Florida trans­fer Riles ex­pected to boost O-line

South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday) - - High School Football College Football - By Shan­del Richard­son Staff writer srichard­[email protected] sunsen­tinel.com or Twit­ter @shan­del­rich

The Hur­ri­canes, who are a pre­sea­son top-10 team for the first time since 2005, open the sea­son against LSU on Sept. 2 in Ar­ling­ton, Texas in the Ad­voCare Clas­sic.

BOCA RA­TON — At one point in his ca­reer, Florida At­lantic of­fen­sive line­man An­to­nio Riles was ac­cus­tomed to play­ing against fu­ture NFL first-round picks on a weekly ba­sis.

Al­though those days are gone, he is ex­pect­ing a sim­i­lar chal­lenge since trans­fer­ring from Florida dur­ing the sum­mer. A grad­u­ate stu­dent, Riles is el­i­gi­ble im­me­di­ately and could help the Owls re­build their of­fen­sive line.

“Most of the guys I went against [in the SEC] are in the league now,” Riles said. “There’s guys down here that are re­ally tough, too, but me be­ing in that con­fer­ence and hav­ing that ex­pe­ri­ence, I’m ex­cited to see what I can do for this pro­gram.”

Riles, a guard, started six games for the Ga­tors from 2014-17. He was granted a waiver from the NCAA for a sixth year of el­i­gi­bil­ity. He red­shirted as a fresh­man and missed all of 2016 with a knee in­jury.

His ar­rival comes when FAU is in need of of­fen­sive line help. The Owls lost three starters, in­clud­ing Al­lCon­fer­ence cen­ter Antonyo Woods and guard Ro­man Fer­nan­dez. The other start­ing guard, Jakobi Smith, is also gone.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do with our of­fen­sive line,” FAU coach Lane Kif­fin said. “Very lit­tle depth. I don’t know the ex­act num­bers. With at­tri­tion and some guys quit­ting, there’s hardly any re­turn­ers that were here a year ago. I think half of the group is here now. That’s why we brought in guys, in­clud­ing a cou­ple grad trans­fers. So a lot of work to do there.”

Riles, who said he can play both guard spots, grew in­ter­ested in the Owls fol­low­ing their suc­cess a year ago. He said he didn’t know much about the pro­gram other than Kif­fin and the school was in Boca Ra­ton.

“I felt like what coach Kif­fin can do for me would be a good fit for me,” Riles said. “I knew most of the plays. Some of the stuff was kind of sim­i­lar so it was an easy tran­si­tion.”

Riles spent the first two days of train­ing camp work­ing with the sec­ond unit. As of now, he is be­hind BJ Etienne and Nick We­ber on the depth chart.

So far, the ad­just­ment has gone smooth for Riles.

“It was a lit­tle hard at first,” Riles said. “The work­outs were a lot dif­fer­ent. It was real tough but it was re­ally good.”

Azeez healed

Se­nior line­backer Azeez Al-Shaair is back prac­tic­ing af­ter be­ing lim­ited in the spring be­cause of off­sea­son el­bow surgery.

Al-Shaair said he will wear a brace dur­ing the sea­son but only for pre­cau­tion­ary rea­sons.

“Hon­estly, it feels al­most like it’s never been in­jured,” Al-Shaair said.

Al-Shaair led the team in tack­les the past three sea­sons and is a pre­sea­son Al­lCon­fer­ence USA first-team pick.

Tronti side­lined

Quar­ter­back Nick Tronti, who trans­ferred from In­di­ana in the off­sea­son, is with the team but not prac­tic­ing be­cause of an undis­closed med­i­cal is­sue.

In 2016, Tronti was Mr. Florida, awarded to the state’s top high school player. He has to sit out this sea­son due to NCAA trans­fer rules but will have four years of el­i­gi­bil­ity re­main­ing.

PHO­TOS BY MIKE STOCKER/STAFF PHO­TOG­RA­PHER

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