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9 posts from January 2008

January 29, 2008

Q & A with Turtle Part 4

Yes, football recruiting is starting to heat up with 8 days until national signing day, but for a brief Tttt_5 moment let's all catch our breath and finish off your Q & A with Turtle.

Here's the final installment of your questions and the new FIU baseball coach's answers. Plus, a little anecdote on TT from LSU athletic director Skip Bertman, who won five College World Series in 17 years while he was the Tigers head coach. By the way, if you need your recruiting fix you can catch the FIU recruiting story in the Miami Herald on Wednesday.

FIUJM: Can you tell us what your expectations are for your first year at FIU?

TT: We mainly just want to get better everyday. We want to improve learning how to play the game, playing together. I don't necessarily want to say "We want to finish third in the league or we want to get in a regional". We do have expectations amongst our team, but I just want to say right now that improvement is the main thing that we want to get.

24/7-11: Why do you recruit players that you know are going to get drafted and never go to FIU?

TT: That's probably the best question in this whole thing. First of all, you don't really know a year ahead when you're recruiting guys what's going to happen next June [month of baseball draft]. You don't have Crystal a crystal ball in front of you to look into the future. Number two, if you are going to get some superstars that are going to take you where you want to go, you have to sign them. If you don't sign the real good ones, then you are going to be an average team at best. You got to have some stars that play for you. I've always been told that you need to have at least three offensive stars and then you got to have good capable college hitters in the other slots. You need three real outstanding weekend pitchers and you need two good closers. It takes 9 or 10 pitchers now. If you are going to play the 56 regular season games, the conference tournament and hopefully into the playoffs you've got to cover over 600 innings of pitching. It literally takes 20 good players to have a good club. You've got to have 11, 12 good hitters, because there are injuries and slumps. When you are talking about why sign those guys. Look at the catcher that is going to Miami, Yasmani Grandal. He got offered $750,000 [by the Red Sox]. I've been in his house. His whole house area is as big as [the FIU baseball press box]. I would think he would have signed for $75,000 much less than $750,000. You don't know who's going to college and who's not.

Baltimorepanther: Why do you think you have been such a successful recruiter?

TT: I don't know that I have. There are a lot of great ones out there. First of all, you got to have something to sell. We got a lot to sell here at FIU and I think it's just going to get better and better as time goes along. I think the number one thing you got to have is an eye for talent. You got to kind of look at a kid and when it's 90 miles an hour can he hit that or is he good about hitting 80-82 mile stuff. Can he hit at that next level. Like a pitcher. Three characteristics of every pitch is velocity, movement and location. Does he have at least two of those qualities in his pitches. Does he have a second pitch, a third pitch. A guy can't just be a one-pitch guy unless he's going to be a closer and he can blow it by somebody. The three most important things for getting a guy to me is the visit to your school has to go well. He has to feel comfortable. He has to like what he sees around the program. Number two if you make a home visit or a visit after a game, how does that visit go? Do you relate to him? Number three Fm is the phone calls, the letters, the e-mails. But the biggest thing in recruiting is perseverance.

Baltimorepanther: Do you have any spring games planned against the Marlins or Yankees?

TT: No, but we would like to play the Marlins definitely in the future. No question about it.

GPP: Anything new with the possibility of continuing the series with the Hurricanes, beyond the two games scheduled for this season?

TT: Nope. It's up to them. I would like to play them eight times each season. Four games here at FIU and four over there, but I'm not going to beg.

I had the chance to speak with Skip Bertman last Saturday at the Miami Dade College baseball reunion. SB will be the keynote speaker at the FIU Baseball Diamond Dinner on Saturday, Feb. 9 at 6 p.m. at FIU's Graham Center. Here's what SB had to say about TT, who was SB's assistant at LSU during the 2000 Sbb College World Series championship season.

SB: We could not have won that 2000 title without Turtle. Yes, he is an excellent recruiter, but what makes him stand out more than anything is that he's one of the best 1-on-1 coaches in the business. During the 2000 season, we had a 2nd baseman named Ray Wright, who we needed to convert to an outfielder, because of injuries. Ray had never played the outfield before, but we had Turtle teach the kid how to play the position. By the time the College World Series came around, Ray saved a couple of games for us with two spectacular catches in Omaha. As a coach, Turtle is very underrated. That FIU program is going to take off under him.

PANTHER PAWSE

Would be a coup to see Booker T. defensive lineman Jonathan Jackson join teammate Kambriel Willis at FIU. JJ has taken a beating lately from the Coral Gables faithful after saying "FIU's my leader". Of course, the other school's fans are going to belittle the kid. God forbid they lose a football recruit to 6-Jj year-old FIU.

NYCFIUFan: We really won't know how good the FIU recruiting classes will be until a few years down the road. On paper, everybody recruited has their share of accolades, but whether those show up on the college gridiron remains to be seen.

FIU Fanatic: 28 sacks from Kambriel Willis is correct.

Baseball Fan: FIU baseball alumni game is cancelled, because due to NCAA rules the current Golden Panthers baseball team already played the one exhibition game they can play (vs. Canada last November).

CJ: Like the rest of the FIU recruiting class, we'll just have to see how good defensive back Marcelus Manear is. Unlike, some of the local players like Willis and Jackson, I personally did not get to see Manear.

UltimateFIUFan: The word is Redd White quit the team, because he was not happy not being the number one scoring option on the Golden Panthers. In the last game he played at FIU, SR benched him Mj the entire second half for disciplinary reasons. The kid wasn't exactly the second coming of Michael Jordan, if he was Texas A&M never would have let him transfer.

paradox: Like Jeff Gordon, here's what you said John Petika has to look forward to..Ing_2

24/7-11: Good to hear from you, thought Randy Shannon had fired you with his D-coordinator.

FIURisingUp: Welcome to the GPP.

January 25, 2008

Whatchoo Talkin' Bout Willis !

Kw He, Kambriel Willis, current 4A State Champion Booker T. Washington and future Aj_3 FIU  Golden Panthers linebacker, would be talking about FIU football. And you thought I got  Arnold Jackson on the GPP? Dialed Kambriel up yesterday and this is what he had to say:

GPP: What attracted you most about FIU?

KW: FIU is really beginning their program and I know it's going to be big-time. The coaches made me feel real comfortable. And it's also a chance for me to develop a program right in my own backyard.

GPP: What was it about the FIU coaches that you felt real comfortable with?

KW: They were frank. There was no sugarcoating what they expect at FIU. They also let me speak to some of the FIU players. That was decent of them, because I've been on other visits where not all the coaches let you do that. They made me feel like family. I already knew [defensive back Anthony] Gaitor and Devin Parrish so that also made me feel at home. I also talked to some scouts and they kept telling me coach Cristobal is a good coach and a good guy. That right there told me something, because scouts don't normally talk up coaches.

GPP: What else did you like about the FIU football program?

KW: I like their defense and the different schemes. I think I can play a major role on that type of D. I Kwa_2 also saw the new stadium. When that thing gets done it's going to be one of the best stadiums in Florida.

GPP: How much do you think having a brand new stadium helps lure players to a relatively new program like FIU?

KW: A brand new stadium can motivate any player to come play there. To know I am going to be part of the team that opens that stadium is something special. You want to make a statement playing in a place like that. It's the beginning of a new era at FIU.

GPP: How did you like the FIU campus?

KW: That campus is huge. It's so big that when I first was going there I found it hard to find where the team practices, because there are so many buildings and places at FIU. I also liked that FIU is near the Dyff_2 Dade County Youth Fair, because I always love going to the Fair.

GPP: Are there any of your teammates from your state champion team that are thinking of joining you at FIU this upcoming season?

KW: I'm going on a visit to FIU this weekend with [defensive end] Jonathan Jackson, [linebacker] Winston Fraser, [linebacker] Tarvis Pullins and [linebacker] Franklin Brown. I'm ready to go right now. I want to come now and start playing already.

Kambriel wanted Golden Panthers fans to get a chance to see his highlight video. So the GPP obliged. So here it is Kambriel: Kambriel Willis highlight tape

More FIU recruiting news: After a few more phone calls made by the GPP, here are the latest oral commits for FIU. OL Stephen Bailey (Delray American Heritage), DB Derrick Clark (Apopka), DT Andre Pound (Sebastian River) and DT Donnell Wilson (Golden Gate). Seems like FIU is loading up on defense. Which is not a bad idea considering all the offense the Golden Panthers signed last season. Again these are verbal so enjoy them for what they are worth.

Originally wrote on here that FIU recruiting story in the Herald runs next Wednesday, Jan. 30. Check that, the story will be running in Monday's Jan. 28 Miami Herald.

PANTHER PAWSE

fiugrad78: The FIU baseball team already played their exhibition last November against Canada. But the Golden Panthers will have some intra-squad scrimmages next Friday, Feb. 1, Saturday and Sunday. Been told they are open to the public. Friday's will be at night, time has yet to be set. Saturday and Sunday are during the daytime. When I get times I'll post on here.

UltimateFIUFan: By looking at past FIU hoops rosters, there doesn't seem to be much local recruiting for FIU hoops, which is a shame, because there is plenty of local talent available. They are having technical difficulties loading the Blustein interview regarding FIU recruiting on the Herald website. I'll post it on here when it's ready. I've been told FIU baseball and hoops jerseys will be available for purchase on the fiusports.com site soon.

CJ: Spread FIU articles on the blog as you like. They're always welcomed here.

NYCFIUFan: None of FIU's football recruits are enrolled at FIU yet. As far as the Sun Belt, FIU probably and should be atop the conference when all the classes are signed this season. We're in the hotbed of football recruiting and it is finally being taken care of by the FIU coaches.

FIUBlueandGold: For the first few years of the stadium, the press box will be on the same level as the club suites. When the upper deck is added, the press box will move to the upper deck. The field at the new stadium, like the stadium itself, will not be available until August 28 when the stadium is completed. Too many liabilities, opening up the stadium to the public during construction. This year's spring game will likely be at the recreation fields just south of SW 8 Street.

Jp Krr Jg John Petika: Welcome to the GPP. You are the first "known" FIU player to post on the GPP. Congratulations. I got a feeling you and the rest of the baseball team will have a lot more support this season. Question to the GPP faithful: Who does Petika resemble more Tigers pitcher Kenny Rogers or NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon? You decide.

RabidPantherFan, Darriet Perry, bsparFIU & Sunblazer: Welcome all to the GPP.

We'll finish our Q & A with TT on the next blog.

Official GPP Countdown to the Opening Day vs. USC at FIU: 28 days.

January 22, 2008

Q & A with Turtle Part 3

There's certainly not much of a positive vibe surrounding the FIU hoops team at the moment in what Train_2 has become a trainwreck of a season. The latest installment last Saturday losing to Louisiana-Monroe, the only winless team in the Sun Belt. So let's get back to the dugout and the sunny skies of Turtleland or as some may know it: FIU baseball and continue with your Q & A with "La Tortuga", that's the Turtle in Spanish. 31 days until Opening Day vs. USC at FIU. Ttt_3

fiufan751: While it appears that FIU has some bats, the old saying that pitching and defense wins games/championships is so true. Assess those two areas.

TT: We know pitching and defense are interrelated, meaning that if you have good pitching there's not as many tough forehand, backhand rockets hit at you in the infield and deep fly balls that you have to chase down in the outfield. If you get good pitching the quality of the plays that you make are not as many, because your pitchers are going to strikeout some guys. There are more routine ground balls and fly balls instead of those hot shots hit at you. We think that our pitching is somewhat better. Chris Allen has improved over last year. Steven Stewart was not available last year due to injury. Corey Polizzano is a stronger, physical guy now. We feel that he could withstand the rigors of a season a little bit more. Guys like Danny DeSimone, Evan Ellison, Jorge Ramos are better. We think the pitching is a little better. The problem is we don't have a tremendous amount of depth. That could be an issue a little bit on Tuesday, Wednesday games. Defensively, we probably shored up a few areas a little bit, but it could be a concern. We just have to see how the season plays out. It's still a question mark at this moment.

Yandro: Who do you see making the starting rotation?

TT: If we had to open up today. I would imagine on Friday night it would be Chris Allen. Saturday night it would probably be Polizzano and Stewart would probably be the Sunday guy. That's opening right now, but there's the potential of somebody coming out and improving, moving ahead of one of those guys or maybe a potential arm injury. Anything can happen.

GPP: Do the number 4 and 5 starters look like DeSimone and Ramos?

TT: I would say Ramos would definitely be one guy. We're thinking about DeSimone out of the 'pen. Maybe if he didn't get some significant work on Friday, Saturday or Sunday maybe he would pitch on Wednesday or maybe even a Tuesday.

Concerned Fan: Where can I get tickets to the Sun Belt tournament, because I'm booking my trip now to root for FIU?

Lou TT: Call Louisiana-Lafayette. That's where the tournament is going to be played. I like that question. That's my man right there.

Baltimorepanther: What are some of the qualities you look for in recruits knowing most of them might go pro?

TT: You're really looking for three things when you look at a person. Number one: does he have the tools or skills that you're looking for that is better than what you already have. We're always looking to upgrade each position. There is no question. We don't want the same guy, unless he is a great player. Number two: when you look at that transcript you have to get a good student. Number three: you do a background check on these people. Talk to his high school coach, people around him, his summer or travel coach, maybe somebody that had him in a showcase. Is he the type of person that you want in the program? Does he have the work ethic? Does he have the character?

GPP: As far as the roster is comprised for this season, about how many players are still left from last year's team?

TT: 19.

PANTHER PAWSE

Again taking it all for what it's worth and remembering it doesn't mean a thing until it's signed on the dotted line, but heard from very trustworthy sources that FIU got a recent oral committ from one of Dperry_2 Georgia's top running backs in Darriet Perry of Lowndes. This season Perry broke the school's all-time rushing record. Perry is not considered a blazer carrying the ball, but knows how to run the ball and is supposedly very tough to bring down. Maybe this is the feature, every down, workhorse running back FIU needs. Let's see what happens on Feb. 6.

fiugrad78: The last time I checked the designs of the new FIU Stadium, there will be plenty of parking on the east and west sides of the stadium, plus areas of Tamiami Park just south of the stadium.

NYCFIUFan: There haven't been any rumblings of any objections regarding pro soccer coming to FIU. Only Miami mayor Manny Diaz seems to have curdled milk about it. Getting pro soccer and other events to FIU Stadium is a win-win situation for FIU and Miami taxpayers ($120 million) we won't have to help pay.

Baltimorepanther: The way FIU hoops is playing right now, a pickup team at Tropical Park could probably beat the Golden Panthers. The players lack motivation. Only when they get down by a substantial amount do they muster some pride to make a run, which lately the runs have come too late anyway. It's just bad hoops being played right now (missed free throws, turnovers, sloppy defense). There seems to be a lack of discipline.

UltimateFIUFan: Just because he didn't have a spectacular year, I don't think Lionell Singleton will be invited to the NFL Combine. He should get a long look as a free agent in some NFL camp, because of his return ability, speed and cover skills. I, too, would take him over Ted Ginn. Who the hell ever heard of drafting a player in the 1st round, because he's got "great character" as Cam Cameron put it on draft day. Give me some players, who can play football. If I wanted character, I'd go watch some theatre on Broadway.Bway

January 18, 2008

Got a Stadium, You Wanna Play for Free?

Taking a quick break from the TT Q & A for some tidbits regarding FIU athletics of late. Don't worry FIU baseball fans the Q & A will resume on the next blog.

You may have already read in the Herald earlier this week that at the Miami Sports Commission meeting on Tuesday, PG offered free rent of the new FIU Stadium to a possible MLS soccer Miami expansion team when the league decides to add another franchise. This would be opposing the $120 million soccer stadium the City of Miami is planning on building next to the new Marlins stadium on the Orange Bowl site. Here is the story: FIU OB soccer. The story could have used a better headline, but don't get me started on that.

Mono_3 Soc Speaking to a friend, who is also a friend of one of the politicians at that meeting, apparently the majority of the politicians in attendance thought PG presented a great idea and a way to save taxpayer money. It was also a pretty shrewd move that would eventually benefit FIU down the road. Sort of like a soccer monopoly.

Here's how: all those soccer matches the OB hosts year-round between countries that pack the OB would come to FIU, plus the Gold Cup and quite possibly even the MLS Combine all of which would bring some $$ to FIU and worldwide exposure to the state-of-the-art stadium currently under construction. And of course, it would save you and me some money as well if we don't have to shell out $120 million clams for a soccer stadium in a city which has had several pro soccer teams that have eventually folded anyway. Unfortunately, the only kind of soccer South Florida is interested in is when country X plays country Y. Down here, pro soccer teams have never had any kind of support. But you put two countries going at it on the pitch and people come out to see that. Ole!, Ole!, Ole!

Enough on the futbol, let's go over to the football and X's Last FIU Stand.Hot_3

If you saw the Herald today, then you know Xavier Shannon is off to Coral Gables to play for his old man. XS already got his undergrad degree in sports management and will apply to the NCAA for a waiver to play for the canes. Here's the link to the story: XS's Last FIU Stand .

Like I've said a zillion times before....It doesn't mean anything until they sign on the dotted line, BUT been hearing from the central Florida high school folks that MC and co. may have landed a pretty good pair in Line recruiting the last few days. Need to make a few more calls to verify, but apparently the Volusia County Defensive Player of the Year Kasey Smith and Troy Dannehower, one of the top quarterbacks in the central Florida area have orally committed to FIU. Couple that with defensive lineman James Jones withdrawing his commit from USF and choosing FIU and it sounds like a good week for FIU football. When there's more info I will post it on here.

We wouldn't let this blog end without some FIU baseball right? LSU AD and 5-time national champion college baseball coach Skip Bertman will speak at the FIU Baseball Dinner on Feb. 9 at 6 p.m. at the Graham Center. I believe you can get tickets by calling 305-348-1919. And there might be a Mike Lowell Day at FIU during the opening series against USC pending the World Series MVP's availability because Red Sox spring training begins at about the same time in Fort Myers.Low_3

PANTHER PAWSE

FI-UM Fan: You can get the Panther Pass webcasts at fiusports.com.

fiufan751: TT is excited about the upcoming season and in turning FIU into a baseball power. Yeah, I think FIU can finish better than 9th in the Sun Belt. With better pitching this team can be in the Sun Belt's top 5. Just in the coaching staff change alone, FIU probably picked up an additional 4 to 5 wins this season.

SouthPaw: You can forget about Taylor Beasley, he was not offered a scholarship when FIU went from DS to MC. Bryan Mann is at Hinds CC in Mississippi and unless he made a drastic change in his academics he may never play Division I football except maybe on Madden. Mann is not expected at FIU.

paradox: TT will handle pitching changes and as they prepare for the season opener, TT is thinking of using two guys to close: lefty Evan Ellison and righty Akeem Francis.

CJ: The FIU football recruiting story runs in the Herald on Wednesday, Jan. 30 and then I'll have a signing day story on Feb. 6.

FIUPantherFan: Will get your press break question answered after Saturday's hoops home game against ULM.

Danny Denis: Welcome to the GPP. I sent e-mails and left phone messages to Odebrecht about your question concerning phone lines for credit card use at the concessions of the new stadium. Will post on here when I get an answer.

yippee: Thanks.

Part 3 of TT's Q & A continues on the next blog.

January 14, 2008

Q & A with Turtle Part 2

We've rounded first and are headed to second as we continue your questions and TT's answers. As has become customary since the subject of FIU baseball was brought up on the GPP awhile back, here is your official countdown to Opening Day against USC: 39 days.Tt_2

When I first started speaking to TT about this Q & A, he said "Heck, I'll do these every month if you want me to." Whoa, first let's get to part two and then we'll take it from there.

Baseball Fan: How can you win with a team that does not have a single player that will steal 10 bases or hit 10 home runs?

TT: The thing that determines whether you win a game or not more than anything else is dominant pitching. The second most important thing is hitting throughout the lineup. We probably don't have Atl that big power guy. Tyler Townsend has got a chance to do that. I think [Anthony] Boza can hit some home runs. I think Javi Sujo can hit some home runs. I think Jorge Castillo can hit some home runs. If you can get nine hitters throughout the lineup that can produce some pretty good offensive statistics that's better than having one or two great ones. Just trying to hit throughout the lineup. The team speed is a hair below average.

FIUJM: Who do you think are going to be the leaders on this year's baseball team?

TT: Guys like Corey Lozano is a great young man. He got a 4.0 GPA in the fall. He does exactly what you want him to do all the time, never causes any problems whatsoever. He should be a leader. I think even though Junior Arrojo is a young guy. He certainly is somewhat of a leader. Tyler Townsend is quiet, but one of those quiet type of leaders. I think John Petika is definitely a vocal leader. Kevin Mirabal behind the plate is also kind of that quiet unsung leader. I think Steven Stewart leads. I think Evan Ellison is somewhat of a leader. Those guys are the leaders of the ballclub.Town_3

24/7-11: If coach Jim Morris decided that this was going to be his last year with the Hurricanes and the job was offered to you, would you take it?

TT: No. I'm glad to have a job at FIU.

Yandro: With the modification in the schedule by the NCAA, how will you handle the catching situation? Will you have two "regular" catchers sharing the load or will you go with one primary catcher who will handle the majority of the games?

TT: No doubt about it. We definitely are going to use two catchers and even a third guy might get some work along the way as well. The spot is definitely open for two guys to catch a lot. There's two times during the season that we have six games a week so one guy would die on the vine and be very tired by the time in April if we were just catching one guy.

fiufan751: Is this a station to station team or do you have guys that can run?

TT: We plan on stealing some bases. We plan on doing some hitting and running, plan on doing some delayed steals. We do not want to be a base to base team. A base to base team is fine if you can hit a ton of home runs, but we feel like we have some doubles and home run power, but not an unbelievably tremendous amount of that. We feel like we have to attack the opposing team in anyway that we can from the bunting game to the running game to getting some RBIs, doubles, a few home runs.

GPP: What's going on as far as turning the academic issues of the baseball team around? You inherited a team that lost nearly two scholarships due to poor grades. Are your guys doing any better?

Ein TT: Our guys set an all-time FIU baseball GPA in the history of the program. It was a 3.03 GPA for the fall 2007 semester. It was the best among the FIU men's sports teams. There were six FIU female teams better than us.

PANTHER PAWSE

UltimateFIUFan: The good people of the FIU media relations department are working on the website to make a section for FIU game archives. They should have it out soon.

Baseball Fan: This season there will be 25 or more FIU baseball game webcasts on Panther Pass.

paradox: We'll get to your pitching questions soon.

FIUPantherFan: Next time I speak with SR, I'll have his take on the difficulty of breaking the press. My two cents on it is that they don't have a true point guard on the team that can do it. Well, actually they do have a true point guard on the team, but he's in civilian clothing and not eligible until next season. That would be FSU transfer Josue Soto.

J: Welcome to the GPP. Knew Julio Moraga was enrolled at FIU last season, but did not want to come out for football. Guess he had a change of heart, which is great because FIU could use all the kicking help it can get. For those not familiar with Moraga, he was the Miami Herald's All-Dade kicker out of Homestead High in 2006.

January 10, 2008

Q & A with Turtle Part 1

We're down to 42 days before the FIU baseball season opens at home against USC. On Friday, February 22 at 7 p.m., Turtle Thomas makes his debut as the Golden Panthers new baseball coach.

Tt Having encountered success at top programs like Clemson, Georgia Tech, LSU and Arizona State before arriving at FIU, TT expects to develop the Golden Panthers into the baseball power it should have been a long time ago.

Here is the first of our 4-part series of your questions & Turtle's answers:

Yandro: Have you heard anything from the players about them being more pumped up for this season with the change in leadership as opposed to previous seasons?

TT: Players always feel pumped up when a new season is getting ready to arrive no matter who is coaching them. But I think there is a feeling of newness and freshness. I think the toughness of our schedule is a big challenge maybe a little more so than in the past I would guess.

fiufan751 & Concerned Fan: As far as catching, shortstop, 2nd base and center field what did you learn from the fall practices/intersquads and who will be getting time at those positions?

TT: Good question there. Right now we think that Junior Arrojo is the starting shortstop. He has been the most consistent guy with the hands, making the plays and throwing across the diamond at this point. He made some errors last year, but I think that error total will be much less this year, because he'll understand college baseball and what it takes a little more. If we had to start today Ryan Mollica would be our second baseman. Ryan is a nice left-handed hitter and is continuing to improve on defense. Center field is going to be interesting. Ty Main, a freshman from Maryland has been working pretty good out there. We also got in a new guy that hasn't been cleared yet. Baseball America labeled Qeus_2 Ca_2 him as a potential All-American from Northern California. (Because he has not been cleared TT could not divulge the player's name). Catching-wise Kevin Mirabal is the returner behind the plate. We also got Steven Stropp from Central Florida and we also got Ruy Rodriguez from Texas-Pan American. So those three guys are fighting for the two catching slots.

paradox: When do you plan on releasing the roster for the 2008 season?

TT: I would say within the next two weeks. There definitely have been a lot of changes. The roster is a lot different now than it was in the fall. 

CJ: I personally have never been a baseball fan, yet I am an FIU fan so my question is what are you planning to do for the non-baseball fans to get them more involved?

TT: We're setting up and talking to different organizations and groups about FIU and college baseball. We're trying to sell some season tickets to them and the like. We're also trying to get some schools involved to try to come to some of our games and some kids from parks as well.

Baltimorepanther: Relating with other coaches at FIU. Do you guys get together and share ideas of recruiting and personal experience?

TT: It's funny we do some along the way when we have coaches meetings. We got a lot of good coaches here at FIU. We had a head coaches meeting on Tuesday and that afternoon I implemented something that one of them said about some academic stuff that I thought was a great idea. So yes, we do share thoughts and ideas.

PANTHER PAWSE

NoFIUBlackandGold: Welcome to the GPP. But you got the wrong colors, unless you're a Pittsburgh Steelers fan. I got some reliable sources that have confirmed to me that the school colors ARE NOT going to change. If anything, we'll see a shinier dark blue next season. The regular blue FIU has always had is getting an upgrade but definitely NO black. The gold will remain along with the blue for FIU.

SouthPaw: Last I heard Jonas Murrell is expected back for fall practice.

FIU Fanatic #1: Welcome to the GPP. If you go to the FIU football home page on fiusports.com you can Av click on an icon that reads Send In Your Game Tape. There you can have the second coming of Adam Vinatieri contact the FIU coaching staff.

Crazy Cane: Thought you had left us and gone down with the Orange Bowl. Welcome back. I was not taking a knock on your boy Kyle Wright. I was trying to make a point that all these stars that these "recruiting experts/gurus" hand out don't mean squat when it comes to predicting how well a player will perform in college. Yes, KW had excuses like bad head coaches, o-coordinators and a bad haircut, but the five-stars Rivals and all those other recruiting fortune tellers gave him were way too much.

Part 2 of the Q & A with TT will continue on the next blog.

January 07, 2008

30 Days to Signing Day

As has been evident from the time the GPP was born on-line more than 10 months ago, the lifeblood of this blog is no secret: FIU football.

But let's NOT play the role of all the talking head/scouting "experts" out there that love handing out stars to prep players and, of course (a hint of sarcasm here), know exactly how each player is going to pan out and know exactly who has the best recruiting class and blah, blah, blah. Kyle Wright, anyone? You get the drift.

While the GPP won't hand out stars (How much do those stars actually matter anyway? Since when do you need 5 stars to score a touchdown or get a sack?), we will try and Bp_3 figure out with your help since you good people follow the Golden Panthers just as closely, what positions do you think MC and his coaching staff need to have signed 30 days from now. This blog assesses what's on FIU's roster right now. We'll have another blog soon with all the possible recruits headed to FIU.

But for now, YOU be the FIU football Big Tuna for the day and post your thoughts after reading yours truly below: Let's go from the most needed positions on the FIU football team to the least.

Offensive line: As anyone who follows football from Pop Warner to the NFL knows, your offense is only as good as your offensive line. While the FIU O-line did a decent job last season, it still needs to get much better. Sure could use (to quote Keith Jackson) 2 or 3 "big uglies" here to help open holes and pass Kj protect better.

Pass rush specialists: This could come from either the defensive line or linebackers. There used to be a few of these two seasons ago in El Monstruo, Alex Bostic and Keke Bouie, but the former coaching staff left the cupboard bare on these type of players last season. FIU has a nice core of linebackers with Scott Bryant, Michael Dominguez and Toronto Smith. Plus, the Golden Panthers will get to see what redshirted defenders: Bryan Frye, James Wiggins and Ricky Booker can do this season. But again the one defensive aspect that stood out like a sore thumb last season: was the lack of a pass rush.

Defensive linemen: While the pass rush specialists would take care of the opposing passers, FIU still needs some big bodies on the D-line to help plug all those run-first Sun Belt teams like Troy, Louisiana-Lafayette, Middle Tennessee and Arkansas State. You know the type of D-linemen I'm talking about. The ones that can punish a running back and mobile QBs like Dwight Dasher of Middle Tennessee so that the next time those ballcarriers try to hit the hole, they'll think twice.

Running backs: I know I've said it before, but I'll say it again. For the Golden Panthers spread offense to be truly dynamic, FIU needs that every down workhorse running back with speed and power. With some added weight A'mod Ned could be that guy, but he's already a senior this upcoming season. Looking to the future, it would be nice for FIU to find a nice one-two punch in the backfield to make it one of the best offensive schemes in the Sun Belt and eventually college football.

Kicker: Both Dustin Rivest and Chris Abed had their moments last season. But neither was consistent enough that if a game had come down to a last second field goal, MC would not have had to reach for Alka the Tums or Alka Seltzer. Actually, place kickers have been an issue with this program for 5 of the 6 years FIU football has been around. Only during former FIU kicker Adam Moss' senior season was kicking NOT a worry for the Golden Panthers.

Defensive backs: There was not much depth in last season's secondary due to injuries and some lack of talent. Now Lionell Singleton has graduated and who knows how well Robert Mitchell will recover from his foot injury. Ashlyn Parker was a tremendous addition here last season. FIU needs more Parkers this season.

Quarterback: We'll throw this position at the bottom, because there's already plenty of QB talent on the roster. But for what many think, including the GPP, is the most important position on the field (just ask the Dolphins- they're still looking for the second coming of Dan Marino) you can never have too many quarterbacks. So why not add another one if he is as good or better than what you already have.

PANTHER PAWSE

In Saturday night's hoops postgame comments, the Golden Panthers said they were "just tired of losing" and that's why they played their best basketball of the season. Let's hope they're "tired of losing" the rest of the season. Or maybe, BBPanther, they found that Cuban coffee stand. Great win by both FIU hoops teams.

Traded e-mails with Odebrecht (FIU Stadium) senior project manager/official stadium tour guide Rudy Armenta today and he says the groundwork for the FIU fieldhouse (west end zone) begins this week. Rudy said the GPP can tour the stadium at the end of January, so that's when we'll have the next stadium tour and updated photos on the blog.

NYCFIUFan: You're right on target when you point out that the recruiting for FIU is getting better and better. Just to know that the FIU coaches are actually out there hitting a zillion high schools, junior colleges and looking under every rock for talent. Will it be the best yet? We really won't know that answer until a couple of years when these players have some college football experience under their belts.

CJ: As far as I know from contacting the Jacksonville prep writers, A.J. Grant is headed towards FIU. Again that's an oral committment, so take it for what it's worth. From the prep writers descriptions, Grant sounds like another Ashlyn Parker.

paradox: I'm meeting with TT at the end of the week, so we should have the Q & A up on the blog this weekend and have your questions answered.

UltimateFIUFan: Didn't have a chance to sit down with Carlos Arroyo on Saturday. Had to write the FIU women's hoops game story while at the same time watching the men's game and then writing that one. I'll try to catch him next time he's in town.

FIU/GOLD & BLUE: Welcome to the GPP. I'll be on the FIU baseball stuff real soon, don't worry. As far as the baseball roster turnover, I'll have to borrow a saying from a friend of mine who has followed FIU Kir baseball for a long time. My friend is well aware of the roster turnover and as an avid FIU baseball fan he tells me all the time: "How many College World Series did FIU go to with the players Danny Price brought in?" Sure, TT did inherit some talent from DP, but that baseball roster like the FIU football roster needed a Kirstie Alley-type of makeover.

John: Welcome to the GPP.

January 04, 2008

Back to Sun Belt Hoops

The non-conference part of the Golden Panthers hoops schedule is done after the games at Purdue and Kentucky this past week. FIU is down to 16 games this season -- all Sun Belt opponents.

On Saturday night, the Golden Panthers (3-9) tip-off the first of their final 16 games against FAU at 7:30 at FIU. This month, the Golden Panthers play 4 games at home and 4 on the road. We already got a Hicks_2 pretty good idea that the FIU hoops team has not lived up to the preseason hype. This team may have been overrated from the start.

Center Russell Hicks has been steady and forward Chris Fuller has played a stingy D, but the Golden Panthers have yet to find a way to get forward Alex Galindo more involved in the offense. I know SR likes to run the offense through Hicks and having a 7-foot agile center I don't blame him. But the when the offense has been stagnant for most of the season, getting a good shooter like Galindo more involved can only help.

The other thing is 12 games into the season and FIU still cannot handle defensive pressure. Watching that game against Kentucky on Monday, every time the Wildcats pressed FIU, the Golden Panthers either panicked and were forced into a bad shot or they turned the ball over. By the way, good heads-up by Roman for alerting that the game was on Sun Sports. I was covering Kansas football all week and completely forgot about it.

Kind of ironic that FIU is retiring former point guard Carlos Arroyo's jersey on Saturday night and the Arroyo most glaring weakness on FIU this season has been the point guard play. The Golden Panthers don't have one point guard that can drive the ball through the press or that can create in the half court for the other Golden Panthers. Anybody out there sure that Arroyo does not have any eligibility left?

These next 8 Sun Belt games are for lack of a better word "crucial" for the Golden Panthers to show some life in Sun Belt play -- an area where they should be near the top of the conference. If we continue seeing the same lackadaisical effort, then for sure this team will be one and done when the Sun Belt tournament begins. 49 days left until FIU baseball!

PANTHER PAWSE

BBPanther: Yes, it is alarming having only one South Florida area player (Tremayne Russell-South Dade High) on the FIU hoops roster. Our area down here is not just a hotbed for football and baseball talent. There is plenty of basketball talent down here that has not been tapped in the recent years. You ask if this is the worst showing by FIU hoops in recent years? I'm not sure, but it might be close. Former FIU coach Donnie Marsh had some awful teams that would have had trouble beating a local rec team.

fiufan751: Way to swing it over to the positive. We'll get TT's Q & A on here real soon before they begin preparing for the season in less than 10 days.

TheFIUFan: Been a long time since your last post, good to hear you're still around. As far my travelling with the FIU hoops team, I've been told by the MH that when they start winning, I'll start travelling with basketball. Your question about the FIU Spanish radio broadcasters. Yes, they are fluent in English. Their broadcasts in Jc Cast_2 Spanish are informative and entertaining. Jerry Del Castillo (English translation on last name: Jerry of the Castle) and Pepe "Chamby" Campos (Pete Fields and the Chamby is for Wilt Chamberlain, Wilt because PC thinks he's that good of a hoops player, but he's not.) do the basics well, giving down and distance, identifying ballcarrier and tackler on each play. Plus, they mix in some humor as well. They were the ones to give Antwan Barnes the nickname "El Monstruo". As far as I know they are not scheduled to do any FIU hoops or baseball broadcasts this season.

Baltimorepanther: True about Festivus in Baltimore. The year the Ravens went on to win the Super Bowl, then-coach Brian Billick told his players not to use the word "playoffs" during the season when being interviewed, so the Ravens decided to use the word "Festivus" each time they wanted to say playoffs during an interview. True, funny stuff.

Puma: The FIU cowgirls might have to start as an open casting call at the new stadium. You add them with the Golden Dazzlers and you have the two finest groups of cheerleaders in the NCAA.

fiual: Welcome to the GPP. MC and co. are recruiting. There will be an update on that later this month. Thanks for your readership.

January 01, 2008

A FIUsolutions

We've turned the page on a new year and with it comes the old and tired resolutions for many people of which many will not be kept. What's the old saying "resolutions are meant to be broken"?

So having never been a fan of resolutions, because figure if you do the right things day in, day out then there's no need for resolutions, right? Show a little discipline. Where have I heard that before, hmm?

Here at the GPP, we're not going to make any resolutions for your Golden Panthers. Instead in the Frank_2 innovative way of one Frank Costanza and his "Festivus" holiday, we've created A FIUsolutions.

At first glance, you may read this new New Year's idea as A F-I-U solutions, but instead read it as (a few-solutions). In other words, a few solutions to see FIU sports improve or in some cases keep up what's going right already. You might be reading this and saying this guy had too much to drink last night or something like that, but follow along and see where this goes. The following are things that need to happen with FIU sports in 2008.

Like Festivus, you good readers of the GPP can conduct your "Airing of Grievances" all year through on this blog. But unlike Festivus, there will be no performing of the "Feats of Strength" and we don't have an aluminum Pole.

After reading these, please feel free to chime in with some of your FIUsolutions.

-- Get a medic, some chemistry and Cuban coffee to revive or better said give life to the FIU Cc_2 men's hoops team. Forget about recent opponents Purdue and Kentucky for a second, if there is no kind of turnaround when Sun Belt play resumes at home against FAU on Saturday night, then might as well start looking towards next season. By the way, FIU baseball opening day is 52 days away.

-- Speaking of which, the Golden Panthers baseball team get back to the NCAA tournament. It's been five years and counting since FIU was in a regional. Obviously, not TT's fault, he is inheriting this mess, a la Bill Parcells.

-- I know it's out of TT and PG's hands, but the FIU/Hurricanes baseball series needs to continue past this season. The two teams have a history (they've played each other 114 times) and it's a good rivalry that has to keep going. You reading this Jim Morris? Yeah, I know. Now you have to actually work in recruiting, because you have a baseball coach at FIU that knows what he's doing. But don't go all rotten apples over it. So what if TT doesn't give you free reign over all the top local high school players, like his predecessor did. Cowboy Up. Play ball!

-- We're in full-mode football recruiting season now and sure would like to see that workhorse every-Amod_3 down running back carrying the ball for FIU next season. Heard MC is targeting a few, let's see them carry the ball in the new stadium in 8 and 1/2 months. Or let's put 15 pounds on A'mod Ned for his senior season so that he can take the hits and be that running back.

-- Get more space in the Herald for FIU coverage.

-- Well aware it will take more wins, especially here in the capital of bandwagon U.S.A., but these FIU teams need more support from the students and alumni. The bandwagon fans will arrive with the wins. Yes, the opening of the new stadium on Sept. 20 against South Florida will be sold out, but the new stadium has to get those crowds on a regular basis. Maybe TT can get those crowds going with the baseball team. Did I mention they open in 52 days against USC?

-- Here's to the health of the FIU pitchers with the new format of the NCAA baseball schedule where because the northern teams can't open at home until a later date, because of the weather, the season has been truncated, but with the same amount of games. So college baseball will now be a like a major league schedule where teams play 5 or 6 games a week, instead of the old 3, maybe 4 games.

-- Get Paul McCall more starts. Don't know if a two-quarterback system is needed like LSU or if Wayne Younger plays another position, but PM deserves a long look under center. WY has to be on the field too, because he's a heck of an athlete, maybe receiver??

-- Why not another All-American year from FIU outside hitter Yarimar Rosa. Only a sophomore, Rosa Rosa is FIU's only two-time All American as she repeated the honor this past season.   

-- How about some more T.D.A.O.S. moments like the Orange Bowl finale win over North Texas. And not just in football, they can happen in all other FIU sports. Maybe taking the opening baseball series over USC. A win over USF to christen the new stadium, sounds like a good one too. And you thought we got rid of our acronym.

PANTHER PAWSE

Here's a thought that crossed my mind while covering the FIU women's hoops team this past weekend in their tourney against Georgia, Hofstra and FSU. The thought: where were the FSU cowgirls? I was searching high and low all over the basketball arena and they were nowhere to be found. Guess they don't travel. Oh, well. Happy New Year!Fsu_2............................................

NY/OC Panther & FIU Fanatic: I'll try to get more of those interviews with former FIU sports and non-sports folks on here in the future. Yes, it would be some interesting and different perspectives.

Here's what we got on tap on the GPP for the new month of January 2008. Another new stadium tour with Odebrecht's official tour guide Rudy and more photos updating the new stadium, the Q & A with Turtle, recruiting updates (even though still think taking the word of a 17-18 yr. old is Russian roulette) and who knows what other blogs may pop up.


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