What you need to know ...
There might not be a younger, more inexperienced defense in all
of college football with eight underclassmen likely to starter
and a few upperclassmen with little or no playing time. There
are decent athletes and good potential at linebacker and the
safeties should be great, but it's going to be ugly until all
the pieces are in place. The biggest issue is the pass rush
after generating only six sacks last season.
Tackles: Kris Bartels,
Cergile SIncere, 2
Interceptions: Troy Pindrell, 4
Star of the defense: Junior SS Kris Bartels
Player that has to step up and become a star: Sophomore
DE E.J. Jones
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore LB Ted Czepiga
Best pro prospect: Junior FS Taheem Acevedo
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Bartels, 2) Acevedo, 3)
DT Jervonte Jackson
Strength of the defense: Safety
Weakness of the defense:
Experience, proven pass rush
Six sacks. Six. And not all of them came from the line.
FAU has to generate some semblance of a pass rush from the front four
and has to be far better against the run. It's not a big line; it's a
line that relies on its quickness and athleticism. If it's not getting
in the backfield, it's useless. It's a ridiculously young and
inexperienced group with three sophomores and a redshirt freshman
starting, and there's even more youth and more inexperience among the
The key to the unit: Generate some sort of pressure from the
ends. E.J. Jones and Michael Hancock are athletic enough to be turned
loose as speed rushers.
Defensive Line Rating: 3.5
- DE E.J. Jones, Soph. - 18 tackles, 1 TFL
Expected to be a better pass rusher in his second year as a starter,
Jones is coming off a nice first season with five starts showing decent
skills against the run. He's like a linebacker playing the end with the
speed and quickness to eventually become a consistent playmaker.
- DT Jervonte Jackson, Soph. - 38 tackles, 1 sack, 4 TFL, 1
broken up pass, 3 quarterback hurries
He has All-Sun Belt potential if everything comes together. He's a solid
280 pounds with the athleticism of an end. He's the anchor of the run
defense and isn't bad at getting into the backfield.
- DT Patrick Fatu, RFr.
It'll be Fatu's job to take over on the inside looking to be good enough
to allow the Owls to use a true 4-3. He's expected to be a run stopper
to allow Jervonte Jackson to see single blocking on the left side.
- DE Michael Hancock, Soph.
The former tight end will look to make some noise at defensive end. He's
a fascinating prospect at a wiry 6-7 and 215 pounds. He'll be a
nightmare to throw over and has the athleticism to grow into a good pass
- DE Josh Jenkins, Sr. - 9 tackles. 1 TFL
Jenkins has to be healthy after only seeing time in five games last
season. He has the speed to potentially be a great pass rusher on the
right side behind Michael Hancock, but at 210 pounds, he has to prove he
can handle himself against the run.
- DT Vinny Henderson, Soph. - 4 tackles
Henderson is a tall 252-pound tackle with good toughness and the
quickness to become a good interior pass rusher. He saw a little bit of
time last year and should be ready to be a big part of the rotation on
the right side.
If Cergile Sincere doesn't work his way up the depth
chart to get back in the starting mix on the outside, there's no
experience whatsoever. Check that; Ed Bradwell has two career tackles.
That's not to say the corps will be horrible; it's just young. Ted
Czepiga is a good hitting prospect in the middle while George Allen is a
small, quick option on the outside. Sincere has to
find playing time somewhere to provide some semblance of
The key to the unit: Live through the growing pains.
There are plenty of good athletes and lots of potential, but there will
be some major problems early on.
Linebacker Rating: 4
- George Allen, RFr.
Expected to be a disruptive force on the outside, Allen
is a fantastic tackler who should shine right away taking over on the
strongside. While he's fast and physical, he's only 6-0 and 200 pounds.
- Ted Czepiga, Soph.
A star high school running back who ran for 3,345 yards, the 215-pound
sophomore is more than fast enough to have the range to play in the
middle. He's a sure tackler and should play bigger than his size.
- Edward Bradwell, Soph. - 2 tackles
The weakside linebacker is usually the smallest, quickest of the corps,
but the 220-pound Bradwell is the biggest of the linebacker options.
While he's fast, he has to prove he can be a playmaker in pass coverage.
- Cergile Sincere, Jr. - 70 tackles, 2 sacks, 5 TFL, 2 broken up
It'll be a shock if Sincere isn't back up the depth chart soon after
starting every game last season and leading the team in sacks and
finishing third in tackles. He's a good-hitting playmaker who could move
to safety to get him time somewhere on the field if he's not the starter
on the weakside.
- Dustin Forston, Soph.
The Ole Miss transfer will be pushing hard for time right away in the
middle. He's not as big as Ted Czepiga, but he can hit.
Markee Drummer, Fr.
Most of the Owl linebackers are part defensive back, but Drummer is part
linebacker, part defensive end despite only being 205 pounds. He's 6-4
and too good an athlete to keep off the field early on. He'll be used as
a pass rusher right off the bat.
The pass defense wasn't bad mostly because
teams spent so much time running the ball. Even so, there's the
potential for the secondary to be the team's strength with a several
good safety options helped by the return of Taheem Acevedo from an ankle
injury. The corners are untested and will be one of the key areas of the
defense's concern early on after losing Willie Hughley and Lawrence
The key to the unit: The corners must play like
experienced veterans right away, while the safeties have to make up for
all the inevitable corner mistakes.
Secondary Rating: 5
- CB John Jones, RFr.
A star high school receiver who averaged 26.8 yards per catch with 16
touchdowns, Jones spent last year learning how to become a corner. He
has the speed and the athleticism, but expect several bumps in the road
early on as passing games look to single him out.
- FS Taheem Acevedo, Jr.
Expected to be a key playmaker in the secondary last season, the
201-pound junior suffered a gruesome ankle injury in spring ball and
missed the entire year. He's back healthy and should be one of the
team's top tacklers.
- SS Kris Bartels, Jr. - 82 tackles, 1 interception, 5 TFL, 2
Bartels came from out of nowhere to take over the starting strong safety
job early last season and finished as the team's second leading tackler.
He's only 5-10 and 190 pounds and he doesn't have great range, but he's
always around the ball.
- CB Rickey Bethel, Sr.
The JUCO transfer missed all of last season and is now back to take over
Willie Hughley's cornerback job. While he's only 5-10 and 176 pounds, he
extremely fast and can hit like a safety.
- FS Greg Joseph, Soph. - 67 tackles, 2 interceptions, 4 TFL
The team's fourth leading tackler was buried on the depth chart coming
out of spring ball thanks to the return of Taheem Adevado from an ankle
injury. He's one of the team's most physical safeties despite only being
- SS Troy Pindell. Sr. - 27 tackles, 4 interceptions,
3 broken up passes
He only saw a little bit of time after starting the first
two games last season at strong safety, but the 198-pound senior still
led the team in interceptions. He can play either safety spot and can be
a key special teamer.
- SS John DeShields, Sr. - 2 tackles
The former North Carolina Tar Heel has spent most of his time on special
teams, but he'll push for a little time behind Kris Bartels at strong
It's an open casting call for the kicking jobs after
a miserable season. Former punter Mike Brown wasn't bad putting 18
inside the 20, but he only averaged 38.8 yards per kick. Warley Leroy
went one of three on field goals while former starter Daniel Kennard hit
just three of seven, with most of the misses coming from deep. The Owls
averaged a miserable 15.4 yards per kickoff return and 5.2 yards per
punt return. Obviously, there's work to be done.
The key to the unit: Find a couple of steady kickers
and get far, far more production from the kick returners.
Special Teams Rating: 3
- PK/P Warley Leroy, Soph. or Keegan Peterson, RFr.
or Nick Lomartire, RFr. or Mike O'Neill, Jr.
Warley Leroy is the only kicker with any experience hitting one of three
attempts and not getting any extra point chances. The situation won't be
settled until fall.