It begins with Jalen Young patrolling the secondary. A senior, Young’s seven interceptions tied for second in the nation last season. His12 career picks rank third in program history. Also a punt returner for the Owls, Young knows what to do once he gets the ball in his hands, amassing 359 combined punt and interception return yards, taking one for a touchdown.
Young’s no slouch when opponents try to run the ball, either. His 77 tackles ranked third on the Owls last season. In his career Young’s 246 tackles rank eighth in program history.
A preseason All-Conference USA selection, Young’s big plays speak for themselves.
The players who could line up next to Young may not be his equal – few in the nation are – but they, too, are proven playmakers. Last season coach Lane Kiffin repeatedly spoke of then-true freshman Zyon Gilbert as having NFL potential. Gilbert played in all 14 games last season, starting four.
After a down 2017 in which his playing time decreased, Ocie Rose moved from nickel to safety, where the senior enjoyed a surprisingly strong spring. The Owls also ended spring with Quran Hafiz, a contributor at nickel last season at nickel, playing behind Young.
The Top 4 FAU safeties all have significant game experience, which bodes well for a secondary likely to be tested more this season because of a more aggressive approach from the front seven under new defensive coordinator Tony Pecoraro.
That attacking style could also lead to more sacks from the Owls’ safeties.
OwlAccess.com Pre-Camp Safety Position Preview
Jalen Young (5-11, 190, Sr.): Undoubtedly the leader of the secondary, Young is more than FAU’s last line of defense. He’s also a playmaker. Equally adept at intercepting passes and delivering big hits, Young will be playing on Sundays after this, his final year at FAU.
Quran Hafiz (6-0, 185, So.): Another a big hitter, Hafiz played mostly nickel last season but switched to safety during the spring. Hafiz enjoyed a solid first collegiate season, recording 36 tackles, four of which were for loss. Like many of FAU’s safeties, Hafiz is versatile. He can play both safety positions or move back to nickel and still contribute.
Da’Von Brown (6-0, 185, Jr.): Brown played in 10 games last season, recording three tackles. He has the talent to contribute but, barring injuries, with two stellar athletes ahead of him he will be most effective on special teams.
Ocie Rose (6-2, 190, Sr.): A nickel most of his career, Rose began the move to safety last season. He’s big and tough, possessing a nose for the ball. Rose and Gilbert battled for the free safety spot all spring, with Rose somewhat surprisingly landing the top spot in spring’s final days. This battle should continue throughout the fall and even into the season.
Zyon Gilbert (6-1, 180, So.): An instant impact player for the Owls last season, coach Lane Kiffin pegged Gilbert as a future NFL player. Gilbert’s 52 tackles were fifth most among the Owls. Fifteen of those tackles came in a start against Buffalo. Became less productive as the season progress, perhaps hitting the freshman wall. Seeing Gilbert draw the start at Oklahoma wouldn’t be a surprise.
Ahman Ross (5-11, 195 R-Fr.): Redshirted last season but made some plays during the spring. Ross could contribute if needed, but there are two strong players ahead of him on the depth chart.
Amani Adams (5-11, 180, Fr.): A member of the 2018 signing class, at one point Adams was committed to Arizona. Thirteen of his 72 tackles as a senior at St. Petersburg-Lakewood went for loss. He can play either safety position and even some corner.
Andrew Soroh: The senior didn’t leave the Owls, he simply switched positions. He started 10 games last season, but takes a step forward on the defense to play linebacker this season.
Ocie Rose: It may not seem like much of a leap to select a starter as breakout guy, but Rose’s story is worth noting. As a true freshman, the aggressive Rose scored three defensive touchdowns. He recorded 41 tackles that year, and 47 more in 2016. But last season Rose somewhat disappeared. He only played in 12 games. Starting every game on the bench, Rose only managed six tackles. He clearly didn’t perform in Chris Kiffin’s defensive scheme, but playing under new defensive coordinator Tony Pecoraro might be exactly what Rose needs. In the spring FAU played with reckless abandon, looking for the takeaway on every play. That style suits Rose, and could lead to a couple more touchdowns during his final year at FAU.
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