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2008 Florida Atlantic Preview - Defense
Florida Atlantic LB Frantz Joseph
Florida Atlantic LB Frantz Joseph
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Apr 23, 2008


CollegeFootballNews.com 2008 Preview - Florida Atlantic Owl Defense

Florida Atlantic Owls

Preview 2008 - Defense

- 2008 CFN Florida Atlantic Preview | 2008 FAU Offense
- 2008 FAU Defense | 2008 FAU Depth Chart
- 2007 CFN FAU Preview | 2006 CFN FAU Preview 

What you need to know:
Nine starters return to an underwhelming group that was good at forcing turnovers, but lousy at making plays in the backfield. Injuries to the line were part of the problem, and now veteran ends Robert St. Clair, by far the team's best pass rusher, and Jermaine Council have to do more. The corner tandem of Corey Small and Tavious Polo should be the best in the league, while all-around playmaker Frantz Joseph could be the Sun Belt's best defensive player from his spot in the middle. Overall, there has to be more production against the run and better play against efficient passers, but this should be a decent defense that will hold up just enough to the great offense can do its thing.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Frantz Joseph, 131
Sacks: Robert St. Clair, 4
Interceptions: Tavious Polo, 7

Star of the defense: Senior LB Frantz Joseph
Player who has to step up and become a star: Senior SS Greg Joseph
Unsung star on the rise: Junior CB Erick McIntosh
Best pro prospect: Sophomore CB Tavious Polo
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Joseph, 2) CB Corey Small, 3) Polo
Strength of the defense: Corners, Joseph
Weakness of the defense:
Pass rush, plays in the backfield

Defensive Line

Projected Starters
:
6-3, 280-pound senior Jervonte Jackson only made 28 tackles and two sacks, but he was a good inside presence commanding enough attention to earn second-team All-Sun Belt honors after making 46 stops and thee sacks as a sophomore. He's a big, active player who'll be the anchor of the line

Working at right tackle will be junior Josh Savidge, a solid veteran who made nine tackles and a sack with two tackles for loss in four games before getting knocked out for the year with a knee injury. At 6-2 and 280 pounds, he's a big presence on the inside who should become what he was expected to become before getting hurt.

Back at one end spot is 6-4, 250-pound senior Robert St. Clair, the one Owl who can be mistaken for a pass rusher. He led the team with four sacks and seven tackles for loss, along with 37 tackles. He started out his career as a safety-sized lineman, has taken his lumps, and now has the potential to come up with a huge senior season with his combination of experience and athleticism.

Returning to his starting spot at right end is junior Jermaine Council, a 6-5, 275-pound tackle-sized presence who bulked up over the last few years and and came up with a nice 34 tackle season with five tackles for loss. While he's not a pass rusher, he's a solid presence against the run.


Projected Top Reserves: 6-3, 240-pound sophomore Dino Cox might be the interior pass rusher the line has been missing. He had a great spring as a steady presence into the backfield, and while he's not all that big, he should be great in the rotation behind Savidge if he doesn't move to a more natural end position.

The combination of 300-pound redshirt freshman Jarvis Givens and 288-pound junior John Mertilus will work behind Jackson at one tackle spot. Mertilus started seven time last season making 15 tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss, and while he has good size, he's not going to get to the quarterback. Givens is an interesting prospect with the size and the quickness to grow into the team's top all-around inside presence in the next year or so.

Former tight end Michael Hancock turned into a valuable reserve and a decent spot starter on the end making 19 tackles with a sack and three tackles for loss. At 6-7 and 230 pounds, he's an imposing player with good athleticism.

Watch Out For ... Cox. Undersized as a tackle and far better suited for the end, he proved this off-season that he might be the answer to the team's pass rushing problems. He'll be a playmaker somewhere.
Strength: Veterans. With three starters back and enough depth to form a solid rotation, the Owl front four has the potential to be far more productive.
Weakness: Pass rushing. This has been a major issue for the last few years and finished with just 16 sacks last season. With the experience and overall athleticism, there's no reason this group should crank out fewer than 20 sacks.
Outlook: It's a good-sized line led by the decent tackle pair of Jackson and Savidge, but now there has to be more of a consistent pass rush from the outside. St. Clair has been good, but he has to get to an All-Sun Belt level, while Council is a big body who should be strong against the run.
Rating: 5

Linebackers

Projected Starters
:
Senior Frantz Joseph started out his career at Boston College, and now he has the potential to be the Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year after earning first-team honors with a 131-tackle season. One of the team's strongest presences in the backfield, the 6-1, 229-pounder made three sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss, along with three interceptions, in the middle. He has the speed to do a little of everything well, and with his experience he should make even more big plays.

Both starting outside linebackers are back, and now they have to be more disruptive. 6-1, 220-pound senior Andre Clark made 68 tackles with three sacks and 6.5 tackles for loss. He's a strong, physical tackler who came up with several big plays, but not quite enough of them on the strongside. Even so, he has the quickness and experience to be a major factor again.

6-0, 220-pound senior George Allen is also back on the weakside after making 25 tackles and a tackle for loss. A spot starter, getting the nod in five games, he's been a good reserve and now has to do more with a bigger role. He's been like another starter and has the experience to handle the work taking over for Cergile Sincere, the team's second leading tackler.


Projected Top Reserves: 6-1, 200-pound junior Edward Bradwell is more like a safety than a linebacker, but he runs extremely well and came back strong with a 16-tackle season after missing all of 2006. With his lack of size, and with his quickness, he needs to do more on the weakside against the pass.

Sophomore Michael Lockley is a promising all-around playmaker who came up with six tackles and two recovered fumbles in a limited role behind Joseph in the middle. He's not huge at 6-2 and 220 pounds, but he can move. It'll be his job next year.

Watch Out For ... Allen to come up with a big statistical season. He might not be Sincere, but he has the experience and the skill to be one of the team's top five tacklers if he sticks in the job for the entire year.
Strength: Joseph. Everything works around the man in the middle. Not only does Joseph get to every play, but he allows everything to be funneled his way.
Weakness: Production. The statistics will be there, but this has been just a so-so corps, despite all the experience, against the run and there hasn't been much of anything happening in the backfield. All of that has to change with so many veterans returning.
Outlook: With a big, veteran line to handle the workload at the front, the idea will be to allow the linebacking corps to roam more and make big plays. First, the group has to be better at stopping the run, and the outside defenders have to carry more weight and not let Joseph do everything. There's decent enough depth to survive if injuries hit.
Rating: 5.5


Defensive Backs

Projected Starters
:
In one of the team's most pleasant surprises, sophomore Tavious Polo made teams pay dearly for testing him early on. While he's a wispy 5-10 and 160 pounds, he's big-time fast and proved to be a solid open-field tackler with 53 stops. But what made him a college football household name, at least for a little while, were his seven interceptions. However, they all came in the first five games of the season, with three against Minnesota, and the overall production fell off late. Even so, the first-team All-Sun Belt selection is a dangerous playmaker who needs to be avoided.

While Polo got all the attention, senior Corey Small was the team's best corner. The 5-10, 170-pounder was third on the team with 103 tackles to go along with five interceptions, with three coming against Arkansas State, and ten broken up passes. The second-team All-Sun Belt performer is a smart player who'll be the leader of the secondary.

Needing to take over at strong safety for Kris Bartels, who made 54 tackles, is 5-11, 195-pound senior Greg Joseph. One of the team's top tacklers a few years ago, making 67 stops in 2005, Joseph has been squeezed out of the mix a bit. Even so, he made 38 tackles and an interception, and now he should be a strong force against the run.

Taking over for Taheem Acevedo at free safety is Ed Alexander, a promising 6-1, 172-pound sophomore who made four tackles in a limited role. With good speed and decent athleticism, he's been a key special teamer. Now he has to prove he can be a steady pass defender.


Projected Top Reserves: After missing all of last year with academic issues, 6-0, 180-pound junior Erick McIntosh appears ready to play a huge role. Arguable the team's best defensive back this off-season, he's a corner who'll work behind Polo, but he could move to one of the safety spots to get on the field. At the very least he should be a strong nickel back.

Somewhere in the safety rotation will be senior Carldayle Brantley after making 23 tackles with two broken up passes. At 6-1 and 200 pounds, he's a big presences with the strength to play strong safety and the speed and range to see time at free safety. A top recruit who received attention from some of the big boys, now he needs to shine.

Watch Out For ... the safeties to come up with more plays. Only three defensive backs picked off passes last season, Polo, Small, and Acevedo. With quarterbacks looking to stay away from the ball-hawking corners as much as possible, they'll be working more of the middle of the field. That's where the safeties have to chime in.
Strength: Corners. Polo and Small aren't that big, but they can tackle and they can move. They needs to be tighter, and they could use more help from a pass rush, but they're talented playmakers who should form the Sun Belt's best corner tandem.
Weakness: Sure-thing safeties. There's talent waiting to shine through, but there's a big drop from Bartels and Acevedo to this group.
Outlook: Considering the big seasons had by the two corners, this was a slightly disappointing group overall. Now there have to be more stops, more broken up passes, and less of the bend-but-don't-break style. The corners aren't big, but they're physical and can handle themselves man-on-man. The safeties should be fine in time, and they'll have plenty of chances to put up big stats.
Rating: 6

Special Teams

Projected Starters
:
Senior Warley Leroy has been a solid field goal kicker, but nothing special. He cranked out 101 points helped by hitting 19 of 27 field goals, and while he nailed a 46-yarder against Arkansas State, he doesn't have great range. Even so, he's a reliable veteran who should be solid.

Sophomore Mickey Groody
and junior Keegan Peterson are back to combine for the punting job, and they have to be better. Groody averaged just 35,5 yards per kick, but put ten of his 27 inside the 20, while Peterson was more of the bomber averaging 402. yards per kick putting six inside the 20.

RB DiIvory Edgecomb is a special kick returner averaging 24.1 yards per try last season, but Tavious Polo, with his speed, has to do far more as a punt return after averaging a pathetic 2.8 yards per try.

Watch Out For ... Leroy to get more chances from deep. The coaching staff showed more faith in Leroy last year, and for the most part, he came through. He's not going to hit a ton of big shots from beyond 40, but if he hits a few early, he'll get more chances.
Strength: Edgecomb. He was a big-time producer for the field position. He didn't even take one to the house, yet he still had a gaudy average to give FAU the Sun Belt's best kickoff return game.
Weakness: Punt returns. Abysmal doesn't begin to to describe how bad things were. FAU finished 117th in the nation in punt returns with the biggest one a mere 12 yards. Opponents averaged ten yards per try with two touchdowns.
Outlook: Leroy is a good veteran who should earn Sun Belt honors, and the punting game should be better with a little more work. The punt returns can't be any worse, and they won't be, while Edgecomb will have to get used to teams trying to stay away from him.
Rating:
6