Photo Credit: FAU Athletics
For a lot of college freshmen, climbing up the roster can be a daunting task. Often starting at the bottom of the depth chart, a player must impress often camp to climb the spot.
Should a player have an impressive camp, the chance they get snaps on offense or defense is still unlikely. Freshmen mostly earn their stripes on special teams. Whether it’s as a return-man, a gunner or blocker on the punt team, special teams are often their first chance at playing time.
One Florida Atlantic freshman who is impressing is wide receiver LaJohntay Wester, who may see early playing time for the Owls.
An alumnus of Palmetto High School in Florida, Wester has impressed throughout camp, constantly making plays for the Owls’ offense. In FAU’s first scrimmage, for example, Wester recorded a 75-yard touchdown pass from Nick Tronti. Wester also hauled in a pass from Willie Taggart Jr. for a big gain.
“He’s coming around. To be a freshman that just got here when we started camp, very very proud of the young man. He’s learning on the ropes. He didn’t get the Zoom meetings and things that some of our other players had this spring,” head coach Willie Taggart said of Wester following the scrimmage. “He had to start from scratch and he stepped in day one and hadn’t looked back. … Think it’s pretty cool to be a freshman and come in and after day three, an entire football team knows your name.”
Listed at just 5-feet-11 and 190 pounds, Wester is considered small for the wide receiver position. Despite the small stature, it’s his work ethic and attitude that has drawn the interest from coaches, including wide receivers coach Drew Mehringer, who had high praise for the freshman.
“He comes in and he doesn’t look like much soaking wet, but he’s got a big chip on his shoulder,” Mehringer said of Wester. “He can really run. He’s very competitive to the football. Doesn’t say a whole lot but wants to be coached. … He’s a great kid to coach.
“Very quiet but wants to improve. I’m very excited about what he can be. I think he can help us. Brings a competitive edge, or a quiet competitive edge. He’s got the biggest chip on his shoulder just to prove that he can be out there. … I think he’s earned the respect of all of his teammates.”
Teammates Take Notice
Wester has also earned the praise of his fellow wide receivers. Cincinnati transfer Yanez Rogers, in particular, offered high praise for Wester earlier in camp.
“LaJohntay, he’s a different breed. That kid can play, honestly,” Rogers said. “Since I’ve been in college and being at two programs, he’s probably one of the best incoming freshmen that I’ve seen with my eyes. That kid’s built different.”
What Wester lacks in size, he more than makes up for in speed. As a returner at Palmetto High School, Wester took seven returns back for touchdowns. Wester also made an impact as a receiver and a runner, where he averaged 11.3 yards per carry.
Kick and punt return might be Wester’s best chance to make an impact immediately for FAU. The Owls lose their primary kick and punt returner in DeAngelo Antoine, who graduated after just one year with FAU. Wester was mentioned as a potential replacement by Taggart following the second scrimmage.