After picking off a pass in both of FAU’s first two fall practices, Lewis set a goal of picking off at least one pass in every practice.
He couldn’t meet the goal, but that goal defined the mentality for FAU’s secondary in 2018. The Owls were going to attack the ball. Often, they took it away.
As a team, FAU intercepted 20 passes last season – second most nationally. Safety Jalen Young led the way with seven picks, second-most nationally. Lewis added four, as did Chris Tooley to lead the cornerbacks.
FAU’s total might have been even higher had the Owls not lost top cornerback Raekwon Williams to a knee injury six games into the season.
Even without their leader, FAU’s cornerbacks didn’t lose a step. The Owls didn’t surrender more than 25 points in any of their final half-dozen games.
An aggressive defense brought to the Owls by new defensive coordinator Tony Pecoraro could make Lewis and Tooley even more bothersome to opposing offenses in 2018.
Pecoraro likes to bring pressure, and harassed quarterbacks have a tendency to make poor decisions.
Last season, FAU’s cornerbacks proved they possess both the skill and the mindset to capitalize on such mistakes.
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Shelton Lewis (6-0., 185, Sr.): A preseason All-Conference USA selection, Lewis can smell an interception coming. Lewis’ nose for the ball also led to 47 tackles last season. He’s fast and possesses good ball skills, but sometimes he gets caught peeking into the backfield, leading to a big play. With a strong senior season Lewis is looking at an NFL career.
James Pierre (6-2, 175, So.): A versatile athlete, Pierre seemingly came out of nowhere last season to contribute primarily at safety. When it comes to coverage, he may be better suited to the crowded nickel spot, but FAU elected to play him at corner during the spring. He’ll enter camp as a backup at many of the defensive back positions, but Pierre is too talented not to see significant playing time this season.
Chris Tooley (5-11, 180, Jr.): Tooley didn’t become a full-time starter until midway though the season when Raekwon Williams injured his knee. Once in the lineup Tooley excelled. Like Lewis, Tooley is a ball hawk and he’s also a solid tackler. With teams likely shying away from Lewis, Tooley could be in for a breakout season.
Meiko Dotson (5-11, 190, R-Jr.): After starting his career at Georgia Tech, Dotson transferred to Garden City Community College – where he played for former FAU assistant Jeff Sims – before joining FAU’s 2018 signing class. Dotson intercepted four passes in eight games at Garden City, returning one for a touchdown. He also recorded 22 tackles.
Diashun Moss (5-10, 175, So.): Primarily a special teams player as a true freshman, Moss did see the field in mop-up duty last season. He played in eight games, recording three tackles. Moss pushed his way to second on the depth chart in the spring, but holding off Dotson will be a challenge.
Meiko Dotson: He’s physically gifted enough to push Tooley for the starting spot. Even if he doesn’t win the job, Dotson will almost certainly earn playing time.
Teja Young (5-11, 180, Fr.): Another gifted athlete, Young could begin his college career as a corner or a nickel. FAU is deep enough at both spots that if the Owls remain healthy they could elect to redshirt Young, if they can suppress the urge to make him a full-time returner on special teams.
Raekwon Williams: Well on his way to the NFL, Williams blew out his knee six games into his senior season, requiring season-ending surgery. He recently announced the completion of his rehab process and is now attempting to catch on with an NFL team.
Meiko Dotson: Tooley could easily surprise Conference USA and play his way onto the All-Conference team. Young could prove dynamic enough that he forces his way into playing time. But Dotson is the under-the- radar player most likely to make an impact. He played in 12 games as a redshirt freshman at Georgia Tech, primarily on special teams.
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