Lane Kiffin trying to turn Florida Atlantic into a national recruiting program

Florida Atlantic coach Lane Kiffin understands his recruiting base is South Florida.

He also is aware of the need to attract players from other areas. So Kiffin used a national scope to complete his second batch of recruits. The Owls signed 16 players Wednesday on National Signing Day, with only one from South Florida.

“When we came here, there were people that said there were so many great players there is no reason to go outside South Florida,” Kiffin said. “I get that and I understand that. We’re going to recruit South Florida. It’s more important than any other area, but at the same time, too, we didn’t come here to be the old FAU. We came here to be a national program.”

Palm Beach Lakes athlete Teja Young was the lone player from Miami-Dade, Broward or Palm Beach counties to join the Owls. That number could change because Kiffin said he expects to add a few more in the coming weeks, but the staff is content with their ability to lure players from other areas. The Owls signed just six high school players from the state of Florida,

They landed junior college defensive tackle Marcel Southall, a former four-star recruit who signed with Texas out of high school. He left the Longhorns’ program after his freshman season and spent last year at Tyler Community College.

The Owls also signed Arizona Western Community College center Zack Bennett and Rosewell (Ga.) High quarterback Cordel Littlejohn.

“How many programs only recruit their area, national programs,” Kiffin said. “They don’t … You want to be a top-20 program year in and year out, you don’t say, ‘I’m not going over there.’ We’re developing into a national program that we can go into California, we can go into Alabama, we can go into Georgia. We can go into wherever it is.”

Kiffin is also expected to land former Alabama running back B.J. Emmons, who isn’t yet part of the class. It could become official in the coming days once paperwork issues are worked out.

Emmons was once regarded as the nation’s No. 5 running back prospect in 2016. His only season at Alabama was Kiffin’s final year in Tuscaloosa. He rushed for 173 yards as a freshman before deciding to transfer because of playing time issues. He spent last season at Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College, where he ran for 694 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Emmons chose FAU ahead of offers from South Carolina, Louisville and Tennessee.

“I’ve known coach Kiffin since I was at Alabama,” Emmons said. “He really showed love to me when I was there on my recruiting visit. We had a bond from there.”

Like Emmons, Lakeland tackle Dacoda Weaver is also expected to join the recruiting class at a later date. He had been committed to Liberty up until a few days ago.

In addition to the five players they grabbed during the Early Signing Period, the Owls closed strong by adding 11 more recruits. Among the notables were Garden City Community College cornerback Meiko Dotson and St. Petersburg Lakewood safety Armani Adams, who had been committed to Arizona.

“Recruiting is finally over,” Young said. “Now, I’m ready to play ball.”

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srichardson@sun-sentinel.com; On Twitter @shandelrich

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