Florida Atlantic hopes N'Kosi Perry's second chance leads to wins for Owls

Reese Furlow
Special to The Post
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N'Kosi Perry will be FAU's starting quarterback heading into the season and, in line with a new start, he now is wearing No. 7 rather than the No. 5 he wore at Miami.

BOCA RATON — After three seasons in Miami with only nine starts and several off-the-field issues, quarterback N’Kosi Perry is getting a “fresh start.”

Florida Atlantic head coach Willie Taggart named the former Ocala Vanguard standout the starter and he will make his debut at Florida on Saturday night.

“I knew if I worked my tail off it could happen and would happen, and it did, and I'm grateful for it,” Perry said. “I'm ready to make the best of it.”

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Florida Field is expected to be close to capacity and Perry is no stranger to playing in front of large crowds, having seen action against Virginia Tech, Pitt and Clemson on the road. 

“With N'Kosi, you can tell the young man has experience playing the position at a high level,” Taggart said. “Considering the fact he didn't have spring ball, and came into training camp and knew enough of the offense to be able to compete, says a lot about the way he studied and how much he wanted it.”

4-man quarterback battle

Perry beat out Willie Taggart Jr., former starter Nick Tronti, and fellow transfer Michael Johnson Jr. for the starting role despite arriving late. And while Taggart went back and forth between Tronti and redshirt freshman Javion Posey last season, he said that will not be the case this season.

“We selected N'Kosi to be our quarterback, and that's our plan,” Taggart said. “We're not going to play musical chairs or anything of that nature. I know last year ... we were still trying to figure out the whole team, [but] we didn't have an opportunity to do that without spring ball.”

A lack of playing time at UM is what ultimately led Perry to transfer after graduating in the spring. He finished his Canes career with 2,484 passing yards and 24 touchdowns, but pretty much knew where he wanted to spend the extra year of eligibility he was granted in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic.

N'Kosi Perry is shown in his final game for Miami, coming off the bench for the injured D'Eriq King in the Cheez-It Bowl at Orlando's Camping World Stadium last December.

“I’ve always been talking about FAU with one of my teammates from high school, Glover Cook, because he’s been here the past two years,” Perry said, referring to FAU's sophomore cornerback also out of Vanguard. “Then when I entered the (transfer) portal and started talking with coach Taggart, I felt like he was being very honest with me. Not just telling me what I wanted to hear, but let me know nothing is going to be handed to me.”

That likely also means FAU will not put up with any off-the-field distractions. During his time at UM, Perry was suspended for the 2018 season opener - he was listed as the No. 2 quarterback - for violating team rules in the offseason. Then, after earning the starting QB job in 2019, a pair of off-the-field incidents involving social media (including one with a photo of him and wads of cash) led to another one-game suspension and for many to question Perry’s maturity.

Thus, Perry's comment about a fresh start likely means more than his performance on the field where he did well in August to win the job. Despite missing the Owls' spring game and practices, FAU offensive coordinator Michael Johnson mentioned Perry did not miss a step.

“He's done a good job of learning, picking up the game plan and the offense,” he said. “The more reps he gets, the better he'll be.”

Johnson also said naming Perry as the starting quarterback a week ahead of the opener helps everyone prepare.

"I think it makes it easier on the quarterback. Once the quarterback knows who he is and the offense knows who he is, he can kind of settle down and can kind of get comfortable in that role," Johnson said. "For us as a coaching staff, now we tailor what we do to that individual and cut back and give him what he needs to be successful. I think it makes the whole offense better and gives everybody a calmness and peace in knowing who that guy is and we can go into that first game and feel comfortable."

Perry reached out to future teammates

Before Perry arrived in Boca Raton, he reached out to some of his future teammates and built a rapport with them to get up to speed with the offense.

“I made sure I was communicating with my teammates, especially the wide receivers,” he said. “Building that chemistry even off the field: going bowling, doing other things outside of football just to build that relationship with them.”

Perry is hoping to improve an Owls offense that finished 117th nationally in passing last season. Florida coach Dan Mullen gave Perry some praise this week, saying he will not be a pushover.

“I think he’s got some athletic ability … but a really good passer on top of it,” Mullen said. “They’re going to put him in position to do different things, so you have to respect his arm talent and his size as a pocket guy … but you also have to be aware of his athletic ability and his ability to create outside the play.”

Meanwhile, Perry is now wearing No. 7, rather than the No. 5 he wore at Miami.

"Coach texted and asked what number I wanted. I told him and they gave it to me," he said. "I wore number 7 pretty much my whole life, 'Pop Warner,' the 'Raiders.' Michael Vick is my favorite quarterback, so that is why I picked it."

Saturday's game

FAU at No. 13 Florida

7:30 p.m.

TV: SEC Network

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