Saturday's spring game will prove to be more than just the end of the spring season and an acknowledgement that the fall will be here soon for Florida Atlantic. Head coach Charlie Partridge will have a stage for a few of the team's most pressing storylines to play out in his third year at the helm.
With a young team and an new offensive system, there will be plenty of changes to keep track of. With all of that in mind, here are three factors to keep an eye on coming into Saturday's game:
1. Quarterback battle between Jason Driskel and Daniel Parr
For both Daniel Parr and Jason Driskel, Saturday will serve as the first major public exposition of their ongoing battle at the quarterback position. Partridge has said both will receive time with the first team offense on Saturday, much like they have during spring practices.
While Partridge has not hinted at either signal caller being favored over the other, one could reason a great spring game could bring either quarterback to the front of the competition coming into fall camp.
If Parr can channel what got people talking about him during last year's spring game as an early enrollee, he may be able to take the top spot. If Driskel can show off improved ball security and better decision making on his passes, he will possess the edge.
2. Young Defensive core back out on the field
Facing the graduation of defensive stalwarts Cre'von LeBlanc, Sharrod Neasman, Brandin Bryant and Trevon Coley, one might expect the Owls to be a little nervous stepping into the next year with so many losses.
Azeez Al-Shaair, Ocie Rose, Jalen Young and Hunter Snyder are making it hard for that feeling to be acknowledged though. That young defensive group found itself thrown into games last year as freshmen and were asked to make contributions early on, which they did.
Young and Rose combined for six interceptions last season (three each) while Al-Shaair led the team with 94 total tackles on his way to a USA Today Freshman All-American nod. Snyder joined the defensive line as a redshirt freshman, registering four and a half sacks in a unit featuring veterans Trey Hendrickson and Shalom Ogbonda.
The secondary still has a hole left to fill where Le'Blanc used to be, as well as empty spots on the line where Bryant and Coley used to occupy. It will be no means easy to replace the production those players amassed, but a few improvements combined with the returning talent pool could see this defense become one of the top in Conference USA.
3. New look offense
Besides having a new quarterback, Florida Atlantic will trot out a new offensive system formulated by incoming offensive coordinator Travis Trickett.
Formerly of FCS's Samford, Trickett is looking to bring a faster, no huddle system to the Owls this year. This move represents a change from Brian Wright's offensive system, which was the standard under Partridge's control for the past two years before Wright's departure to the same position at Toledo.
After running only 69.1 plays during Partridge's initial season in 2014, the Owls sped up and ran an average of 76.4 plays during the 2015, good for a 69 spot jump in the national rankings to 35th.
Despite that speed, the Owls failed to find the efficiency to end their drives at times,only averaging 22.5 points per game last year, ranking 101st out of all teams in the FBS. It remains to be seen if Trickett can top the standard set for speed last season, but the most important goal for him to have will be making the offense more productive with its drives.
Samford averaged 34.6 points during with Trickett as the offensive coordinator last season after two straight years of growth under his control. Making that same jump with the Owls will be the sink-or-swim factor for how this season will go.