1. DT Isame Faciane (6-3, 295, Jr.): Considered one of, if not the top inside lineman on the roster, Faciane has all the tools on paper. However, early in the fall preseason camp head coach Mario Cristobal singled out the junior for not practicing to his abilities. That heart to heart seems to have done the trick as Faciane's in-camp performances have picked up and he's now back in firm control of his spot on the depth chart.
Faciane has been named as a preseason all-conference performer in the Sun Belt Conference, after finishing his sophomore season with 32 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, and three sacks.
2011 v. Duke: No stats recorded
2. DE Tourek Williams (6-4, 262, Sr.): The Sun Belt Conference Preseason Defensive Player of the Year, Williams is looking to set program records this fall. He enters 2012 with 31.5 career tackles for loss and is just 2.5 TFLs behind second place on the all-time list. He's accumulated 140 yards losses on those 31.5 stops behind the line.
Williams is quick of the edge and will put immediate pressure on the Duke tackles as he looks to add to his 11.5 career sacks. At 6'4 and and 260 pounds, the senior has a big fan in his head coach who calls him "relentless" and often touts his ability to finish every play. "He's got a motor that doesn't stop," said FIU head coach Mario Cristobal.
2011 v. Duke: A season ago the Blue Devils dealt with Williams as well as any team on FIU's schedule, holding him to just one tackle for loss - a broken run play in which Williams stopped the Blue Devil ball carrier just one yard behind the line.
3. Jonathan Cyprien (6-1, 210, Sr.): is a four year starter that has logged more than 90 tackles per season in his first three years, and who is just 30 stops shy of the school record. A 2012 Thorpe Award Candidate, Cyprien has forced five fumbles in his career (just one shy of the school record), and maintains a 7.2 tackle per game average over the course of his career while being named to the all-conference team every year.
Much like Duke's Matt Daniels a year ago, Cyphrien is the heart and soul of a Panther defense that held opposing quarterbacks to a rating of just 111.98 a season ago. He's being projected as a mid-round draft pick in the upcoming 2013 NFL Draft by several media outlets.
2011 v Duke: Recorded three solo and one assisted tackles.
4. LB Winston Fraser (6'1, 232, R-Sr.): The quarterback of the defense according to Cristobal, Fraser led the team with 108 tackles a season ago en route to second team all-conference honors in 2011.
With the majority of his team back for 2012, Fraser says he's hoping the defensive will continue to build its reputation while continuing to gel.
"I want us to come together collectively," he said. "We need to become one unit if we want to win games. We all need to produce and have each other's backs."
2011 v. Duke: Fraser was all over the field as Duke attempted short and mid-length passes. He led the Panthers with eight solo tackles and four assisted stops while playing every snap.
5. P Josh Brisk (5-10, 196, R-Sr.): A fifth year senior who averaged 42.28 yards per kick last season (ranking 33rd in the NCAA overall), Brisk is a capable kicker who has excelled in the field positioning game.
With the defense being so highly thought of, Brisk's ability to plant punts inside the opponent's 20 comes in handy for Cristobal's group. A season ago he recorded 16 kicks inside his opponent's 20 yard line and got enough hang time on the punts to have 19 punts caught for fair catches.
2011 v. Duke: Punted four times for 148 yards (37.0 yards per kick) with a long of 40 yards. Brisk pinned Duke inside the 20 one time and had a second kick go for a touchback.