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Florida International Preview 2006 - Defense
Posted Aug 8, 2006

FIU Golden Panthers Preview 2006 - FIU Defense

What you need to know ... It's a good-looking young defense with great players to build around. Keyonvis Bouie is one of the nation's most productive linebackers and will be on the short list for Sun Belt Player of the Year. Antwan Barnes is a tremendous pass rusher who'll be the key to the success of the front line, while huge Jonas Murrell is growing into a great prospect in the middle. The secondary has to be far better at breaking up plays and can't get picked apart on short passes like it did last season. 

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Keyonvis Bouie, 118
Sacks: Antwan Barnes, 11
Interceptions: Keyonvis Bouie, 3

Star of the defense: Senior LB Keyonvis Bouie
Player that has to step up and become a star: Senior CB Zach Davis
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore DT Jonas Murrell
Best pro prospect: Senior DE Antwan Barnes (as a linebacker)
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Bouie, 2) Barnes, 3) SS Chris Smith
Strength of the defense: Linebacker, pass rush
Weakness of the defense:

Defensive Line
The line is young but experienced and should be good at getting to the quarterback on a regular basis against Sun Belt offensive lines. It all starts with Antwan Barnes who has to find the pass rushing magic he showed over the first half of last season. Jonas Murrell is a big body in the middle who could be a difference maker for the running game as a 311-pound anchor of the line. It's not a big line, so a good rotation will be needed on the nose to keep 240-pound Reginald Jones fresh.
The key to the unit: Get Antwan Barnes in the backfield early and often, and make teams pay for focusing just on the pass rushing star. Jonas Murrell has to be a rock on the inside.

Defensive Line Rating: 4.5

Projected Starters
- DE Antwan Barnes, Sr. - 45 tackles, 11 sacks, 15.5 TFL, 2 quarterback hurries, 3 forced fumbles
Barnes started out at linebacker last season before moving to defensive end. While he was an All-Sun-Belt performer and was solid on the left side, he wasn't quite the pass rushing terror he was as a linebacker with only 2.5 of his 11 sacks over the final five games of the season. He's a blur at 230 pounds and should be better now that he knows what he's doing on the line.

- DT Jonas Murrell, Soph. - 19 tackles, 2 sacks, 4 TFL
Murrell has the potential to be one of the Sun Belt's top tacklers if he keeps progressing at the rate he did at the end of last year. He's a huge 311-pound run stopper on the right side with just enough quickness to occasionally find his way into the backfield.

- NT  Reginald Jones, Soph. - 7 tackles, 1 TFL
The 240-pound sophomore is an end playing tackle. Jones got his feet wet last season and now will be used as a quicker interior pass rusher battling with 290-pound freshman Justin West..

- DE Myron Acoff, Jr. - 22 tackles, 2 sacks, 5.5 TFL
A starter for half of last year, the 250-pound Acoff has experience and is the team's biggest option at end. He has enough speed to be disruptive and must take advantage of all the double-teaming of Antwan Barnes on the other side.

Top Backups
- DE Venson Jones, Jr. - 24 tackles, 4 sacks, 5.5 TFL
Jones is good enough to start and dangerous enough to be used as a pass rushing specialist. He won't push Antwan Barnes out of a starting job on the left side, but he could see time on the right side to use his experience and quickness to get into the backfield.
- DT Roland Clarke, Jr. - 2 tackles
The 288-pound junior is a transfer from South Florida and a former offensive lineman still trying to find his way on the nose. He's a tough big man who needs to make plays with all the attention paid to Jonas Murrell and Antwan Barnes.

It's Keynovis Bouie's world and the rest of the Sun Belt is just living in it. The senior will be one of the nation's top tacklers and the heart-and-soul of the FIU defense in the middle. There's plenty of experience around him with Alexander Bostic III and James Black reliable veterans on the strongside and former safety Jeremiah Weatherspoon a promising starter on the weakside. First year linebacker coach Vernon Hargreaves has a lot of good prospects to work with, but his job will be to make sure Bouie has as much room as possible to make plays.
The key to the unit: Keyonvis Bouie needs to be healthy for a full season and there needs to be a good rotation on the outside to keep all the safety-sized linebackers fresh.
Linebacker Rating: 5.5

Projected Starters
- James Black, Sr. - 31 tackles
Black's emergence as a good starter on the strongside was a key to the team's improvement at the end of the season. He was a good special teamer with great toughness and sure tackling ability. He'll have to show he can hold up for a full season against the run.

- Keyonvis Bouie, Sr. - 118 tackles, 2 sacks, 11 TFL, 3 interceptions
He's not just one of the Sun Belt's best defenders, he's one of the best linebackers in America. He missed two games and still finished with 43 more tackles than the team's number two man while leading the team in interceptions and finishing second in tackles for loss. He's not huge at 6-0 and 225 pounds, but he can run and can really, really hit with an 18-tackle game against Troy followed up by a 19-tackle performance against UL Monroe.

Alexander Bostic III, Sr. - 46 tackles, 1 TFL
A strong veteran with plenty of experience, the 218-pound senior can play either outside position. He was tried out on the strongside this spring, but will get the starting now on the weakside as the biggest option.

Top Backups
Jeremiah Weatherspoon, Soph. - 15 tackles
The former safety will move over to weakside linebacker bringing more athleticism to the corps. He showed promise as a true freshman providing some good pop to his hits. He has the smarts and the speed to become a top all-around defender.

- Artis Warthen Jr., RFr.
Warthen was a scout team star last season and should be a dangerous option on the weakside. He has as much athleticism and talent as anyone in the linebacking corps, but he's a rangy 6-1 and 200 pounds.

Defensive Backs
The secondary didn't get beaten too often on deep plays, but was ripped apart by accurate passers who dinked and dunked the Golden Panthers to death completing 68% of their passes with 19 touchdowns. All-Star free safety Nick Turnbull is gone, but Marshall McDuffie is a promising veteran with enough talent to replace the lost production. Lionell Singleton and Zach Davis are small, tough corners who have make more plays. Chris Smith has All-Sun Belt potential at strong safety. There's a little bit of depth to rely on.
The key to the unit: Jump on the shorter passes and get better play out of the corners.
Secondary Rating: 4.5

Projected Starters
- CB Lionell Singleton, Jr. - 49 tackles, 2 interceptions, 3 broken up passes
Singleton started every game last year and was surprisingly tough against the run and wasn't horrible on deep passes. He got picked clean on short to midrange throws and now has to become a stronger number one corner.

- FS Marshall McDuffie, Jr. - 19 tackles, 1 interception
The 6-2, 204-pound McDuffie has a little of everything from great size to excellent speed. He was hurt last year missing a little time playing behind all-star Nick Turnbull, and now he should be in the hunt for All-Sun Belt honors with his range and hitting ability.

- SS Chris Smith, Sr. - 75 tackles, 1 interception, 4 broken up passes, 1 sack, 4.5 TFL
Smith is the big hitter in the secondary finishing second on the team in tackles providing a big pop to anyone coming across the middle. However, he's a bit too physical for his own good playing banged up throughout last season. If 100% for the entire year he'll hover around the 100 tackle mark.

- CB Zach Davis, Sr. - 19 tackles, 1 TFL
A good kick returner in the past, Davis went from being a reserve to a starter by the end of the season. He's quick and tough needing to play at a consistent level to keep the job on the right side.

Top Backups
- FS Kent Henderson, Soph. - 14 tackles, 1 interception, 2 broken up passes
A reliable reserve throughout last season, the 6-2, 180-pound Henderson is a strong defender who should push hard for time as a nickel back and behind Marshall McDuffie at free safety. 
- CB Robert Mitchell, Soph. - 5 tackles, 1 TFL
The 5-11 Mitchell is a slightly bigger option than Zach Davis on the right side. He's a good athlete and a solid tackler.

Special Teams
Chris Patullo will look to replace Adam Moss as the team's field goal kicker after spending last year as the punter. With Patullo struggling as the punter, Dustin Rivest and freshman Chris Cook will battle for the job. The coverage units were terrible allowing 14.4 yards per punt return and 21.7 yards on kickoff returns. More is needed from the return game.
The key to the unit: Everything has to be better. More range is needed on field goals and punts, and much more production is needed from the coverage teams.
Special Teams Rating: 4

Projected Starters
- PK Chris Patullo, Sr. - 43 punts, 1,558 yds, 36.2 yard average, 9 inside the 20
Patullo will replace the steady Adam Moss who nailed 11 of 14 field goals but had no range whatsoever. Patullo was the team's punter last year and struggled. Consistency will be the key on field goals.
- P Dustin Rivest, RFr.
He's not all that big at 5-8 and 167 pounds but has a good leg. It won't take much to replace Chris Patullo who averaged a mere 36.2 yards per kick

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FIU Preview 2006 - Further Analysis
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Florida International Preview 2006 - Offense
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