Under former head coach Howard Schnellenberger, you would have been hard-pressed to find a true freshman competing for playing time, let alone a spot on the depth chart. This wasn't Schnelly's personal vendetta against 18 year olds, though. The quality of freshmen in years past has really needed the extra time for development and even FAU greats, such as Alfred Morris, didn't experience real playing time until later on in their collegiate careers.
With recent recruiting successes, it was only a matter of time before Florida Atlantic started admitting underclassmen that were ready to see the field. Here are five true freshman (and one transfer) set to burst onto the scene in Boca this year:
Landon Scheer, K
FAU was last in Conference USA in field goal conversions last season (64.7%). With such a low mark, head coach Charlie Partridge made it a point to bring on at least one scholarship kicker this year. When Scheer signed with FAU, he became only the second kicker ever to sign with the Owls and will look to run away with the kicking competition early on. Although Scheer has been slowed down recently in camp due to a lingering thigh injury, he appears to be the freshman with the biggest opportunity to start in 2014.
Reginald Bain, OL
Reggie Bain was one of two early enrollees for the Owls this season and the extra reps are already beginning to show. The Miami Central product started at left tackle in the spring game and is already up to 286 pounds. Florida Atlantic's offensive line is experiencing a reshuffling this season under Partridge and Bain has already seemed to find his spot. If his development continues through fall camp, he should be the opening week starter against Nebraska and will surely split time with redshirt sophomore Dillon DeBoer.
Marquese Dudley-Gordon, S
Safety does not seem to be a position lacking depth for FAU this season. Unfortunately for Marquese Dudley-Gordon, that means playing time at his natural position will be scarce for the true freshman from Weston Cypress Bay High School. Dudley-Gordon definitely looks the part, though. At 6 feet, 188 pounds, he is already forming an FBS-ready body and should see plenty of work sooner rather than later. Marquese has a knack for big hits and will surely add quality to the Owls special teams coverage.
Henry Bussey, WR
There should be a positional renaissance for the slot receiver in Florida Atlantic's offense this season. The two depth chart leaders, Lucky Whitehead and DJ Juste, have finally found their true roles and will look to exploit defenses this season. Although Lucky and DJ seem to have solidified their positions, Henry Bussey has made a case for playing time during fall camp. The Hialeah High true freshman should continue to perform well and could see the field early on if Whitehead experiences the same nagging injury from last season that seemed to limit his performance.
Raekwon Williams, DB
My obvious candidate for all-name team has really shown up during fall camp. Raekwon Williams, a 5'11" 174 pound defensive back out of Jacksonville First Coast High School, has already displayed the type of physical coverage ability that should help him see the field this season. Raekwon has already been matching up with senior wide receiver William Dukes in practice and applied the pressure Dukes will see all season long. Williams will challenge sophomore Reggie Brown for playing time behind redshirt senior D'Joun Smith.
Bonus: Nick Internicola, DL
FAU has only ever seen one true impact FBS transfer in its short history - Frantz Joseph. The stud, do-it-all linebacker transferred from Boston College after his freshman year and took Boca Raton by storm. It was only after waiting a year that he could do so and was forced to sit out due to NCAA transfer rules. Nick Internicola, a transfer from Rutgers, is hoping to speed up that process. Internicola's request has already been received by the NCAA and the Owls are waiting to hear back regarding Nick's status for 2014.
The redshirt freshman linebacker played at Davie University School under Roger Harriott, who is now the assistant head coach at FAU. Harriott had a hand in recruiting the majority of this freshman class and many of his recruits, including Internicola, should be in line for playing time within the next year.