4. WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE FIU DEFENSE
– It was the program’s best defense since 2014, at least in terms of scoring, allowing 386 yards and 24 points per game. It managed to hold teams to 24 points or fewer seven times, and now it gets back eight starters and seven of the top nine tacklers.
– The defensive front has to be stronger against the run and has to do far, far more to get into the backfield. The pass rush wasn’t there, but it has decent size across the front four and a few nice parts. Noah Curtis is a good end on one side, but the line needs Kevin Oliver to become a bigger factor.
Losing 350-pound Tayland Humphrey isn’t massive – he was just okay – but he takes away bulk in the interior. Senior Teair Tart has to be more than just a playmaker in the backfield at one tackle spot.
– If Sage Lewis isn’t the best linebacker in Conference USA, he’s not far off. He’s not alone with junior Jamal Gates back coming off a decent 36-tackle season – he’ll have to fight for the gig, though. Junior Josh Powell is a safety-sized option who adds more speed, and Rocky Jacques-Louis is another hybrid type with 6-3, 205-pound size and athleticism.
Helping the cause in a huge way is Tyson Maeva, Boise State’s second-leading tackler who comes in after getting hit for a violation of team rules. The 230-pounder is a ready-made star for the middle. Overall, this group has to do more behind the line.
– The secondary wasn’t all that bad considering there wasn’t enough of a pass rush. All four starters return, working around third-leading tackler Olin Cushion at one safety spot and sophomore Dorian Hall, coming off a solid 46-stop first season. Hall finished with CB Richard Dames in a tie for the team lead in interceptions, and