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2008 Florida International Preview - Defense
FIU LB Scott Bryant
CollegeFootballNews.com 2008 Preview - Florida International Golden Panther Defense
Preview 2008 - Defense
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What you need to know: The defense did what it could with no
help from the offense for the second year in a row, but it
didn't exactly help the cause having problems coming up with
stops and almost never forcing a key turnover. There's promise
for a big turnaround with decent, athletic veterans all across
the board. The linebacking corps was a mess last season, but now
it could be a strength with Scott Bryant and Mannie Wellington
leading an undersized, quick group. The line will generate
pressure but needs to do far more against the run, while the
secondary should be better with good options at each spot and
potential all-stars in corner Anthony Gaitor and SS Jeremiah
Tackles: Scott Bryant,
Reggie Jones, 3
Interceptions: Anthony Gaitor, 2
Star of the defense: Junior LB Scott Bryant
Picking off passes, linebacker size
Player who has to step up and become a star: Senior DT
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore DE Cody Pellicer
Best pro prospect: Senior SS Jeremiah Weatherspoon
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Bryant, 2) Weatherspoon,
3) FS Ashlyn Parker
Strength of the defense: Experience, quickness
Weakness of the defense:
Junior Artis Warthen was supposed to start at one end, but the
former linebacker struggled with injuries and was never right the entire
year. He has good potential but he hasn't been able to stay healthy. At
6-1 and 241 pounds, he has decent size, and now he has to do more after
making just three tackles.
Working on the end will be sophomore Cody Pellicer, a promising
6-3, 235-pound speed rusher who made two sacks and seven stops in a
limited role. A defensive tackle out of high school, he's a strong
option on the outside with good moves and tremendous upside.
Needing to jam things up on the inside is 6-3, 282-pound senior
Jarvis Penerton, a big veteran who has the size and the strength to
be a rock against the run, and now he needs to do more after making 21
tackles and a sack.
6-3, 265-pound senior Daniel Chacreton started the first half of
last year and got back in the starting mix late in the year. While he
has a decent motor, he only made 16 tackles and three tackles for loss
while getting pushed around way too often on the nose.
Projected Top Reserves: The line needed a pass
rusher to replace Antwaun Barnes, and while senior Reggie Jones
sort of came through, registering three sacks with five tackles for loss
and 24 stops, it wasn't like he was dominant once he took over a
starting job over the second half of the season. At 6-2 and 267 pounds,
he has good size, and now he has to show off the pass rushing ability he
displayed this spring.
6-1, 279-pound senior Jonathan Betancourt is a quick interior
pass rusher who stepped up his game late last year to finish with 25
tackles and a sack with five tackles for loss. While he could stand to
hold up better against the run, he has good upside as a potential
playmaker in the backfield.
6-3, 245-pound end Ricky Booker spend last year on the scout team
and showed off some of the speed and range that made him a top outside
linebacker prospect out of high school. A pure pass rusher, he'll be a
situational player early on and in a rotation throughout the year with
Eventually, 2007's star recruit Curtis Bryant will find time at
one of the tackle spots. The 6-3, 287-pounder bulked up over the last
year and he could grow into a desperately needed run stopper. He
originally committed to NC State before moving to FIU, and now he's one
of the team's strongest lineman and should be a major factor for the
next four years.
Watch Out For ... a strong rotation. There are good
backups to push the potential starters, and the depth chart could change
on a weekly basis depending on who's playing well.
Strength: Pass rushing. Losing last year's top
pass rusher, Audric Adger, who made five sacks, hurts, but all four
spots should be able to get into the backfield. This is a quick line
Weakness: Run defense. There's enough size, at least by Sun Belt
standards, to be far better at clogging things up. Too many offenses
were able to power the ball, and with so much quickness up front, there
has to be more production against the spread attacks.
Outlook: After struggling way too much last year,
most of the top players are back and there's good developed depth to
count on. Overall the line should be far better and it should improve
greatly against the run. Now it's up to Jones to be the go-to pass
rusher to force offenses to worry about, while Pellicer, Booker and
Warthen need to get a steady push into the backfield. They will.
There was a problem with youth and inexperience in the linebacking
corps, but junior Scott Bryant came through with a nice season on
the weakside finishing with a team-leading 91 tackles, 25 more than the
team's second leading tackler, with a sack and six tackles for loss.
While he's tough and decent against the run, he needs to do more in pass
Manning the middle will be 5-8, 211-pound sparkplug Mannie Wellington
after making 57 tackles. He might not be all that big, but he can fly
from sideline-to-sideline with sub-4.6 speed to go along with tremendous
strength. With his wheels, he needs to be better at getting into the
backfield on a regular basis.
There will be a battle for the strongside job, but the most talented
option will be 5-11, 225-pound junior Mike Dominguez. The starter
early on, he was suspended for a game and didn't get his starting job
back until late in the year. Even so, he finished second on the team
with 66 stops along with a sack and three tackles for loss.
Projected Top Reserves: Pushing Dominguez for a
starting job on the outside will be 6-0, 216-pound senior Ryan
Martinez, a spot starter who played well at times making 53 tackles,
two sacks and four tackles for loss, he'll see plenty of work in the
rotation. If he can do more against the pass, he'll see even more
Sophomore Toronto Smith walked on to the team and made 51 tackles
with seven tackles for loss as a key backup. He's only 5-11 and 208
pounds, but he's a blur into the backfield and is extremely strong for
his size. Now he has to get healthy after having a shoulder problem.
Sophomore Jarvis Wilson got plenty of work thrown to the wolves
as a true freshman making 16 tackles in a part-time role. At 6-2 and 195
pounds he's built like a corner, and while he's a good runner, the
brother of former Miami star Kenny Phillips is more of a hitter. He'll
work on the weakside behind Bryant.
5-11, 222-pound junior Tyler Clawson saw minimal time last year
in the middle making five tackles and a tackle for loss. A smart, tough
defender who could do more with an expanded role, he'll work behind
Wellington adding more size to the middle.
Watch Out For ... more production. Last year's corps
was just trying to figure out what it was doing. It'll still be learning
on the fly, but at least there's far more experience to work with.
Strength: Depth. There are at least two good
options at each spot and star freshman A.J. Grant is on the way
to provide yet another talent.
Weakness: Size. The projected starting threesome averages around
215 pounds per man. While there's a bit more size with players like
Clawson and Dominguez, the linebackers will get pounded on.
Outlook: Last year was a disaster. The stats were
there, but the corps struggled mightily when it came to actually making
tackles. There were too many plays made down the field and not enough
big plays to turn things around. That should all change. No unit on the
Golden Panthers should make a bigger jump up in production.
A major disappointment last year, now the secondary has to make
wholesale changes. The one returning starter is sophomore Anthony
Gaitor, a 5-10, 175-pound corner who started 11 times as a true
freshman making 56 tackles with an interception and a sack. While he was
great at making plays in the open field, finishing third on the team in
solo stops, he has to do far more as a pass defender.
Taking over on the other side for Lionell Singleton will be junior
Dezeriah Johnson, a nice backup who made 47 tackles and was a star
on special teams. At 6-0 and 168 pounds he's a thin player who tackles
big. Now he has to prove he can pick off some passes after getting just
one interception last season.
One of the most improved areas should be free safety with former
receiver Ashlyn Parker back after making 56 tackles with an
interception and two broken up passes. He earned Sun Belt Honorable
Mention honors and should be even better now that he knows what he's
doing. At 6-1 and 195 pounds, he has decent size and excellent wheels.
After missing all of last year with academic issues, 6-1, 221-pound
senior Jeremiah Weatherspoon is back at strong safety. One of the
team's leading tacklers in 2006, making 50 stops with two interceptions,
he has size, range, and speed. He could quickly become an all-star and
he's an upgrade at either safety spot.
Projected Top Reserves: 5-10, 193-pound sophomore
Kreg Brown walked on to the team and became a key special teamer
and spot starter. He'll back up Parker at free safety after making 15
tackles with two broken up passes. Even with a leg problem, he still
turned into one of the team's top special teams playmakers.
Working behind Johnson will be senior Robert Mitchell, a safety
who started out last year as a corner. He made 39 tackles and four
tackles for loss, hurt his leg, and missed the second half of the year.
He has enough experience and is a good-hitting 6-0 and 188 pounds, but
he has to do something against the pass.
At corner behind Gaitor will be Devin Parrish, brother of Buffalo
Bill and former Miami Hurricane receiver, Roscoe Parrish. A top athlete
who had his pick of where to go, he was a huge get for the program as
either a receiver or a defensive back. The 6-0, 185-pounder, who made
three tackles, will look to be healthy after having problems with an
Watch Out For ... more production. With the return on
Weatherspoon and with the expected emergence of Parker as a top
playmaker, the safeties will be set. The corners are solid.
Strength: Quickness. This might not be a big
group, but it can move. The corners should be able to stay with anyone,
while the safeties have excellent range.
Weakness: Big plays. They were nearly non-existent last season
with just seven interceptions. Until FIU shows it has a corner good
enough to make teams pay, opponents will keep on throwing.
Outlook: The secondary wasn't great even with
all-star Lionell Singleton at corner, but things should be better with
more talent and more experience across the board. Parker and
Weatherspoon will be surprisingly good safeties, while Gaitor is a great
tackler who'll get to do more in coverage this season.
It was supposed to be up to Dustin Rivest to handle most of the
kicking duties last year, but he struggled hitting just two of four
field goal attempts. The entire kicking game will be turned over to
junior Carlos Munera. a big, strong all-around kicker who'll
handle the punting and the placekicking duties.
Corner Anthony Gaitor will take over the the punt return duties
from Lionel Singelton, who averaged an impressive 15.2 yards per try.
Jeremiah Weatherspoon will take over Singleton's kick return duties.
Watch Out For ... Munera to have his hands full. Last
season, Chris Cook had to punt a whopping 71 times, and while the FIU
offense should be a bit better, Munera's punting leg will still need
Strength: Hope. Gaitor and Weatherspoon might not
be singleton, but the two should be able to form a decent return tandem.
Weakness: Coverage teams. FIU allowed a whopping 23.1 yards per
kickoff return and lousy 9.2 yards per punt return. Both areas need
plenty of work.
Outlook: All eyes will be on Munera, but it'll
likely be sink-or-swim with him no matter what since Rivest simply isn't
a viable option. Singleton was one of the team's few bright spots, and
Gaitor and Weathersppoon will have a lot to live up to.