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2010 Florida Atlantic Preview - Defense
Florida Atlantic S Marcus Bartels
Florida Atlantic S Marcus Bartels
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Aug 7, 2010


CollegeFootballNews.com 2010 Preview - Florida Atlantic Owls Defense


Florida Atlantic Owls

Preview 2010 - Defense


- 2010 Florida Atlantic Preview | 2010 Florida Atlantic Offense
- 2010 Florida Atlantic Defense | 2010 Florida Atlantic Depth Chart
- Florida Atlantic Previews  2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006

What You Need To Know: A complete and utter disaster. That was the FAU defense last year with miserable line play leading to no pass rush, no run defense, and too much stress put on a not-that-bad back seven. Former linebackers coach Kurt Van Valkenburgh will take over the defense and will try to make everyone far more aggressive. The defense came up with a pathetic 12 sacks and five interceptions, but with nine starters and a ton of young talent waiting in the wings, there’s absolutely no excuse to not be far better. The secondary gets everyone back, but it needs some semblance of a pass rush to help the cause (there hasn’t been one in two years). There’s size, speed, athleticism, and a ton of experience across the board, but there’s a long way to go after finishing 112th in the nation in total defense and 106th in scoring D.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Marcus Bartels, 112
Sacks: Dino Cox, Kevin Cyrille, 3
Interceptions: Brentley Harstad, 2

Star of the defense: Junior SS Marcus Bartels
Player who has to step up and be a star: Senior DE Daniel Joseph
Unsung star on the rise: Redshirt freshman LB Alex Pattee
Best pro prospect: Sophomore DE Kevin Cyrille
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Bartels, 2) Cyrille, 3) LB Michael Lockley
Strength of the defense: Experience, Secondary
Weakness of the defense: Pass Rush, Run Defense

Defensive Line

Projected Starters: Back at his starting spot is sophomore Kevin Cyrille , a former Western Michigan Bronco who stepped in and was one of the team’s most productive linemen and the only pass rusher from the outside. At 6-4 and 275 pounds, he’s a big body with a good burst off the ball making three sacks and 11.5 tackles for loss. He’s also decent against the run making 40 tackles. While he’s best suited to be a 3-4 end, he should flourish with more time on the field and he should be the team’s star up front.

Senior Dino Cox went from being a backup option to a regular starter on the inside starting ten games making 24 tackles. By far the team’s best interior pass rusher, he made three sacks and five tackles for loss, but at 6-3 and 280 pounds, his job is to hold up against the run. He bulked up 40 pounds over the last year and should be stronger in his final season.

Sophomore Jimmy Jean got his feet wet last year making one tackle, but he’s going to be a top producer at right tackle over the next few years. Louisville, along with several Sun Belt schools, wanted him, but the 6-2, 290-pounder should be a block against the run as time goes on. He’s more of a mauler than a quick interior pass rusher.

While there will be a steady rotation, Daniel Joseph will see even more action on the right side after starting eight times last season making 23 tackles with 4.5 tackles for loss. At 6-1 and 250 pounds he’s a short, squatty end, but he has a nice burst off the line and has to use it more to get to the quarterback.

Projected Top Reserves: It took junior Jamaire Johnson a little while to get into the swing of things after being hurt, but he ended up making 14 tackles with two tackles for loss. At 6-4 and 240 pounds, he’s a tall, quick pass rusher with tremendous upside/ It hasn’t happened yet for him as a regular playmaker, but he’ll get his chances in the rotation with Daniel Joseph.

6-3, 305-pound Jarvis Givens is the biggest body for the FAU line but has to get healthy and into the swing of things after failing to make any stops in his five games of action. He recovered three fumbles in his time as a sophomore, and now he should be ready to be a big factor at right tackle in a rotation with Jimmy Jean.

Looking to possibly be an instant factor in the backfield is true freshman Cory Henry, a 6-4, 235-pounder who made 14 sacks and 60 tackles in his senior year of high school. 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 on the left side with Kevin Cyrille.

Watch Out For … more of a pass rush. There hasn’t been one in years, but the Owls have athletes in Cyrille, Joseph, Henry, and Johnson with the potential to do far, far more on the outside. The more aggressive scheme should help.
Strength: Size. This is a great-sized line for the Sun Belt with the 275-pound Cyrille beefing things up on the outside and several 280+ options able to hold firm on the inside.
Weakness: Production. The Owls have come up with a mere 25 sacks in the last two seasons and did nothing against the run. It’s prove-it time for the young but experienced line.
Outlook: The defensive front has been a disaster over the last few years, and while three starters return with size, athleticism, and upside, it’s time to start producing. There’s too much bulk for the front four to be getting pushed around as much as it does, while the run defense that was gouged for 221 yards per game has to be better. The mere 12 sacks from the FAU D last year were a joke.
Unit Rating: 4

Linebackers

Projected Starters: Veteran Michael Lockley is back in the middle of the linebacking corps after finishing second on the team with 97 tackles with 7.5 tackles for loss. At 6-3 and 245 pounds, he has gotten bigger but is still quick enough to get all over the field. The senior is a good all-around playmaker who’ll be the leader of the defense, but he has to do more to make plays at the point of attack and not five yards down the field.

6-2, 240-pound redshirt freshman Alex Pattee was a great recruit who’s going to grow into a major playmaker. One of the team’s most talented players, the 6-2, 240-pounder was coveted by Arizona State and Colorado, among other BCS league teams, he’ll be a whale of a weakside defender who should be able to grow into the tremendous pass rusher. He’s not the best athlete around, but he can play at a high level.

Senior Malik Eugene had a decent year on the strongside, making 34 tackles with four tackles for loss, but he has the athleticism and talent to do far more. He didn’t do much of anything to pressure the quarterback and he has to hold up better against the strong running teams, he at least looks the part with 6-3, 230-pound size and nice straight-line speed.

Projected Top Reserves: Besides just having one of the best names in college football, sophomore Yourhighness Morgan can play a little bit making nine tackles in his limited time. At 6-3 and 245 pounds, he has excellent size with the speed to allow him to shine on either outside spot. He’ll start out in the rotation on the strongside.

At 6-0 and 215 pounds, David Hinds is an undersized option in the middle with good toughness and great range. He was a spot starter and a key backup as a true freshman making 24 tackles with a sack, and now he’ll bring his athleticism to the rotation again in the rotation with Lockley.

Redshirt freshman Randell Johnson is only 6-3 and 210 pounds, but he has unlimited range and is built for the weakside. He could end up seeing time as a big safety just to get him on the field, and he could find an early niche as a pass rushing specialist.

Michael Copeland was one of the team’s top recruits and he might end up seeing time right away. A tackling machine with a burst into the backfield to make him an instant pass rusher, the 6-1, 215-pounder has a knack for being able to get to the quarterback.

Watch Out For … the hounds to be released. Defensive coordinator Kurt Van Valkenburgh will turn the athletic linebackers loose to try to generate more of a pass rush. The linebackers are too athletic to not do more.
Strength: Speed and athleticism. This is a good-sized group, but that doesn’t mean that speed and quickness are sacrificed. This group should be able to fly around into the backfield and to the ball, but there’s little actual …
Weakness: Production. The linebacking corps was decent, but it had to spend most of its time cleaning up messes from the defensive line. The stats aren’t bad, but too many plays were made down the field and there weren’t enough impact moments.
Outlook: The talent, size, and athleticism are there for a night-and-day improvement in the overall production. The FAU linebackers look the part, and now they need all the promise to turn into plays. It’ll help if the linebackers don’t have to spend all their time cleaning up the messes left by the line.
Unit Rating: 5

Secondary

Projected Starters: The secondary might have struggled last year, but junior Marcus Bartels did what he could to be all over the place with a team-leading 112 tackles with an interception and five tackles for loss. The 5-11, 170-pound strong safety didn’t even take over the starting job until the third game of the season, and while he came from out of nowhere to be a star, he’ll be in the hunt for all-star honors this year if he continues to be the same sort of playmaker.

Senior Tavious Polo seemed to find every pass come his way in a special true freshman season making seven interceptions along with 53 tackles. He has been fine over the last two years, but he has been decent making 35 tackles in 2008 and 33 last year with an interception in each season. At 5-11 and 175 pounds, he’s 20 pounds bigger than he was as a true freshman, and now he has the experience to go along with the speed and size to revert back to his first year form as the team’s lockdown, No. 1 corner.

Senior Tarvoris Hill gets tested with most quarterbacks staying away from Tavious Polo on the other side, but he needs to do more when he gets his chances. The 6-0, 169-pounder is tall and thin, and while he made 27 tackles, he’s not much of a hitter and has to stay healthy after missing the final four games with a broken arm. He’s more of a nickel back playing corner, but he knows what he’s doing with two years of starting experience.

Senior Ed Alexander started every game last year at free safety coming off a solid 2008. At 6-1 and 181 pounds, he has nice size and is a solid open field tackler finishing with 66 stops with five broken up passes. With the speed and experience to do more, he has to come up with big plays when the ball is in the air, and he has to become more of a game-changer.

Projected Top Reserves: 5-10, 165-pound redshirt freshman Keith Reaser might not be all that big, but he’s a defensive tackle compared to the 147-pound size he was coming to the program. The top corner prospect was wanted by just about everyone in the Sun Belt, and got a long look from NC State, and he should be one of the team’s top defensive backs next year after spending this season playing behind Tavious Polo. He played bigger than his size, and is extremely quick.

Redshirt freshman Winfield Strickland might not be the corner prospect that Keith Reaser is, but he’s promising. A 6-0, 185-pound speedster who can hit, he could end up at safety or a nickel role before he makes too much noise at corner playing behind Tarvoris Hill.

6-1, 189-pound sophomore Brentley Harstad saw a little bit of time in the safety rotation getting one start and finishing with a team-leading two interceptions to go along with 19 tackles. He’s a fast free safety option with a nose for the football, and he’ll soon be one of the team’s leading tacklers when he gets more playing time. The coaching staff will find a way to get him on the field.

Sophomore Tony Rodriguez is a compact 5-11 and 209-pound strong safety with good hitting ability and the potential to be one of the team’s leading tacklers if he can get more playing time. He made 15 tackles and broke up a pass in his little bit of work, and he got a start. He’ll be a star next year.

Watch Out For … the secondary to benefit from improvements up front. The defensive backs were hung out to dry far too often thanks to a pathetic pass rush that didn’t generate any pressure.
Strength: Experience. There’s no excuse for the Owl secondary to not be far better with all the talent and experience returning. All four starters are back and they can all play. There isn’t a true weak link in the group.
Weakness: Production. The Owls have gone two years without stopping anyone from throwing on a consistent basis. Anyone who could throw, did. The Owls gave up 200 yards or more in nine games including a 483-yard day from Troy.
Outlook: No, there hasn’t been much of a pass rush to help the cause and there has been too much time spent in run support, but the secondary hasn’t exactly done its part over the last two years. Polo made seven interceptions in 2007 as a freshman, but the entire secondary came up with just four picks last year. There’s too much veteran talent to not be better.
Unit Rating: 5

Special Teams

Projected Starters: Junior Ross Gornall is back after a decent year connecting on 8-of-12 field goals. His biggest problem was his line that got four of his kicks blocked. While he has to do a bit of a better job getting the kicks up in the air quicker, he didn’t actually miss a field goal.

Junior Mickey Groody averaged 40.6 yards per punt and put 19 inside the 20 while forcing 16 fair catches. Now he needs more help from his coverage team to help out the net average. He’s a weapon who can bail out the offense with some good blasts.

Can corner Tavious Polo start doing more? He averaged a mere 17 yards per kickoff return and just 5.3 yards per punt return. He’s too quick and too experienced to not be one of the Sun Belt’s most dangerous returner, but he’ll be challenged for both jobs.

Watch Out For … Gornall to be in the hunt for all-star honors. He has a good enough leg to hit a few bombed, and he’ll get his chances this year. Now he has to make sure he doesn’t get so many boots blocked.
Strength: Groody. The Owls might have averaged 34.38 yards per net punt and finished 88th in the nation, but Groody had a nice year putting his kicks deep and inside the 20. He’s better than his stats.
Weakness: Return game. The Owls struggled way too much finishing 110th in the nation in kickoff returns, averaging a paltry 18.87 yards per try, and 109th in punt returns averaging 4.76 yards per attempt.
Outlook: Awful two years ago, there were some signs of life last year. The coverage teams haven’t shown up in years, and the return game has been absent, but the kicking game is fine and there’s enough experience returning to be better if the special teams can finally be a focus.
Unit Rating: 4.5

- 2010 Florida Atlantic Preview | 2010 Florida Atlantic Offense
- 2010 Florida Atlantic Defense | 2010 Florida Atlantic Depth Chart
- Florida Atlantic Previews  2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006