For the first time since taking the job as Florida Atlantic's offensive coordinator, Brian Wright will head into week one with the same quarterback from the previous season. That man is Jaquez Johnson, a 6'1" 225 pound wrecking ball from Starkville, Mississippi. With an experienced receiving core around him, the reigning C-USA newcomer of the year will have weapons available to join the upper elite of the conference's quarterbacks - if he's not already there. The only question remaining is whether or not Jaquez is ready to carry the Owls to top of their division?
Coach Charlie Partridge hasn't officially named a starting quarterback for FAU's Week One game against Nebraska, but he has said that if the season began next week, "Jaquez would be the starter". Johnson solidified his status atop the depth chart with a 299-yard, two-touchdown performance last season against UAB. Since that game against the Blazers, he has run for over 500 yards and produced 13 touchdowns.
Even with this late season surge, Johnson is still a year or two away from racking up gaudy numbers comparable to fellow Conference USA quarterback, Rakeem Cato. Johnson's pedestrian 1,866 yards on 149 completions last season were enough to lead FAU to 6-6, but those numbers are still a far-cry from Cato's 3,916 yards on nearly 300 completed passes. Offensive coordinator Brian Wright's play-calling typically asks for more designed runs for the QB, but for the Owls to make a run at the top of the table in 2014, Jaquez will need to improve through the air.
Now, there is definitely still hope that Johnson and FAU can establish a well-rounded attack. Cato experienced a less than stellar sophomore campaign and the senior Heisman hopeful went into this past season looking to erase the notion that he could only pass. His response was picking up nearly 300 yards and six touchdowns on the ground, leading the Herd to a 10-win season. What the Marshall QB has done for his running game, Johnson will need to replicate for his passing if the Owls ever want to sniff the top of the C-USA East division.
Where Johnson excels is in the run game. He's on track to being one of the most prolific in Conference USA history and tied for the sixth quarterback in the nation with ten rushing touchdowns this past season. The running game is not only important for Johnson, but for FAU as a whole. The Owls went 6-2 last season when Jaquez rushed for more than 50 yards and 3-0 when he passed 100. Six wins won't be enough to knock Marshall off the top of the East, but if Johnson can continue to build off this seasons performance, FAU will finally be in position to claim the throne.