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2007 Florida Atlantic Preview - Defense
Posted May 10, 2007

Preview 2007 Florida Atlantic Owls Defense

Florida Atlantic Owls

Preview 2007 - Defense

- 2007 Florida Atlantic Preview | 2007 FAU Offense Preview
2007 FAU Defense Preview | 2006 CFN FAU Preview 

What you need to know:
The defense should be tremendous is all the starters play as expected. The back seven will be among the best in the Sun Belt with all three starters returning to the linebacking corps, two All-Sun Belt caliber safeties in Kris Bartels and Taheem Acevedo, and a shut-down corner in Corey Small. The defensive front gets three starters back led by top pass rusher Josh Pinnick and star tackle Jervonte Jackson. Even so, the run defense will be average, while the pass defense will be great.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Cergile Sincere, 78
Sacks: Josh Pinnick, 5
Interceptions: Taheem Acevedo, Corey Small, 4

Star of the defense: Senior LB Cegile Sincere
Player that has to step up and become a star: Redshirt freshman CB Tavious Polo
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore DE Jermaine Council
Best pro prospect: Senior FS Taheem Acevedo
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Sincere, 2) SS Kris Bartels, 3) DE Josh Pinnick
Strength of the defense: Safety, linebackers
Weakness of the defense:
Second corner

Defensive Line

Projected Starters
The ends have the potential to be among the best in the Sun Belt with the return of 240-pound senior Josh Pinnick and 250-pound junior Robert St. Clair. Pinnick led the team in sacks (5) to go along with 33 tackles and 11.5 tackles for loss as the speed rusher the team had been missing. While not huge, he's bulked up enough to be more effective against the run. St. Clair started out his career as a safety-sized lineman and became a tough starter making 25 tackles, a sack, and 4.5 tackles for loss. With his experience and athleticism, he needs to become a pass rushing terror with the attention paid to Pinnick on the other side.

The tackles are big and good led by 6-3, 280-pound Jervonte Jackson, who made 46 tackles, three sacks and six tackles for loss. A great interior pass rusher, he's growing more and more into a run stopping anchor; a must against Sun Belt run-only offenses.

6-2, 280-pound Josh Savidge will take over the other tackle spot after a decent 12-tackle season as a reserve. He saw starting time right off the bat in 2005 and should flourish with Jackson next to him occupying two blockers.

Projected Top Reserves: The backup ends need work and will be a concern for a little while. 218-pound Julian Meyers
was dinged up throughout the year and only made seven tackles, while 6-5, 238-pound sophomore Jermaine Council didn't see any action. However, Council has the athleticism, size, and moves to grow into a special player who could knock St. Clair out of the starting lineup. Sophomore John Mertilus is a good-looking tackle reserve. At 288 pounds, he has good size behind Savidge at the right defensive tackle spot.

Watch Out For ... the line to get in the backfield on a regular basis. Finally. Sacks have been hard to come by for the Owls, but with Pinnick, St. Clair, and Council, the line should generate at least 15.
Strength: Depth. The starters will be solid, but it'll be the play of the backups that makes the difference as the season goes on. With Council, Merilus, Meyers and others like Mauricio Riquer inside, there's good depth.
Weakness: Proven production against the run. While the Owls stopped Arkansas State for six yards and FIU for 50, everyone else had few problems running the ball. That should change with a line this good, but it has to actually happen.
Outlook: This won't be the Sun Belt's best line, but it'll be tremendously productive with a good starting four and as much depth as anyone in the league. Expect more big plays, a good rotation to keep everyone fresh, and the most production the program has seen in a long time.
Rating: 5


Projected Starters
The strength of the team, all three starters return led by do-it-all leading tackler Cergile Sincere on the weakside. Despite only being 6-0 and 215 pounds, he's a tough hitter with 144 tackles over the last two years. A good pass rusher and excellent against the pass, he provides a big pop and will once again be the tone-setter for the defense.

Junior Frantz Joseph started out his career at Boston College before moving over the FAU. At 6-1 and 229 pounds, he has decent size in the middle and excellent range making 61 tackles, a sack and 2.5 tackles for loss in his first year in the middle. He has the speed to do more as a pass rusher and make more plays against the pass.

220-pound junior Andre Clark was fifth on the team in tackles making 49 stops on the strongside after making 62 in his first year. He's a strong, physical tackler who should be even more active this season behind asked to get in the backfield more.

Projected Top Reserves: 220-pound junior George Allen is like another starter, and will be if the defense goes into a 3-4 once in a while. He made 16 tackles in a reserve role behind Clark on the strongside but could fill in at any of the three spots

Junior Edward Bradwell is a safety-like 200 pounds on the weakside, but he can run well and has been around long enough to know what he's doing despite missing all of last year. 220-pound redshirt freshman Michael Lockley is a promising playmaker on the inside behind Joseph. He's strong, tough, and should shine in the rotation.

Watch Out For ... this to become one of the league's best linebacking corps, if not the best. Joseph, Clark and Sincere will all start to make more plays against the pass to go along with everything else they do.
Strength: Experience. With three starters, and a good reserve in Allen, the Owls are loaded with veterans who know what they're doing. They started to jell at the end of last year, and now is the team's strength.
Weakness: Plays in the backfield. Sincere is a good pass rusher on occasion, but the corps didn't do much to get into the backfield last year. With all the talent and experience, that has to change.
Outlook: The linebackers will do whatever they can to control games. When it's time to be more physical, this group will do it. When it's time to be steady against the run and read-and-react, this group will do it. Leodis Sincere is a disruptive force on the outside while Frantz Joseph and Andre Clark are All-Sun Belt caliber talents.
Rating: 5.5

Defensive Backs

Projected Starters
While the linebackers might be the team's strength, the safeties will be the stars. Senior strong safety Kris Bartels isn't the most talented player around, and he isn't all that big at 5-10 and 190 pounds, but he's always around the ball finishing second on the team in tackles with 69 stops to go along with two interceptions. He doesn't have the range to make enough plays against the pass, but he's great against the run and good at getting into the backfield.

Senior Taheem Acevedo is back at free safety and can do a little of everything. Coming off an ugly ankle injury, he was fourth on the team with 56 tackles and tied for the team lead with four interceptions to go along with five broken up passes.

Junior Corey Small is the team's top corner tying for the team lead with four interceptions with eight broken up passes. He's a smart player and a good open-field tackler making 36 solo stops (and 46 overall) with All-Sun Belt potential.

The job on the other side is wide open with redshirt freshman Tavious Polo, but that could quickly change. While he's extremely fast, he's very, very light at a rail-thin 5-10 and 146 pounds. Can he handle himself against strong running teams? That remains to be seen.

Projected Top Reserves: Battling Polo for the right corner job will be senior Gedel Merzius, who made eight tackles and an interception for 64 yards against Southern Utah. The former transfer from Troy is bigger than Polo and has the experience to be a starter, or at the very least, a nickel back. Sophomore Erick McIntosh saw time in five games making 11 tackles. He's not going to beat out Small on the left side, but he's a bit bigger and could see time on the right.

Junior Greg Joseph was one of the team's top tacklers two years ago making 67 stops, but was squeezed out with the emergence of Acevedo. He was a good reserve making 14 tackles and will see plenty of time in the rotation.

Junior Carldayle Brantley saw a little time on special teams and defense making seven tackles.
A top recruit who got attention from the big boys, he has the speed and range to be a big part of the rotation behind Acevedo at free safety.

Watch Out For ... the pass defense to be among the best in the Sun Belt. That might be because teams spend so much time running the ball, but with the safeties the Owls welcome back and Small at one corner, the secondary should allow under 200 yards a game.
Strength: Safeties. Bartels and Acevedo are tremendous playmakers, and Joseph and Brantley can both play. The coaching staff can get creative with the formations against the better passing teams to provide more help for the corners.
Weakness: Second corner. Small is obvious on one side, and there are several options for the right, but there's no one with much in the way of proven experience. Everyone will avoid Small and bomb away on the second corner.
Outlook: Excellent. There might not be a world of talent or next-level skills, but there's a whole bunch of production with three possible All-Sun Belt performers. It'll be up to Polo and Merzius to hold down the other side or everything could fall apart.
Rating: 5.5

Special Teams

Projected Starters
The punting was awful last season with Mike O'Neal only averaging 37.2 yards per kick. However, he forced 14 fair catches and put 14 inside the 20. Now it'll be up to true freshman Mickey Groody, who averaged 41 yards per kick as a senior. He has to be better in placement putting just nine inside the 20. Junior Warley Leroy wasn't bad hitting nine of 14 field goals, but he doesn't have any range missing five of nine from behind 30 yards. There will be competition to try to beat him out, but he'll still handle the short kicks.

Top receiver Frantz Simeon is one of the nation's premier punt returners averaging 13.4 yards per try. Kris Bartels is a solid kickoff returner averaging 21.6 yards per return, but the team needs to be better in coverage.

Watch Out For ... the placekicking will be an ongoing issue. Leroy is fine, but the team wouldn't mind trying to find someone who can add more pop.
Strength: Returners. Simeon is a weapon of a punt returner and Bartels is a decent kickoff returner. They should provide a big boost for the overall field position.
Weakness: The kicking game. Leroy is fine, but nothing special and the punting game is a major concern. This could be the reason the team doesn't win the Sun Belt title.
Outlook: Trouble. There needs to be far more from the kicking game, the kickoff coverage unit needs to be better after allowing 24.9 yards per return with two scores. At least early on, this will be a weakness.


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2007 Florida Atlantic Preview
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