Tide schedule preview: Florida Atlantic

Editor's note: We’re taking steps to get you ready for every one of Alabama's regular-season opponents. Every Friday we'll go through each week of the schedule, starting with the season-opener against West Virginia and closing with the finale against Auburn. This week, we highlight the Florida Atlantic Owls.

The rundown

2013 overall record: 6-6

2013 Conference USA record: 4-4, fourth in the East Division

Record all time against Alabama: 0-1

Last meeting: 40-7 in 2012

Starters returning

Offense: 6; Defense: 6; Kicker/punter: 2

Top returners

DT Brandin Bryant, TE Alex Deleon, WR William Dukes, QB Jacquez Johnson, LB Andrae Kirk OL Braden Lyons

Key losses

LB Adarius Glanton, DE Cory Henry, C Mustafa Johnson, LB Randell Johnson, WR Daniel McKinney, DB D'Joun Smith

2013 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: Jaquez Johnson* (772 yards)

Passing: Jaquez Johnson* (1,876 yards, 12 TD, 8 INT)

Receiving: Daniel McKinney (615 yards)

Tackles: Andrae Kirk* (84)

Sacks: Cory Henry (7.5)

Interceptions: D’Joun Smith (7)

What they're saying:

“What this program accomplished in the last four games in what was a very turbulent time is very impressive. That’s a start. I see some mental toughness. I see some coaches that bought in and did a great job. Now what we need to do is continue to build the foundation.” -- Charlie Partridge, shortly after being hired as head coach of Florida Atlantic.

Three things to watch:

1. Partridge era begins: That last quote was something of an understatement. Turbulent? Try disastrous. When your former football coach is escorted out of the building by police for reported drug use, that’s kind of a big deal. Carl Pelini ultimately resigned, opening the door for Partridge, who comes by way of Arkansas and Wisconsin. The 17-year college football veteran has strong ties to the state of Florida, though. A native of Plantation, he knows the areas high schools well. According to the Palm Beach Post, Partridge has convinced 15 high school football players from Broward and Palm Beach County to play for either Wisconsin or Arkansas since 2008, most notably standout freshman running back Alex Collins and offensive lineman Denver Kirkland.

2. Jaquez Johnson: The 6-foot-1, 225-pound junior is a handful under center. Last season, he led FAU in rushing with 772 yards. But more importantly, he seemed to develop some as a passer toward the end of the season. Over his first 10 games, he threw six touchdowns and six interceptions, completing roughly 57 percent of his passes for an average of 132.6 yards per game. But in his final two games, he settled in nicely, completing 61 percent of his passes for 539 yards, six touchdowns and two interceptions. All that was enough to earn the former junior college transfer Conference USA Newcomer of the Year honors.

3. Strong secondary: Alabama shouldn’t have any trouble running on Florida Atlantic’s front seven. The talent disparity is as noticeable as the physical disparity. The Owls’ top three offensive linemen -- Braden Lyons, Dillon DeBoer and Isaac Edwards -- average 273 pounds. A'Shawn Robinson, Alabama’s versatile sophomore defensive end/tackle, for comparison’s sake, is a hefty 320 pounds. But setting aside the front seven, and the Owls do have a strong secondary. Safety Damian Parms returns to campus, as does cornerback D’Joun Smith. If you did a double take on Smith’s name, it’s with good reason, as the soon-to-be senior ranked second in the nation in interceptions (7) and third in passes defended (13) last season.

Alabama 2014 schedule

vs. West Virginia (in Atlanta)

vs. Florida Atlantic

vs. Southern Miss

vs. Florida

at Ole Miss

at Arkansas

vs. Texas A&M

at Tennessee

at LSU

vs. Mississippi State

vs. Western Carolina

vs. Auburn