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FAU: Quarterbacks, defensive line to be focus of Owls’ spring finale

To conclude their first spring camp under Lane Kiffin, Florida Atlantic will have its annual spring game 4 p.m. Saturday at FAU Stadium.

While Kiffin, who previously conducted spring games while coach at Tennessee and USC and was also the coach of the Oakland Raiders, isn’t overly excited about what he calls “really just the 15th practice,” FAU fans are enthused to see their new-look team in action — and the return of Kiffin’s trademark visor.

Here is what fans can expect:

The format: Kiffin confirmed on Thursday that the first half of Saturday’s game will be an offense vs. defense format rather than one team with one quarterback and a second team led by another quarterback. For 30 in-game minutes, the two sides will clash in a manner that Kiffin has experience dealing with.

“It’s something we’ve done before when our numbers were really low at USC because of the probation,” Kiffin said. “There’ll be a scoring system where the defense can score by three-and-outs, by stops, and by turnovers so it’ll still be competitive that way.”

Kiffin has not announced publicly the format that will be used for the final 30 minutes.

Who’s the quarterback? While quarterbacks will not be live — they can scramble, but cannot be tackled — both De’Andre Johnson and Jason Driskel will be receiving plenty of snaps on Saturday afternoon. Because the two aren’t necessarily competing directly against each other — Johnson isn’t leading a team against Driskel’s — fans should pay close attention to their decision making, and arm strength, especially with a much-improved receiving group.

“It’s as close to a game as you’re going to get in the spring, but it’s completely different than a game in September or October,” Driskel said on Thursday.

As for Johnson, who continues to dazzle in practice with a deep arm and blazing speed, the former high school Mr. Football has made a habit of improvising. Johnson, who began his college career at Florida State but was dismissed in July 2015 after a video was released showing him punching a woman at a Tallahassee bar, has impressed coaches with his attitude and how quickly he has grasped the offensive system.

“I think he continues to get better — this is a different system than many people run, so it’s different for how they drop and how the play actions are; it takes time to get used to it,” Kiffin said. “You can see he’s miles ahead of where he was day one.”

Dwyer graduate Daniel Parr will miss the spring game as he continues to recover from foot surgery. Upon his return, Parr figures to challenge Steven Frank for the third quarterback position.

A find on the line: Kiffin has openly called the defensive line “our most concerning position” after the losses of Trey Hendrickson and Shalom Ogbonda, but defensive end Damian Horton — who played his freshman year at West Hills Community College and spent last year working out with the Owls — has turned heads this spring.

“He’s done a really good job – a guy that stood out right from the beginning in drills,” Kiffin said of the Miami Killian Sr. graduate.

Horton also had one of the top defensive plays in Tuesday’s practice, snagging a Driskel pass behind the line of scrimmage and running it back for a touchdown. If the 250 pound defensive end can do something similar on Saturday, then fans in attendance are in for a treat

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