Foe
Sept. 30 Northwestern TBA Inside NU
Oct. 7 at Nebraska TBA Corn Nation
Oct. 14 Purdue TBA Hammer and Rails
Oct. 21 Maryland (Homecoming) 11 a.m. Testudo Times
Oct. 28 at Illinois 11 a.m. The Champaign Room
Nov. 4 at Indiana TBA Crimson Quarry
Nov. 11 Iowa TBA BHGP
Nov. 18 Michigan TBA Maize N Brew
Nov. 25 at Minnesota TBA The Daily Gopher