In about 17 hours the Golden Panthers will open fall practice and you're invited to come check it out.
The first practice tonight is open to the public. The team takes the field at 7:45 p.m. Practices will be held on the fields behind the parking garage that stands just north of the basketball arena.
Let's wrap up our fall practice preview continuing with the FIU defense and of course, with our classic TV theme....
You may have seen this one coming with the departure of "El Monstruo" Antwan Barnes to the Baltimore Ravens. There is plenty of experience and talent on the defensive front with Roland Clarke, Jarvis Penerton, Reggie Jones and here's someone to keep an eye on: Jonathan Betancourt, who always seems to cause havoc in the offensive backfield. The promising freshman class features Ricky Booker, who from what I'm hearing has the same motor as "El Monstruo". But let's not get ahead of ourselves because Barnes's shoes are pretty big to fill. Curtis Bryant, Bryan Frye and Cody Pellicer all have a chance with the rest of this unit to become "Los Monstruos".
Last year, FIU was the place where everybody knew their names: Keyonvis Bouie, Alexander Bostic, James Black and sometimes even when "El Monstruo" lined up in the linebacker slot, these guys were the heart and soul of the 28th best defense in the nation and the No. 1 ranked defense in the nation in tackles for loss.
This year's linebacking corps won't exactly make you shout "Norm!" when you first see them (there isn't a Norm among them), but get to know them, because there's potential there led by Scott Bryant, who had a strong spring. Matt Garris showed his versatility when he was forced to play d-line after all the suspensions last year. Now, Garris returns to his natural position and that can only help. Mannie Wellington made some plays when pressed into duty last season and Michael Dominguez also can play. Having seen a couple of Jarvis Wilson's games last season at Carol City, I think he might emerge.
Ok, this is not classic TV, but it will be. The writing is great and Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven) is hilarious. Right now, Lionell Singleton is getting all the publicity from the national media when it comes to FIU, but the other members of the defensive backfield entourage can make a name for themselves with their play this season. Robert Mitchell looked like he was on the verge of breaking out last season with that interception returned for a TD against South Florida and Jeremiah Weatherspoon and Cory Fleming also contributed. Keep an eye on Kent Henderson. The last time he was on the field for FIU we saw him have a huge game against Middle Tennessee in the 2005 season finale. With former safety Chris Smith (now with the Philadelphia Eagles), Henderson knocked down the final play Hail Mary to preserve FIU's last win a 35-31 triumph over the Blue Raiders in December of 2005. Wow, doing the math, that makes it 21 months since the last FIU win.
Yes, we all know they were anything but special last season. So we'll turn to George and Weesie and sing...."They'll be moving on up" or at least we imagine that's the only way to go. Just seeing some of the drills new special teams coach Apollo Wright had his new unit doing in the spring is cause for optimisim. Several former Golden Panthers who were standing next to me and talking, told me they had not seen some of Apollo's ST drills since high school or had never seen them at all.
PANTHER PAWSE No. 27
FIUBlue82: I think not only with the wide receivers, but with any position group on this team -- anyone can wind up the starter. It's a new coaching staff and as is the case when a new staff takes over, that staff will likely have a different eye for talent than the previous one. Player A may have been considered a starter for Strock, but maybe MC doesn't think of Player A that way. We'll find out in the next 3 weeks.
CJ: I do appreciate the history behind Golden Panther academics and the founding of FIU, but let me make like Captain Stubing here and direct this boat that we call the GPP back on course to FIU sports.
FIU Fanatic & Puma: I'll look into the soccer and get back to you.
YouGotGold: Football practices will be held this season in the fields behind the parking garage that is north of the FIU basketball arena. You could see the fields on the left when you're driving west on SW 8 Street between SW 107 Ave. and SW 117 Ave.
scUMsanitizer: I can not stop laughing at your Gainesville photos. That was awesome!
Baltimorepanther & yippee & FIU-GO-PAWZz: Thanks for the blog props.
B & G: Why does the Herald cover Montoya so much in NASCAR, I really don't know, but that's a good question. I'm not a big auto racing fan. I covered the IRL a couple of times when they're down here in March -- that's the extent of my Herald experience with the autos. You can e-mail our auto racing writer Sarah Rothschild at email@example.com and ask her. I do thank you for your interest in the Golden Panthers Prowl.