BOCA RATON – As a true freshman in 2017, James Pierre quietly blended into the two-deep, showing the promise of things to come.
Long, fast and packing plenty of pop Pierre began to fulfill that promise this season to earn our choice as FAU’s Most Improved Defensive Player.
Pierre began fall camp looking like a sure-fire contributor in 2018, but the likelihood of his breaking into a deep and experienced starting secondary seemed remote.
Bucking the odds, it didn’t take long for Pierre to claim his place on the Owls starting defensive unit.
Pierre, a former Syracuse signee, became arguably the Owls’ most important player in the secondary, playing both nickel and traditional cornerback.
Late in the season, FAU assigned Pierre to the opposing offense’s best receiver.
Pierre’s 55 tackles were fourth most among the Owls in 2018, more than doubling his total from the previous season. On more than one occasion Pierre sent opposing ball carriers flipping head over heals.
Though he didn’t record an interception, Pierre’s nine pass breakups led FAU. He also forced a fumble.
While many of sophomore linebacker Akileis Leroy’s 39 tackles came on special teams, his defensive play for the Owls in the wake of captain Azeez Al-Shaair’s season-ending injury midway through the year helped stabilize the position while providing a reason for optimism moving forward.
Defensive end Tim Bonner’s tackle total improved from eight in 2017 to 25 this past season. Seven of those tackles went for loss, which tied him with Ernest Bagner for the team high. Three of those TFLs came in the form of sacks.
Most of safety Da’Von Brown’s 36 tackles came while he was spelling injured starting safety Jalen Young, but considering the junior only recorded three tackles the previous season, the jump is significant.