2008 Florida International Preview - Defense
FIU LB Scott Bryant
FIU LB Scott Bryant
Posted Apr 23, 2008

CollegeFootballNews.com 2008 Preview - Florida International Golden Panther Defense

FIU Golden Panthers

Preview 2008 - Defense

- 2008 CFN FIU Preview | 2008 FIU Offense
- 2008 FIU Defense | 2008 FIU Depth Chart
- 2007 CFN FIU Preview | 2006 CFN FIU Preview 

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 Weatherspoon.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Scott Bryant, 91
Sacks: Reggie Jones, 3
Interceptions: Anthony Gaitor, 2

Star of the defense: Junior LB Scott Bryant
Player who has to step up and become a star: Senior DT Daniel Chacreton
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:
Picking off passes, linebacker size

Defensive Line

Projected Starters: 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 Jones.

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 with size.
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.
Rating: 5


Projected Starters: 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 coverage.

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 playing time.

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.
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.
Rating: 4.5

Defensive Backs

Projected Starters: 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 ankle injury.

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.
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.
Rating: 5

Special Teams

Projected Starters: 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 work.
Strength: Hope. Gaitor and Weatherspoon might not be singleton, but the two should be able to form a decent return tandem.
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.