BOCA RATON – That Rashad Smith, Keke Leroy and Da’Von Brown finished the season as FAU’s three leading tackles won’t surprise many.
The name of the player who finished with the fourth most tackles will stump even the most ardent FAU fans.
That’s because Hosea Barnwell, FAU’s Most Improved Defensive Player, didn’t even start most games. As the third linebacker in a defense that operated primarily out of the nickel, Barnwell became more of a situational play.
He did start some games against run-heavy offenses, but against most teams the Owls employed him sparingly.
When Barnwell did take the field, he made the most of his opportunities. The 57 tackles he amassed were more than his previous two seasons combined. Barnwell also demonstrated a knack for clogging the passing lanes, either batting down pass attempts or forcing quarterbacks to alter their throws.
The rising senior played his best football near the end of his junior season, recording seven or more tackles in four of the Owls’ final five games.
With Leroy suspended for the Boca Raton Bowl, Barnwell filled in admirably by recording seven tackles in the Owls’ blowout victory over SMU.
Ahman Ross, who effectively took over the starting nickel back role for the Owls as the season progressed, deserved consideration for this award. Only six Owls amassed more than Ross’ 39 tackles.
While Tim Bonner appeared to be an early candidate for this award, his 2019 statistics are almost mirror images of those he produced the year prior.