FAU's Tavious Polo struggles after a good season

Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

BOCA RATON Florida Atlantic cornerback Tavious Polo earned plenty of awards and honors after a breakout freshman season in 2007 when he finished among the nation's leaders with seven interceptions.

Polo quickly found out his accolades and past statistics didn't guarantee him a starting position this year. Polo, who was a pre-season All-Sun Belt selection at cornerback, hasn't cracked the starting lineup this season for the Owls.

"Nobody would take it well, but I'm accepting it," Polo said of the demotion.

Polo, who started every game last season, was beaten out in training camp by Tavoris Hill, who played sparingly last year mostly as a nickel back and on special teams.

But after a productive pre-season, Hill won the spot and has started the Owls' first two games.

"It was just competition and I knew I would just have to work," said Hill, a 6-foot, 170-pound redshirt sophomore from Miami Central High School. "Me and Polo came in together and we've played together and we both know we can play. We just did our best and left it up to the coaches."

Polo's recent struggles aren't entirely unexpected. Last season, Polo roared out of the gate with seven interceptions in FAU's first five games to lead the nation in that category at the time.

However, Polo hasn't picked off a pass since then - a span of 10 games. FAU coach Howard Schnellenberger said Polo may have been spoiled by his early success.

"That was a terrible thing that happened to Tavious," Schnellenberger said. "He intercepted seven passes and none of them were great plays.

"It's like going to a candy store and putting a quarter in the machine expecting to get a gumdrop and getting seven of them. Then you expect seven gumdrops all the time."

Polo, however, is hoping he can improve on the physical aspect of his game.

"Last year, I wasn't that good at tackling so I've worked on that and tried to stick my face up there at the point of attack," Polo said.

After his production tailed off in the last seven games of 2007, FAU defensive coordinator Kirk Hoza said Polo's spot opposite senior Corey Small was an open competition in pre-season training camp.

"Last year, he was our first-team nickelback when we were facing teams that threw the ball," Hoza said of Hill. "He's not relegated to nickel duty and that competition at that corner should be pretty good."

Polo missed several practices during the pre-season because of a sprained left ankle and eventually lost his spot to Hill, although, Polo gets in the game often when FAU uses five defensive backs.

"I think his morale is still pretty good, and I think he'll be fine," said Small.

And Polo vows to earn his position back.

"That's how you have to respond," Polo said. "You have to respond in a way you don't get upset or you'll be staying where your are."