Brandon walton, reggie bain remain steady offensive tackles for fau amid changing offensive line fau focus

The depth at tackle has certainly changed since the Owls’ 2017 season ended, with tackle Bryan Beck retiring because of medical issues and versatile Matt Weiner (Suncoast) departing the program before spring camp. Backup tackle Robert Hawkins is no longer listed as being with the team either, meaning some of the true freshmen who signed with the Owls this offseason may see playing time this year in reserve roles.

58 – Reggie Bain – R-Sr. (6-4, 300): Bain showed no rust in his return from a 2016 traffic accident, solidifying himself as one of the league’s top offensive linemen. A bullying presence in the trenches whose successful comeback inspired teammates, the Miami Central alumnus could become the first Owls offensive lineman taken in the NFL Draft.


73 – Brandon Walton – Jr. (6-5, 300): One of Walton’s favorite stories to tell comes from his freshman season, when injuries to teammates forced the Seminole graduate from scout team to “playing three quarters” and learning on the fly. Though Walton described last season as inconsistent, his strong play down the stretch overshadows his modesty. Walton’s development in his second season as a starter will be one worth watching, especially as Kiffin and Garrison attempt to find stability at the other offensive line positions.

– Doug Johnson Jr. – Fr. (6-5, 320): A four-year starter at Fort White High School, Johnson already has the build of a polished offensive lineman. With the reduced second-string depth, Johnson could begin the season as Walton’s backup. Johnson could be helped by the new redshirt rule, which allows true freshman to play up to four games while retaining an extra year of eligibility.

66 – Tarrick Thomas – R-Jr. (6-4, 280): Thomas’ inclusion may come as a surprise after he competed for the starting center role this spring, though former Tulane center Raul “Junior” Diaz figures to be the favorite for that job after transferring to FAU as a graduate student. With the Owls also adding JUCO center Zack Bennett (Arizona Western) with the idea of playing him at center or guard, Thomas may become more of a utility offensive lineman. The lack of veteran depth at tackle could mean Thomas, who played the position in high school, returns to his roots this summer.

– Devin Hayes – Fr. (6-6, 266): Hayes thought highly of FAU during the recruiting process, telling The Post he viewed the Owls as a Power Five program. Look for Hayes to be a key part of the Owls offensive line going forward, even if his time on the field is limited this fall. “There’s nothing wrong with redshirting and I get an extra year under my belt, but I want to compete,” Hayes said this spring. “I (don’t) care who’s in front of me or where.”

The big question: Are the Owls truly lacking at tackle depth? No one wants to see offensive linemen go down, especially after the 2016 season saw nine different starting combinations in the first nine games, but it’s a reality most teams have to face each year. In the case that Bain or Walton goes down, Kiffin may need an inexperienced (when it comes to game action) lineman to step up against tough C-USA defensive linemen.

The most pressure is on… Walton. While Bain has proven himself as one of the top offensive linemen in the entire conference – and if the fifth-year senior performs how he did last season, a case could even be made he deserves down-ballot votes for the AP All-American Team – the other line changes means Walton needs to build off his strong sophomore season. If Walton’s spring camp is a sign of things to come, FAU may have found another all-conference o-lineman.

Fun fact: Using the S&P advanced analytics system which Kiffin has become a fan of, FAU’s 2017 offensive line ranked third in power success rate, a stat which measures the percentage of runs on third or fourth down, two yards or less to go, that achieved a first down or a touchdown. FAU’s 82.5 rate trailed only Army (87.2) and Mississippi State (84.2).