Preview 2008 - Defense
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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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.