Lane Kiffin praises FAU newcomer De’Andre Johnson

As his first spring game as Florida Atlantic’s head coach approaches, Lane Kiffin opened the final two days of spring practice to the media. Battling gray clouds and rain, FAU on Thursday held its final “true” practice prior to Saturday’s spring game.

Observations from the Oxley Center:

Praise for De’Andre: Kiffin wasn’t the only major newcomer to Boca Raton this spring, as former Florida State quarterback De’Andre Johnson committed to FAU in December after a stint at East Mississippi.

After four months and 14 practices together, Kiffin continues to be in awe of his new quarterback’s progress.

“I think he continues to get better,” Kiffin said. “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. You can see he’s miles ahead of where he was Day 1.”

Johnson will continue to compete for the starting quarterback job with rising junior Jason Driskel, a position battle that fans in attendance at Saturday’s spring game will undoubtedly be keeping an eye on.

Need for speed: One of the key focuses in Kiffin’s first camp has been tempo and speed, with many players commenting on how much they enjoyed the quicker style to the slower practices of the Charlie Partridge era. Saturday’s spring game will be an important test for Kiffin and the coaching staff to see where their players are in terms of their comfort level with the tempo.

“We’re not going to have a ton of things. We’re just going to play really fast,” Kiffin said.

That’s not to say that the speed factor is more important than the playbook, especially not in the team’s final real practice until August. For the veteran coach, finding a middle ground between the two is crucial to the evaluation that comes with the final practice of the spring.

“It’s more important to see, ‘OK, this is how you play in a game,’ because you should have a really good grasp of the game and what you have on your radar for a game,” Kiffin explained. “Scaling it down should be able to help those guys.”

Noteworthy: In compliance with NCAA rules, which mandate that three of the 14 practices — including the first two — have to be done without pads, Kiffin elected to use the final practice before the spring game as their padless day.

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