GAMEDAY: Q&A with Wesley Wright, FAU's University Press sports editor

Kelly Ward

Wesley Wright is the sports editor of the University Press, Florida Atlantic University’s student publication. The Crimson White caught up with him to talk about this weekend’s matchup.

Q: FAU threatened Nebraska last week a bit on the ground. Better on the ground this year?

A: Well, that’s what they wanted. In a perfect world, they can set the tone on the ground and then they can go through the air with Jaquez Johnson whenever they can’t run, but they’re a run first offense. They were last year, but on Saturday, they just were overmatched, and they’ll be overmatched probably coming into this next week. But their offense isn’t great, but it’s not as bad as it was compared to a year. But they are a run-first offense, and the starting running back is Tony Moore and we have a new coach, Charlie Partridge. Tony Moore didn’t play much under Carl Pelini, but he’s found his way back into the starting lineup and behind him you have Jay Warren, and Jay Warren was playing a lot as a true freshman last year, but it’s going to be running back by committee this year because they don’t have one solid guy. They haven’t had one solid guy since Alfred Morris.

Q: Despite being overmatched with Nebraska, Jay Warren had 77 yards against the Cornhusker defense. 

A: Yeah, that is definitely right, and he probably would have rushed for more if the game hadn’t been blown open so early because there’s no point of running the ball if we’re down by 17, 24 points, but they came to play though.

Q: And in one game he’s already rushed for a fifth of what he rushed last year?

A: Yeah, that’s right. Last year, he split carries with a guy named Jonathan Wallace, and then once Pelini got fired or resigned or whatever you want to call it, there’s another guy named Damian Fortner, who the interim coach liked, so Fortner took a little bit of Jay Warren’s carries at the end of last year. But it looks like it will be two or three guys splitting carries this year. But Warren can play, but I don’t know if he’s a blocker that Tony Moore is. That might be the reason Moore is the starter, but you’ll see a lot of both of them on Saturday.

Q: There’s a bit of a size overmatch with Alabama. But if you saw the game against West Virginia, they had a little bit of trouble with West Virginia’s offense. What did you see from that that you think Florida Atlantic can take advantage of?

A: Well, it’s good that you mentioned the size of the line. I don’t know. I think they do a zone blocking thing at Florida Atlantic, and then what they like to do is a bunch of short passes, which is kind of like a run anyway, but they want to try the short passing game so with that in mind, you don’t have to pass protect for three or four seconds every play. I think they can do that. I think they can do the short passing game, but you just have to deal with how much bigger the Alabama defensive line is than our offensive line. And we also don’t have a quarterback who’s that tall. I think Jaquez Johnson is maybe six feet tall so that might be an issue. But look, if they can get into a rhythm early – because on Saturday they got into the first possession and moved right down the field and scored. If they can get into a rhythm early, then it will become an issue of can they avoid turning the ball over and then if one side of the game isn’t working, like let’s say that Alabama stops Jay Warren and Tony Moore, and then they can key right into Jaquez Johnson passing the ball, and he may not be a gifted enough passer yet to where they can hand him the ball and say, ‘Hey, take us to the post, man.’ So the offense is, it’s ahead of where the defense is right now because Brian Wright was the interim coach last year after Pelini, and Brian Wright stayed on this coaching staff. The new head coach Charlie Partridge chose to keep him, but the defense is led by this new guy named Roc Bellantoni, and they did not look good Saturday. I’m a little concerned. And we had one of our cornerbacks get hurt. They say he’s going to be back this week. His name is D’Joun Smith, and probably one of the best cornerbacks in the country. He hurt his arm or something last Saturday, and they say he’ll be back, but you don’t know, and by the way, so did Jaquez. Jaquez also hurt his left shoulder, but they say they’ll be back so I’ll just take them at their word, but if not, then it could get really bad. 

Q: You say your corner got hurt. How tough is it to lose someone who may or may not be back? 

A: I can tell Partridge wouldn’t say, ‘Well, he’s not going to be back.’ I can tell that because then you game plan differently. It’s better just to leave it until Saturday. But anyway, let’s say that Amari Cooper is really good, right? So the guy behind our first cornerback is Cre’von LeBlanc, and it’s kind of like a crapshoot. We’ve got one really good cornerback, and then we’ve got three or four guys, one of which is a true freshman, we’ve got three or four guys who are just kind of there. They’re not unproven. They can get the job done, but they’re not gifted like D’Joun Smith is. But our secondary is pretty experienced. It wasn’t even the passing game. Our secondary was actually solid for most of last weekend. It was just their running game that killed us. I think Nebraska had almost 500 yards, which I expected them to beat us soundly, but I didn’t expect them to put up 500 yards on the ground. So maybe it was merciful that they did that, but the secondary did pretty good. It’s pretty solid all around. Just losing a guy like D’Joun Smith is tough because in a perfect world, you can put him on the best receiver on any team, and he’ll take them out of the game, but they’ll just have to figure it out. It’s tough to do when you’ve got guys like Amari Cooper and Derrick Henry and guys like that. There’s so many weapons on the Alabama team. There’s a lot to deal with, but they like, Florida Atlantic, likes to play a lot of man so I figure that even if D’Joun Smith is out, they’re going to stick with that and see what happens.