2009 Florida Atlantic Preview - Defense
Florida Atlantic DT Josh Savidge
Florida Atlantic DT Josh Savidge
Posted Jul 29, 2009

CollegeFootballNews.com 2009 Preview - Florida Atlantic Owl Defense

Florida Atlantic Owls

Preview 2009 - Defense

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

What you need to know:
Last year’s defense was loaded with veterans and did precisely squat until a good Motor City Bowl. Now there are some major changes being made with three new starters at linebacker, a new strong safety in place of Greg Joseph, and some replacements coming on the front four. There’s been no pass rush over the last few years, and there still won’t be one, and the run defense will be mediocre. On the plus side, the potential is there for a good year from the secondary with three good veterans returning led by corner Tavious Polo, who was never quite right throughout last year. The key overall will be the push into the backfield after finishing 112th in the nation in sacks and 110th in tackles for loss. A steady pass rusher will have to emerge.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Ed Alexander, 42
Sacks: Jervonte Jackson, 1.5
Interceptions: Ed Alexander, 3

Star of the defense: Junior FS Ed Alexander
Player who has to step up and become a star: Senior DE Jermaine Council
Unsung star on the rise: Junior LB Michael Lockley
Best pro prospect: Junior CB Tavious Polo
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Alexander, 2) Polo, 3) DT Josh Savidge
Strength of the defense: Corners, Joseph
Weakness of the defense: Pass rush, plays in the backfield

Defensive Line

Projected Starters
The pass rush was non-existent last season, and Jermaine Council isn’t going to change that. He made four tackles in just four games of work before getting hurt and knocked out for the year. The 6-5, 275-pound senior is more of a defensive tackle than a true end, and while he’s not a pass rusher, he’s a good presence against the run. He can also be moved inside if needed, but in a perfect world he’d be a 3-4 end.

Back on the other side is Jamere Johnson after spending last year as the key reserve on the left side. He only made 11 tackles last season and recovered a fumble, but he needs to get to the quarterback. At 6-4 and 220 pounds, if the sophomore isn’t getting into the backfield on a regular basis.

Returning to his starting right tackle spot is senior Josh Savidge, a productive veteran who bounced back from a knee injury that prematurely ended his 2007 season with a 28 tackle season with five tackles for loss. At 6-2 and 280 pounds, and four years of experience, he’s a big, active defender who’ll be one of the keys to the defense.

6-3, 300-pound sophomore Jarvis Givins only made seven tackles in his six appearances, but he was a difference maker with 1.5 tackles for loss, three fumble recoveries and a forced fumble in his time. He’ll be the main man at left tackle taking over for Jervonte Jackson, and while he replaces Jackson’s size, he has to prove he can be the same sort of an anchor.

Projected Top Reserves: 6-3, 230-pound true freshman Cory Henry will be a starter sooner than later. The big-time pass rushing prospect had chances to go play in the Big East or Conference USA, but now he’ll be a key cog early on in a rotation at one of the end spots after making 14 sacks for Carol City High in Miami last year.

Playing behind Josh Savidge at right tackle will be junior Dino Cox, a promising interior pass rusher who can play end if needed. Only 6-3 and 240 pounds, he’s way too light to be a regular tackle and now he has to start producing after only making six tackles and no sacks last year.

Watch Out For ... Savidge to shine. He was healthy last year after suffering a knee injury a few years ago, but he wasn’t quite right. This year, with more than enough time to heal up, he should be an all-star if he can get to the quarterback.
Tackle size … at least among the starters. This hasn’t always been a sure-thing for the constantly undersized Owls over the years but now there’s decent beef on the inside in Givens and Savidge. However, size quickly diminishes when it comes to the reserves.
Weakness: Pass rushing. FAU has never been able to get to the quarterback despite always having a slew of undersized athletes up front. FAU made a pathetic 13 sacks and was 110th in the nation in tackles for loss.
Outlook: The line was a disaster throughout last year with no pass rush, no push into the backfield, and little done against the run on a consistent basis. This year’s front four isn’t going to be a whole bunch better and it’ll be a nightmare if injuries strike the starters. Josh Savidge is a good tackle to build around, but a pass rusher has to emerge on the outside.
Rating: 4


Projected Starters
Who can possibly replace Frantz Joseph, the all-star in the middle who made 154 tackles last year? 6-2, 220-pound junior Michael Lockley will give it a shot after serving as an understudy. There wasn’t much time to get on the field playing behind Joseph, so Lockley did most of his work on special teams finishing with 11 tackles. He’s a promising all-around prospect who can move.

Replacing Andre Clark on the strongside will be Malik Eugene, a 6-3, 235-pound junior who made six tackles and a tackle for loss. Mostly a special teamer so far, he’s a strong athlete with good pass rushing potential. He could be used to manufacture pressure into the backfield from time to time.

Senior Edward Bradwell might be undersized at 6-1 and 200 pounds, playing more like a safety than a linebacker, but he can move. He’s been a solid reserve over the last few years with 41 stops last season to go along with a sack and three tackles for loss, highlighted by a 12-stop game against Troy, but he hasn’t done enough against the pass from the weakside spot.

Projected Top Reserves: Several bigger name programs were interested in Toney Moore, but FAU got him. The 6-1, 210-pound freshman from West Palm Beach does a little of everything well with good open field tackling ability and solid production in pass coverage. He’s a natural weakside defender at the collegiate level, but he can see time at any of the three spots.

Redshirt freshman Yourhighness Morgan doesn’t just have the best name in college football, he can play a little bit, too. The 6-3, 225-pounder is a tackling machine who should quickly find his place in the rotation on the strongside. He’s a speedster who should be all over the field.

Watch Out For ... Lockley in the middle. He’s not going to be Frantz Joseph, but he should be a 100-tackle player just by being the main man on the inside.  
Strength: Speed. The Owls use safety-sized linebackers and they can all fly to the ball. Bradwell should shine with more responsibility.
Weakness: Proven production. The Owls lose everything with Joseph, Andre Clark and George Allen gone. These three were the rocks for a defense that got nothing out of the defensive line. It’ll be hard to quickly replace them.
Outlook: This could be the team’s biggest question mark with a few unproven special teamers needing to play very big roles. Malik Eugene and Michael Lockley have potential, but it’ll be Edward Bradwell who should be the new star of the front seven. The starters are question marks, much less the backups.
Rating: 4.5

Defensive Backs

Projected Starters
Junior Tavious Polo couldn’t build on his tremendous 53-tackle, seven interception freshman season with 35 tackles and just one pick in a back up role. While he’s only 175 pounds on a 5-11 frame, that’s bulked up for him after starting out his career at around 155. His seven picks in 2007 came in the first five games and then his production fell off over the last year and a half. He has the speed and he has the talent to be a ball-hawking shut down corner, but he has to prove the start of his career wasn’t a fluke.

The star of the secondary should be junior Ed Alexander at free safety. The 6-1, 172-pounder stepped in for Taheem Acevedo and made 42 tackles and picked off three passes. With good speed and decent athleticism, he's been a key special teamer and he proved he could be a steady pass defender. Now with Greg Joseph gone, Alexander has to do even more when the ball Is in the air.

Back at a starting corner spot is Tarvoris Hill after making 41 tackles. The 6-0, 170-pound junior was a good nickel back in the start of his career and he turned into a decent all-around defender on the right side last season, but he only made one interception and broke up three passes.

The team’s second-leading tackler, Greg Joseph, is gone at strong safety, and in comes Austen Jensen, a star special teamer who made 24 tackles. The 6-1, 190-pound senior will put up big numbers and should be among the team’s leading tacklers, but he also needs to be a bear against the pass to replace Joseph’s ten broken up passes.

Projected Top Reserves: Back after missing all of 2007 with academic issues was 6-0, 180-pound senior Erick McIntosh, but he only made 11 tackles with two broken up passes. One of the team’s most talented all-around defensive backs, he hasn’t been able to put it all together even though he’s tough enough to play either safety position and fast enough to be a key corner. He’ll play behind Tavoris Hill.

6-1, 185-pound junior Rod Huggins stepped in and saw some time at safety making nine tackles in his limited action. The former star high school running back has great speed and he could be a nice fifth defensive back in the mix if given more of a chance. He’ll start out working behind Austen Jensen.

Watch Out For ... Jensen to be one of the team’s top five tacklers. He might not be Greg Joseph, but he has the experience and has done enough both as a backup defender and a special teamer to show he can play.
Strength: Corners. Tavious and Tavoris should be one of the Sun Belt’s better corner tandems. Polo has to prove he can regain his all-star form, while Hill has to start making more plays. However, they should be good.
Weakness: Production. Even with all the tackles and all the good things done by last year’s veteran secondary, FAU still got bombed on by the decent passers and picked apart by anyone with any efficiency.
Outlook: With no pass rush whatsoever, there’s more pressure on the FAU secondary than there should be. The corners should be solid with Tavious Polo and Tavoris Hill two promising playmakers, while Ed Alexander and Austen Jensen should have good years at safety. However, this group will give up yards and will have a hard time with any quarterback with any semblance of passing skills.
Rating: 5

Special Teams

Projected Starters
Replacing Warley Leroy, who hit 10-of-13 field goals last year and 29-of-40 over the last few years, but he had no range whatsoever. Junior Ross Gornall hit his one 36-yard attempt and should be solid from close range.

Senior Keegan Peterson won the punting job outright last year and put 20 kicks inside the 20 and forced 14 fair catches. While he only averaged 38.3 yards per kick, he has the ability to bomb it from time to time. Now he needs more help from his punt coverage team.

Corner Tavious Polo is a decent punt returner who averaged 9.5 yards per try. He has the quickness and speed to do far more. A kickoff returner will need to be found to replace the solid, but unspectacular DiIvory Edgecomb. Starting tailback Jeff Blanchard averaged 19.5 yards per try and will get the first look.

Watch Out For ... Ross Gornall to be fine. Leroy was fantastic from 40 yards and in, but he had absolutely no range. Gomall will hit a 40+ yarder this year.
Strength: Kickoff coverage and Polo’s potential. Polo should be doing more than averaging 9.5 yards per punt return, while the kickoff coverage team allowed a meager 18 yards per try.
Weakness: Almost everything. There needs to be a better net punting average, the placekicking game needs more range, and more pop is needed in the return game. Other than that, everything’s fine.
Outlook: To call the special teams a disaster last season is a bit much, but there wasn’t nearly enough overall production from any spot. Losing PK Warley Leroy will hurt a little bit, but Ross Gornall will be fine. There needs to be more from just about every area and there needs to be far more from the return game. Special teams could cost FAU at least one game.
Rating: 4.5