Tide schedule preview: Florida Atlantic

The rundown

2011 record: 1-11

2011 conference record: 0-8 (Sun Belt)

Returning starters: Offense: 6, Defense: 8, Specialists: 1

Top returners: QB Graham Wilbert, C Mustafa Johnson, TE Nexon Dorvilus, WR Andre Richardson, LB David Hinds, LB Randell Johnson, LB Andrae Kirk

2011 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: Alfred Morris (1,188 yards)

Passing: Graham Wilbert* (1,459 yards)

Receiving: Darian Williams (291 yards)

Tackles: David Hinds* (101)

Sacks: Kevin Cyrille (4.5)

Interceptions: Treon Howard* (2)

What they're saying: "We’re starting over. There won’t be one term that carries over. They are going to have to learn a whole new language in four weeks.” - FAU coach Carl Pelini before spring practice

Three things to watch:

1. Different Owls: The Florida Atlantic Owls were dreadful in every way last year. On defense, they gave up 34.7 points per game and scored less than 13 per contest. That was enough for the Howard Schnellenberger experiment to be called to a close. Enter former Nebraska defensive coordinator Carl Pelini, who is trying to recreate the Owls’ philosophy on both sides of the football.

2. Building from scratch: That new attitude starts with Pelini’s forte, defense. And with three quality returning linebackers, he has the ability to do some things. Hinds, Johnson and Kirk were 1-2-3 in tackles last year and will provide a good foundation. However, the Owls do lose their top pass-rusher and a key member of the secondary.

3. Spreading it out: The biggest change at FAU may be on offense. Schnellenberger’s pro-style offense is out as Pelini goes to the spread. Who will run the spread is up for debate, though. Returning starter Graham Wilbert isn’t built for a run-and-gun, and juco transfer Melvin German has the inside track at earning the job, despite not arriving on campus yet. Pelini signed a bunch of juco players on offense to make up for a lack of talent at receiver.