It's the final bye week of the 2007 season, so with idle football time on our hands -- don't worry passionate FIU baseball fans, who have been clamoring for Golden Panthers baseball news, the GPP has you covered -- more on that at the end of this post -- let's take a look at how the Golden Panthers freshmen are doing three-quarters of the way into their first college football season.
This is MC's first crop of players and very likely the type of players we can expect to see in future seasons of FIU football. Let's start out on offense.
With a new spread offense, MC and his coaching staff went out and stockpiled a plethora of receivers. Among those pass catchers to stand out thus far have been Greg Ellingson (left) and Jason Frierson (below, right). Elllingson's size (6-3) and speed have given the passing game a boost. He made a nifty touchdown catch last week against Arkansas State. Frierson, at 5-8 is not as big, but has shown his playmaking ability like the 37-yard reception against Troy. James Rucker and Kendall Berry have also shown potential. Berry is learning a new position after playing quarterback in high school. Marquis Rolle, who got a late start to the season, is the real deal and is going to get more involved in the offense.
Along the offensive and defensive lines, only two freshmen have gotten ample playing time. Center Brad Serini and defensive lineman Cody Pellicer (left) are starters while plenty of other linemen are likely to redshirt. Serini has held his own at center which is the most demanding position on the O-line. Serini never played much center in prep ball. The athletic Pellicer, a former wrestler playing at just 220 pounds, has done well with two sacks. As for the other linemen: "At the pit positions you're a little leery putting guys out there for the first time coming out of high school," MC said. "Their bodies go through a tremendous adjustment. They used to rush 230-pound offensive tackles in high school and now they're going up against 320-pound animals that will break you in half if they get their hands on you."
Some of the likely-to-redshirt linemen to keep your eyes on when spring ball rolls around are: Bryan Frye, Ricky Booker and James Wiggins. Watching Frye in practice, this freshman is a man. Each of these defenders has size (Frye and Wiggins are 6-4, Booker 6-3) and with a year in a college weight room all three should be making a bid to start next season.
If you didn't see linebacker Toronto Smith's play last week against Arkansas State, do yourself a favor and watch the replay of that game on Panther Pass on FIUsports.com. Finally, this season we got to see an FIU defender consistently cause a ruckus in the opponent's offensive backfield. Shades of the Killer B's from last season. Smith, who you can read more about in this Sunday's Miami Herald, reminds me of Keke Bouie, but with more speed. Toronto is not really a big guy, generously listed at 5-11, but "Little Canada" is a headache for QBs and RBs, eh!
In the secondary, Anthony Gaitor is proving to be a future All-Sun Belt and shutdown cover corner. The velcro-hand Gaitor (right) has picks against the Hurricanes and Arkansas this season. Freshman Kreg Brown has made a nice tandem with sophomore Ash Parker at safety.
Freshman quarterback Colt Anderson has not gotten extended playing time, but has shown in practice there is plenty of promise with the former Nebraska prep standout. The other day horsing around after practice he connected on a 60-yard touchdown with Gaitor, who was playing receiver and being covered by Rucker. Darold Hughes, who will redshirt and has been running the scout team, at times has beaten the first team defense in drills. Hughes has a real strong arm and a genuine pocket presence.
Many of you have written in wondering about FIU's recruiting for next season. Keeping in contact with numerous coaches throughout Florida, I can tell you MC and staff are all over the state going after the top recruits. Unlike past years, FIU is not shying away from going against Top 25 teams. Again, not going to waste time with a recruiting blog. Thank you Messod for understanding the Jessica (display gratuitous JS photo on left) and Marge analogy. For those into verbal commits, FIU got Coral Springs Charter defensive back Chris Charles (5-11, 180) to say yes Wednesday night.
Yes, there is a tremendous amount of interest in FIU baseball this upcoming season. The GPP applauds both fiugrad78 & fiufan751 for their enthusiasm. New coach Turtle Thomas has the program abuzz. The attendance for this fall's scrimmages was probably more than some regular season games last season. So therefore, the GPP is working on organizing a Question and Answer session between you FIU fans/GPP readers and TT. Just like we did with MC before football season, we'll do with TT. I'll let you folks know soon when to start sending in your questions for the new FIU baseball coach and we'll try to get to as many of them as possible.
UltimateFIUFan: There are some good early football commits for FIU from top programs like Booker T. Both MC and TT in baseball are not afraid to recruit against the Top 25 teams. But like I've said before until these "kids" sign on the dotted line it doesn't mean much. Still, it's encouraging to see FIU's aggressive recruiting strategy. Will get back to you on the arena.
FIU Fanatic: Yes, 6-10 Freddy Asprilla is an oral commit to FIU hoops and if the kid can keep his grades up and signs on the dotted line with FIU it would be huge for next season to have Russell Hicks (7-foot), Badu Ndiaye (6-11) and Asprilla (6-10) in the frontcourt. I've heard Asprilla could be the best player ever to set foot at FIU.
FI-UM Fan: I'll wait until next week on an FIU/ULL prediction. MC and the team are positive and have their heads up after the tough loss to ASU. They are fully aware there will be lumps the first few seasons.
FIU0406: The field goal posts from the old stadium are the correct size for college football. If you want to take them down when FIU beats South Florida in the home opener next season, go right ahead.
Concerned Fan: If you would like to change your GPP name, just click on "comments" and go down to the bottom and change it in the Name Box. As far as Ryan Mollica, he seems to have a better bat than Corey Lozano. From speaking with TT, one plan might be to have Lozano split time between shortstop and 2nd base.
FIUandME: Will get back to you on the Panther Club.
alt7787: I agree with you that the Beacon should change their name to include FIU or Panther in some form. But a bigger concern with the school newspaper are some of the egregious errors. The other day I read two different issues of the Beacon in the FIU media relations office. In one issue, there were spelling mistakes all over the place. In the other issue, they were referring to FIU football coming from Division II. The Golden Panthers were never in D-II. They began play in Division I-AA. No matter the level of newspaper, spelling should always be correct (The Herald has that issue at times as well), especially with everyone having access to spellcheck. And not getting the history of your own football team correct is also inexcusable. As far as sports are concerned, the quality of the paper may have started to decline when non-sports editors began editing sports stories.