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14 posts from March 2008

March 30, 2008

It's Like They Never Left the OB

There's only so much you can look into about the first spring scrimmage. Yes, it was the FIU offense versus the defense with both sides being quite familiar with one another since they go at in every practice. And quite honestly, FIU -- on both sides of the ball -- is not in Kansas's class yet, but there were plenty of encouraging signs from Saturday's scrimmage.

Pm Again, keeping in mind this was the first practice game and we're only in March -- another five months before the season opener at Kansas -- yet both sides of the ball for the Golden Panthers on Saturday at times looked like they were manhandling North Texas last December. Here's the MH story: 1st Spring Scrimmage. Below are the details that could not be included in the print MH.

Starting with what looked like FIU's starting quarterback -- Paul Brady or is it Tom McCall? NOT hyperventilating here and NOT saying he's a Heisman Trophy candidate, but the way Paul McCall (left) ran the FIU offense on Saturday makes you wonder if new offensive coordinator Bill Legg was his coach in Pop Warner football or at Hollywood Hills High.

PM started slow with a three-and-out on the first possession, but took over after there with some help from his offensive friends. The FIU O-line held their blocks to give PM plenty of time and for the most part the receivers were catching everything thrown their way. The most glaring negative mark on the receivers was when they dropped three straight passes inside the 10-yard line. That can be a killer for young team like FIU in the regular season.

For PM's first completion he connected with Jeremy Dickens for 26 yards down the middle of the field. That second possession ended with Anthony Gaitor making an acrobatic interception on a deep pass near the end zone.

On the next series, new H-back Travis Felder caught a 23-yard pass from PM and Greg Ellingson hauled in an 18-yard strike to set up the first of two short TD runs by A'mod Ned.

But the fourth offensive series was the most impressive of the day. PM completed six straight passes -- five of which went for more than 10 yards each. Ned ran in another short TD to finish the drive.Do_2

The running backs also had a nice day, in part because of the improved O-line's blocking. Daunte Owens (right), who is the fastest FIU back, ran for 110 yards and a 38-yard touchdown. What made you think DO could contribute big this season was the way he made cuts in the open field and eluded tacklers.

The "Lookie Here" play of the day may have been the precise execution of the option by PM and Julian Reams. PM -- who was disappointed in himself afterwards, because he could not run all the option plays due to a slight hamstring pull -- took the shotgun snap and ran right with Reams tailing him, right before PM was about to get tackled he pitched it to JR, who took off 72 yards for a TD.

The FIU defense finally got going in the second part of the scrimmage. But before we get to the D's highlights, this caught my attention.

Standing on the sidelines with the chain gang (a.k.a - FIU's injured players) I noticed how some of the seniors were coaching up the youngsters. Tight end Eric Kirchenberg explaining to Felder how to read a blitz. Defensive lineman Jonathan Betancourt encouraging freshman Bryan Frye to keep rushing the passer even though BF was having a tough time getting through some blocks. And linebacker Armond Willis helping sophomore Cody Pellicer with the look the offense was giving.

Rj Besides the early INT by Gaitor, the defense couldn't muster much until Reggie Jones (left) and Quentin Newman started getting in the offensive backfield. RJ got 3 sacks. QN got 2 sacks. Pellicer and linebacker Christopher Edwards each got one sack.

Remember how we always say on here how important the O-line and D-lines are in a football game, well, once the D-line got pressure it helped the linebackers make plays.

LBs Tyler Clawson and Mannie Wellington visited the offensive backfield a few times. DT Curtis Bryant also made a trip there and the 6-3 Pellicer got up and batted down a pass from the 6-3 Darold Hughes.

Michael Dominguez (right), who is capable of a big season, picked off Colt Anderson and returned it 16 yards Md_2 for a touchdown.

Scrimmage No. 2 is scheduled for next Saturday, April 5 at 10:30 a.m. at the FIU Rec Fields. While the rec fields don't have the history of the OB or the urine stench, on Saturday it was like the Golden Panthers never left the OB.

March 26, 2008

First Practice Thoughts

As you good FIU fans may already know there are space constraints in the print newspaper therefore I couldn't get in all the first impressions about FIU's first spring practice in Wednesday's MH. 1st Spring Practice story

MC announced today that all spring practices are open to the public. The next one is tommorrow, Thursday at 3:30 p.m. FIU also practices Friday at 3:30 p.m. and scrimmages at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday. For the rest of the spring schedule go to fiusports.com.Algore

Good thing, this guy Al Gore invented this internet thing, where space is endless. At least, that's what South Park says and you know everything on their show has to be true. Gotta give David Quinones from the Herald Sports Dept. an assist for the Gore/internet/man bear pig reference.

Manbearpig_2 Anyways, back to the gridiron or as it's known for now the FIU Rec Fields and your Golden Panthers.

From not having seen most of the team since the Orange Bowl finale victory, apparently that weight training lab of Dr. Roderick Moore has paid off. Not only did a lot of the Golden Panthers look faster on the field Tuesday, but some have also put on some weight and the normal weight that is, not the Barry Bonds-kind.

Yes, the focus until the kickoff at Kansas, Aug. 30 is likely to be the quarterback battle, but Wayne Younger is not expected to participate in spring practice. WY is still healing from the broken collarbone.

MC said Paul McCall and WY enter this season splitting first team snaps, but looks like PM will get those this spring while Colt Anderson and Darold Hughes look to take another step up. All 3 QBs had their moments Tuesday and we'll have 14 more practices and all summer to talk about them. So let's move on.

Here's a guy to keep an eye on this spring and beyond: fullback Trenard Turner. You remember him as Tt the beneficiary of those fake double reverse, fullback-wide-open-down-the-sideline touchdown passes last season. TT may be getting some more passes and some carries this season. Coaches really like his athleticism.

The receivers looked to be running more crisp routes and hanging onto the ball on Tuesday. Of course, getting the freshman hiccups out of the way helps. Remember, the majority of the FIU receiving corps will be either sophomores or freshmen this season.

Former defensive end-turned-tight end James Wiggins may be your sleeper this spring. The redshirt freshman from California is 6-5, 255 pounds and runs like a deer in the open field. Don't be surprised to see him become a favorite target of FIU QBs.

Didn't really spend too much time looking at the defense in the first practice, but will get a closer look in the next few days. The FIU secondary got much better with the returns of Jeremiah Weatherspoon, Mitch Marshall McDuffie and a healthy Robert Mitchell. Plus, wait until the highly touted freshmen defensive backs arrive in the fall.

There's a new kicker in camp: Carlos Munera and he was both punting and kicking on Tuesday. Punter Chris Cook is out with a bad back and did not practice. MC said Dustin Rivest is taking care of some academic issues. Munera showed a pretty strong leg especially with the punts. In his field goal kicking after practice: it was like two-thirds of a Clint Eastwood movie: the Good and the Bad.

Not a bad turnout - fan-wise - for the first spring practice. While there was a good-size group watching Ce_2 from the end zone, there weren't too many people watching from the concrete club suites (a.k.a - the parking garage).


Before we get to some reader inquiries, expect FIU's basketball arena to have a new name before the next hoops season. Since the Pharmed company went bankrupt, the Pharmed Arena will be re-named the ???? Arena. FIU is actively pursuing $$$$partners$$$$ for a new name to the arena. You got cash: Your Name Here Arena.

Hello The new football stadium naming rights are also being shopped. Also, if you got $150,000 a year in between the cushions of your couch you can own the naming rights to FIU baseball's University Park Stadium. 

Got to salute FIU P.A. announcer Roman Garcia, who became a father last weekend. RG also did not welch on a friendly wager, made like Harry Caray and sang "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" at FIU's game last week against Jacksonville.Caray

Speaking of Harry Caray, I pitched an idea to the FIU athletic department to have a different fan at each FIU baseball game wear a Harry Caray wig, Coke-bottle thick black glasses and sing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" during each 7th inning stretch. No word yet from FIU on my idea taking life.

gpantera: I'm not anointing WY as Vince Young or Tim Tebow, all I'm saying is the kid showed substantial improvement from being a scout team receiver under Strock to being a starter for most of the season last year. Strock never gave the kid a shot or worked on his throwing mechanics. Former OC James Coley constantly put in extra time with WY and toward the end of last season you could see WY was getting better. Especially the game against Louisiana-Lafayette. Is he the best passer FIU has, probably not. PM holds that distinction. PM may have played the best game ever by an FIU QB vs. North Texas. However, it would be interesting to see how much WY has improved with one year of the spread under his belt. And the FIU offense is in good hands if PM produces during a 12-game season like he did against FAU and NT. Hey, competition can only make everyone and the team better.

INS PUB ADJ: No truth to the rumor of Jorge Fernandez becoming FIU's hoops coach. SR will be back next season and I don't think JF would be FIU's first choice anyway.

CJ & FIUJM: Thanks for the props. Will try to get as many updates on spring ball as possible on the GPP.

confused: Don't be your [screen name]. TT's leadership should not be in question, what should be is the recruiting of the previous coach. Just like MC will endure some of DS's bad recruiting for the first few years on the football field, TT will have to do the same with DP's evaluation of talent. However, TT should be able to turn around the FIU baseball program quicker than MC would in football. Just need a couple of strong recruiting classes of pitchers and some team speed on offense and defense. Football is a whole different animal.

March 24, 2008

Spring Football Preview: Defense and Kickers

For the first time in four years at FIU, we saw last season what a difference "El Monstruo" made on defense. Not counting Audric Adger's 4-sack impersonation of Antwan Barnes in the season finale win against North Texas, the Golden Panthers didn't muster much of a pass rush last season.

Yf Apparently, this offseason FIU defenders have been in strength coach Roderick Moore's weight training lab trying to become Monstruos of their own.

"The weight room will help some," said MC, of trying to establish a consistent pass rush. "This is the first real offseason that these guys have had here and coach Moore and [assistant strength] coach [Ty] Wise get after those guys. Coach Moore made it very clear and we made it very clear as a staff also: we're going to be stronger or else you're going to run. We don't want big stiff guys that look pretty for the beach and we don't want little skinny-minis that run fast, but can't hold up on a double team and blocks."Jb_4

Like we mentioned in the previous post with the offensive line, the success of the offense begins on the line of scrimmage. The same can be said about the defensive line. Linebackers and defensive backs can only hold their pass coverage so long before the opposing quarterback finds an open receiver. The same goes for stopping the run. If the D-line doesn't make plays in the backfield or handle the opposing O-line's blocks, then the linebackers and defensive backs can't find any room to make plays.

"What was clearly evident up front defensively in the passing game is that we need to get to the quarterback which we did the last game and you saw the difference," MC said. "North Texas was probably the hottest offense in the Sun Belt going into that last game. We literally only gave up 12 points that game. They had a 1-yard drive to start the game."

"We move a lot up front," MC added. "A lot of that has to do with footwork, technique work. Being that our players have a better understanding of our scheme, you should see a pretty significant jump in our defensive play up front. We're expecting to get better with the addition of some of the freshmen that are coming in. Guys that can get to the quarterback. Guys that can run around really well."

It will be another four months before the talented freshmen defenders arrive. So what should we Penerton_2 expect to see this spring from the returning front seven on the Golden Panthers defense?

"Daniel Chacreton is finally healthy," MC said. "He played with a sprained ankle last year so it's hard to tell how good he can be. He's a good player. He's a kid that's going to work his butt off. Last year he was working off one leg. Jarvis Penerton needs to step up and have a big year. Ricky Booker expect him to step up. He's had a hell of an offseason. He pushed hard at 255, 260 pounds. He can run, got a hell of a motor and he gets after you good. He's a hell of a player, a Big East type of kid. Bryan Frye has gained 15 pounds of muscle on his body -- long, lean guy that can run all day. Jonathan Betancourt (knee) could be back by the second week of spring."

The FIU linebackers showed some promise last season. With the addition of just as talented linebackers this fall, expect to see this position take a major step forward in 2008.

"Scott Bryant (right) is a good football player," MC said. "He's another guy that had a great offseason. Bryant_3 It's his turn to kind of step up and lead. Ryan Martinez did a nice job stepping in there after walking-on from New Jersey. Toronto Smith (shoulder) will probably miss the entire spring. He had shoulder surgery after the season. Matt Garris (shoulder) started playing good football there at the end and then he got hurt. He'll miss all of spring as well."

FIU lost Lionell Singleton and Cory Fleming in the defensive secondary, but there are some re-inforcements back this spring and more arriving in the fall.

"Jeremiah Weatherspoon is back on for the spring," MC said. "Dez Johnson, Anthony Gaitor, Robert Mitchell (foot) will all be playing corner. So will [freshman] Marcelus Manear. Ash Parker, Weatherspoon and Kreg Brown will be at safety. Brown started playing good football last year."

Now the $25 billion dollar question, who's going to kick for FIU this season and can he be consistent?

Abed_2 "We're looking for somebody to win that kicking job," MC said. "Dustin Rivest and Chris Abed will compete in the spring. Julio Moraga will join the team in the fall. Abed tore his quad two weeks before Penn State last year and was never the same during the season. Chris Cook has a hurt back so he is day-to-day. He's going to try in the spring, if not Dustin can punt."

March 23, 2008

Spring Football Preview: WRs, TEs, O-Line

Plenty of talk regarding the FIU quarterbacks, but as anyone that has played or watched at least one football game in their lifetime knows, if you don't have a quality offensive line, you're not going to win too many football games. Just ask the mighty Patriots about it last month. Pats

The Golden Panthers offensive front was overmatched last season against the likes of Penn State, Kansas and Arkansas, but got better toward the latter part of the Sun Belt schedule. The majority of the O-line is back with the exception of Roland Clarke. There are some pretty good re-inforcements arriving in August like Cedric Mack, Kenneth White and Stephen Bailey, but first let's take a look at who's on the Ala field starting Tuesday.

The core of the line (Andy Leavine, Brad Serini and Joe Alajajian), which was somewhat green last season, now has some game experience on their resumes. So what does the FIU head coach, a former O-lineman, think of his current O-line?

"The offensive line is getting better, leaner, stronger," MC said. "One guy that has taken a nice jump this spring is Mario Caraballo, who was not eligible the last year due to his transfer status. He's up to 270 pounds, can move, very tough, physical."

"Serini now has 12 games under his belt," MC said. "Andy Leavine now has 20 starts underneath his belt. His hand is OK. Joe Alajajian has had a phenomenal offseason. He's running, lifting. He looks good. He can flat out move. A guy that has made a big jump is Chris Cawthon. The light came on. He started pushing himself."

"Javon Hill has lost 30 pounds and flashes some of the things that he can do," MC said. "I think he expects a lot more of himself now. He knows that he has a ton of work to do. He also knows he's done a ton of work and made some significant improvements and he's been recognized for it. He's made a tremendous jump in his workouts. Let's cut to it. There comes a point in time as a football player that either you do it or you get out of the way so someone else can do it."

Dix Most of the freshmen receivers from last season now have played 12 games and have a better idea of NCAA football. Like the other parts of the offense, the FIU receivers can only get better from here.

"We expect a lot from the young receivers because those guys were thrown in the fire last year," MC said. "Elliott Dix (left) did a heck of a job. One of our better route runners in Jeremy Dickens made some good plays in games as well. Expect guys like James Rucker, big physical guys to explode on the scene this year. Kendall Berry made a couple of nice plays against North Texas as well. Greg Ellingson (below, right) put his foot in the ground and did some real good things as a freshman. Marquis Rolle should be good to go for spring. His Elling quad acted up a little bit. He's a guy who in summer camp last season was lighting it up and looking great, but injuries slowed him down a little bit. Collectively, that's a hell of a group. What you expect from those guys now is they have to start becoming leaders. They know what it is to go to Arkansas and to be at Penn State and play against a fourth or fifth year senior."

The depth FIU has at receiver does not necessarily translate over to tight end where Moses Hinton's eligibility status is in limbo, but a walk-on from last year may play an important role in this year's offense.

"We're still waiting word from the conference if Moses Hinton has a year left," MC said. "Eric Kirchenberg (below, left) had a nice first season last year. [Last year walk-on] Travis Felder is going to be a hell of a player at tight end/h-back/receiver".

Kirch Felder, a former basketball standout at Killian High, has the size and athletic ability to possibly take on a role similar to what Shannon Sharpe did in his heyday with the Denver Broncos. Easy there with your keyboard, um and FAU folks, I am NOT saying Felder is Sharpe, just saying he can play the same role Sharpe did.

We'll wrap this spring preview up with the FIU defense and kickers on the next post. Haven't forgotten about the final part of the Interview with Prez. Let's get this spring preview done and the Prez will be back on here talking about the new stadium and FIU's lack of past athletic success.

March 21, 2008

Spring Football Preview: QBs and RBs

FIU football returns three days from now with the first spring practice on Tuesday at 3:30 p.m. at the FIU rec fields. To get you ready for the 14 practices this spring leading up to the Blue/Gold Spring Game on April 18, here is the first (quarterbacks and running backs) of three spring previews leading up to Jubb Tuesday's first workout.

The last time we saw the Golden Panthers they were jubilantly closing out the Orange Bowl with a win over North Texas. FIU lost nine seniors from last year's team, so most of the Panthers are back. None of the signees from the 2008 recruiting class will participate in spring drills. Quarterback Troy Dannehower, who graduated early from Seabreeze High, came close to joining FIU for the spring, but he missed the cutoff date by two weeks.

Regardless, as you know, there are plenty of other FIU quarterbacks and figuring out who will be the starter is FIU's version of March Madness and the Madness quite possibly could last close to the kickoff at Kansas on Aug 30.

Pm_2 Paul McCall (left) led the Panthers to their only win last season after taking over for Wayne Younger (below, right), who broke his collarbone the game before against FAU. Each quarterback has different talents to run the spread offense. PM is a better decision-maker and has the stronger arm. WY is more mobile and can make throws on the run, plus he has game-breaking ability with his feet.

Last year's freshmen Colt Anderson and Darold Hughes will also get long looks this spring. MC said CA and DH will be mixed into the QB competition as much as possible and when TD arrives in the fall he will be in the QB race as well. WY will be limited during the spring because he's still recovering from the collarbone injury.

"Wayne was really playing pretty good football in the conference before getting hurt," said MC. "He Wy_2 showed some things that let us think he's going to be a real good player for us as did Paul McCall stepping in the last game and the last half of the FAU game. Paul showed he could do some real good things and be a real good player for us as well. So both those guys will split first team reps and let the best man win."

MC added there is no set timetable to select FIU's starting QB.

"Those decisions are made right there on the football field. It's real clear and evident when a guy is kicking butt and winning that job he becomes the guy. If they are neck and neck and battling day in and day out, one guy has to step out and separate himself. Until that day comes, we won't make a decision. [The decision] will always be anywhere between a week and a couple of days before game one if need be."

There will be some adjustments the QBs and the rest of the offense will have to make under new OC Bill Legg. MC said FIU's offense will "still have spread principles, but there is a little bit of a learning curve".

Also expect some physical practices this spring that will include the QBs.

Dodge_3 "Several of those quarterback drills will be live so we're going to see these guys under fire," MC said. "It's not going to be P.E. class in grade school where we're out there in shorts and tag and do-over and that kind of stuff. We're going to let these guys get after each other and knock the heck out of each other."

And knocking the heck out of each other includes the guys throwing the ball.

"Yeah, the quarterbacks need to get hit," MC said. "We have a lot of guys that haven't played much football. It's part of the game. Play ball, play hard. Football is what it is. It's a man's sport. It's a physical sport and we have to practice physical football. . .We have to play a lot of football. We have to continue developing. We have to continue recruiting like maniacs, that's what we do."

Moving over to the backfield, FIU has a designated number one running back to start the spring.

Nedd "A'mod Ned will go in as the starter," MC said. "He definitely separated himself toward the end of last season, but Julian Reams came on strong as well. Daunte Owens has got a ton of potential. What we did realize during the year, is guys like John Ellis and Trenard Turner have ball skills and they showed it when they touched the ball in the passing game. Being that they are big, physical guys we want to see them touch the ball back there too."

Next up, we'll take a look at the receivers, tight ends and offensive line.

March 20, 2008

Spring Football Update

Ned The first part of our spring football preview will be up on the GPP either later tonight or some time Friday, but here's some info regarding FIU's 15 spring practices schedule.

Spoke with MC this morning and he said all practices the first week will be open to the public. The first practice is this Tuesday, March 25 at 3:30 p.m. at the FIU rec fields behind the parking garage that faces southwest 8 street.

The Golden Panthers will also practice Thursday, March 27 and Friday, March 28 -- both practices are at 3:30 p.m. FIU will have the first of its four spring scrimmages on Saturday, March 29 at 10:30 a.m.

MC has yet to decide how many of the other 10 practices will be open. When I know, you will know.

The FIU Blue/Gold Spring Game is Friday, April 18 at 7 p.m. at the FIU Soccer Field behind left field of University Park Baseball Stadium and of course, the spring game is open to the public.

March 18, 2008

The Sporting Life with The Prez, Part 2

Well now that we know what's going on with FIU's colors, name, logo, etc. let's talk some more sports with FIU President Mitch Maidique.

Mmm_2 In the second part of our three-part interview with the Prez, we find out a little about the FIU chief's sporting background and what was it like closing out the Orange Bowl -- the right way with a win....

GPP: You're a big sports fan, so what's your athletic background?

MM: I played baseball and ran track at the Menger School in Corpus Christi growing up. In baseball, played right field, because I was a much better hitter than I was a fielder. The highlight of that athletic year was the day that I hit a home run that won the only game the school won that year in baseball. We were 1-11. I also used to high jump scissor-style. I jumped 4-11 when I was 11 years old in the city championship. I was pretty tall when I was 12. I was 5-6.Hj

My mother refused to buy me a football uniform, but I played on the football team. I played wide receiver and all I had to do was run diagonally from my position to the other side of the field. They would throw me the ball and I would catch it and since I was big for my age, kids would grab me and I would continue to walk several steps before they brought me down.

When I was about 13 they found out that I had scoliosis and because of that the doctor said I shouldn't compete in organized sports. During that time I perfected my free throws so I used to be able to shoot 22 to 23 free throws out of 25 at recess. They would post everyday who had the best average so I was very competitive in making free throws. In fact without the other team I was an Shaq excellent basketball player. It's when the other team got in my face, tried to push me around, tried to throw off my shot that I had a real problem.

When I was 16 I found another doctor that said "let him play organized sports, that is not a problem [for scoliosis]". But by that time enough years had passed. Four years is a lot for a kid to catch up. I always loved athletics. I'm very competitive. It's unfortunate that that doctor told me to lay off for four years.

GPP: So how do you view athletics now as the President?

MM: It's a little bit like the guy who wanted to be an athlete and he wasn't able to and he owns his own athletic team. Well I don't own anything, but I do have the privilege of leading a university that has a dozen and a half athletic teams. I love tennis. I like basketball. I like them all, all the sports it's a lot of fun. It's more fun when we win, frankly, than it is when we lose. I have great confidence in Pete [Garcia] with his experience and his coaching of the coaches and some of the new people he brought in as well as improvements in the people that are already here that we are destined in time to become a major athletics program.

GPP: Did you have a favorite sport growing up?

MM: Yeah, it was basketball. It was primarily, because of my eyesight. I began to need contact lenses and my vision was not as acute so I went from baseball to softball to basketball. There I found a ball that I could really see well. So that's the sport that I played the most. But by this time I like them all.Joe_d_2

GPP: Did you have a favorite player growing up or do you have one to this day?

MM: My favorite player growing up was Mickey Mantle, but that's not very unique. Everybody's favorite player at that time was Mickey Mantle. I had the honor of meeting Joe DiMaggio (right). We gave an honorary FIU doctorate to Joe. In Mj_2 basketball, it's very difficult to prefer anyone other than Michael Jordan (left). He was just a genius in basketball both with his athletic ability and his smarts. I bought some of his tapes. I just enjoy seeing him play.

GPP: What did you think about FIU closing out the Orange Bowl with a win?

MM: I think we became part of Orange Bowl history even though we played just a few games there. I think what was more important to me than closing the Orange Bowl was that it was Mario Cristobal's first victory -- one of many, many victories I'm sure that he will have over the years. And it was also the prelude to having our own stadium. I don't know what we are going to call it. We are still working with Mc_2 donors to find out what the name is going to be. We hope that we get a substantial donation from a corporate friend to name the stadium. We want to own that field. We want to protect our home as well as we can. I think the students will be very proud Sept. 20. There will be tremendous excitement. I hope that stadium is actually brimming with people.


The Prez wraps up his interview on here soon by talking about the new stadium and why FIU athletics has not enjoyed much success in years past.

** No word yet on which spring practices are open to the public. As soon as I hear I'll post on here. The first practice is next Tuesday, March 25.

** MC will be on Spanish sports talk show "Descarga Deportiva" 1550 AM with Jerry of the Castle and Joe Fields tomorrow, Wednesday, March 19 at 6:15 p.m. The show will broadcast live from Joffrey's Coffee House at 11531 SW 88 St. (next to Pollo Tropical). For our non-Spanish speaking friends, I will have a translation of the interview on the next post.

Roary ** Been asked to be one of the judges at the Roary tryouts at Pharmed Arena in May. FIUsports.com has all the info if you want to wear the new muscular Panther suit for the opening of the new stadium. What about tryouts for the FIU Cowgirls?Fss

SouthPaw: Kent Henderson is no longer on the team.

CJ: The view from my bracket looks like: Texas, North Carolina, Wisconsin and Duke in the Final Four. Then again, I'm no college hoops expert like Messod or Crazy Cane, so don't go to Vegas with what I say.

CrazyCane impersonator: Let's stop with the tasteless posts. Anytime there is a post on the GPP, I get that poster's e-mail so I know when the post is a fake. The reason Crazy Cane visits the GPP is because it's a damn good blog.

Get used to folks from Coral Gables showing up on the GPP, because when FIU starts winning on a consistent basis they will be on here daily. Right now, with all three of the Golden Panthers major sports teams in a building phase, there are not too many reasons for the Coral Gables faithful to visit. Still, the Miami Herald now releases daily blog rankings and even with the down times in FIU sports, the GPP is consistently in the Top 10 of the 34 MH blogs. Thanks to all and even the caners.

March 14, 2008

11 Days Until Spring Football. . .What Do You Want to See?

Tt_2 The last time the Golden Panthers were on a football field, the good times were a rolling with an Orange Bowl-closing win over North Texas. Now we're 11 days from the start of spring football, a little later than most teams, but having an offensive coordinator in place was a must.

We'll have a spring football preview on here sometime next week, but for now wanted to get your thoughts on what you would like to see develop or emerge from the 15 days FIU has to practice this spring.

Of course, the $1 zillion dollar question will be who has the edge to start at quarterback, but the guess is we won't know until August. Finding the starter under center will be decided from the five-headed QB now known as Colt Darold Paul Troy Wayne -- of which the quarterback has no relation to John Wayne (right) orBbw_7 Bruce Wayne (left). Jw_2

So what else is on your spring football minds? Finding a number one running back, which players makeup the defensive front seven (got a feeling the BTW newcomers will have something to say about that?), is it the receivers or can the Golden Panthers find a consistent kicker?

Post your thoughts. Have to make a quick trip to Fort Myers to cover the Marlins/Twins on Monday, but I'll have Part 2 of the Prez's interview when I get back.

March 12, 2008

The Prez Talks FIU Sports Part 1

A right fielder, wide receiver and high jumper growing up in Corpus Christi, Texas, FIU President Mm_2 Mitch Maidique has been a sports enthusiast for a while.

And MM is just as enthusiastic about the future of the "The Sleeping Giant" that is your "FIU Golden Panthers".

MM began to build the FIU athletic department in October 2006 with the hiring of athletic director Pete Garcia. MM says he knows he got the right leader to turn FIU into a major athletic program. The GPP sat down with MM to talk FIU sports and in the first of our three-part series the FIU boss talks about FIU sports present day and dispels the rumors about FIU changing its name, colors and mascot. Plus, what's going on with the FIU logo....

GPP: How would you assess the state of FIU sports right now?

MM: I think it's the early stage of a major rebuilding program. Pete is coaching the current coaches. He has replaced about half the coaches that we had. He's made some very good choices starting with Mc_2 Mario [Cristobal], just an absolutely great choice. I think that Mario is going to make this university very proud as the years go on. Football is by far more visible than all the other sports put together so you need to have a successful football program to be serious in athletics.

GPP: Eventually where would you like to see this athletics program go?

MM: I think we are destined to be one of the major public research urban universities in the nation. Now who is in that group? The big universities in the big cities. And I think over a period of time we need to be nationally competitive in all the major sports. I think that's what we're going for.

GPP: There have been rumors that FIU is changing the mascot, name, logo and colors. What's the truth?

MM: There's a rumor that we're going to change the mascot. That rumor is not true. There's another rumor that we're changing the colors from blue and gold, that's not true. There's another rumor that Fiuthin Fiupanth Fiu_2 we're introducing a new logo and that's not the case. We're not as much introducing a new logo as we are recalling the 15 logos that are floating around here and saying this is the only logo. Some of our letters Oldlogo_2 sometimes are thin, sometimes are thick, sometimes they have edges, sometimes they don't, sometimes they're italics, sometimes they are block letters. There will be an approved set of letters [for the logo]. We will go NOT by Florida Fiuital International University. We'll go with FIU. We will have Fiublock the logo that you will see everywhere and it will always be the same.

GPP: Will that logo be the current shield logo?

Logo MM: No, it will just be the three block letters F-I-U.

GPP: Sort of like what the baseball team is wearing this season on their hats?

MM: Exactly, but it will be a particular color and shape that everyone will have. So that when you get a letter from FIU you will have those three letters. That's the only Loz_2 way to establish a brand. We're not changing the logo, we're just standardizing one of the logos which will be approved. We are going to put it out there. We're going to get some feedback on it. So it's not that we're inventing a new logo. We're just saying this is going to be the standard logo. Our shirts, our paraphernalia, our banners, our stadium, our football helmets, everything.

GPP: So will the new standard logo be the same font the baseball team is using now, because I know they have new uniforms this season?

MM: I've seen the [baseball uniforms] I think they look very similar, but it will be precisely the shape, the size, the color, the shading. It will be "This is what it's going to be". So it may be very close to what the baseball team has, but it won't necessarily be that one. The one we are putting out is the one that everyone will have to standardize.

GPP: Is there a timetable to unveil the logo?

Unveil MM: Yes, it will be done way in advance of the Sept. 20 football game [new FIU stadium and home opener vs. USF]. Six months before that. By next month, if we want to do it six months ahead so we can order the right kinds of uniforms and what have you, it has to be done by the end of March, by April 1st. That's something that's really exciting.

GPP: There is talk of removing the Golden from the Panthers, what's up there?

MM: No. The Panthers will stay as Golden Panthers, however, I think that more and more people are using Panthers for short. We'll keep it officially as Golden Panthers.

GPP: So for the first sentence written in an article, the right way would be to write "Golden Panthers" Gppp and then after the use of just "Panthers" would be OK?

MM: Yes, just like you may find the logo says Golden Panthers, but for short we may on the [football] helmets have it say Panthers to simplify it.


We'll have part two of MM's interview on the next post. On to the diamond.

Yes, the FIU baseball team has not gotten off to the start many had envisioned. The reason is simple and it's been written on here before: if you can't get opponents out, you are not going Jf_3 to win too many baseball games. You need pitching to win at any level whether it's little league, high school, softball,Ps PlayStation, fantasy baseball, college baseball and MLB. You Js can only win a number of games 15-14, 14-13 outslugging the other team.

Yes, the Golden Panthers have a real pitching coach and a much better head coach this season, but they don't have all the players. Like I wrote on the last post with MC & Bill Legg, the FIU offense still doesn't have all the players they need so we'll see some improvement there this season, because every player has one more year of experience in the spread offense but don't expect to see a Top 25 offense, at least not yet.

Same thing goes with FIU pitching. TT and pitching coach Felipe Suarez do not have all the arms they need this season. TT was hired last June so he had less than six months to recruit pitching. Let's see what he can bring after a full year of recruiting.

What I've noticed so far this season with some of FIU's pitchers is that they are not attacking the strike zone with their best pitches. It was quite evident in the USC series, where they would nibble with pitches on the corners and then fall behind 2-0 or 3-1 in the count and the Trojans were sitting on a Pow fastball and you know what happens when a batter is sitting on a fastball: POW!.. After the Wagner series, I asked TT why some pitchers were not attacking the strike zone and he said:

''All we ask our guys to do is, at the end of the game, whatever stuff you've got, throw your stuff in there. Throw your velocity, throw your breaking ball and let the chips fall where they may."

There is plenty of quality pitching among the high schools in our area for TT to assemble a solid pitching staff, not to mention TT's recruiting ties outside of Florida will also bring in pitching. From watching FIU baseball for more than 10 years now, I can tell you that the former FIU head coach did not take advantage of the pitching-rich high schools down here. That's one reason why FIU's pitching is shaky this season. This is a transition year from DP to TT. The same thing happened to MC in football last season transitioning from DS's poor recruiting.

So relax, enjoy the national pastime, the FIU offense and hope the pitching comes along throughout the season. Things will get better with the nation's top recruiter now in charge of the Golden Panthers.

March 10, 2008

FIU Has Got Legg and Eyes (Updated)

It's official FIU has a new offensive coordinator in Bill Legg, who was Purdue's co-offensive Legg_4 coordinator last season and you the GPP faithful can eyeball here what BL & MC talked about in a phone interview just a couple of hours ago.

Bbleg_3 The hiring became official late Sunday night when BL arrived in Miami to sign on the dotted line. Before the GPP spoke to both MC & BL, the new O-coordinator was watching some FIU game tape. Nothing like a new hire that's jumping to get to work and not waiting around until March 25.

By the way, with Legg, FIU now has three former offensive linemen as coaches: MC, O-line coach Greg Laffere and Legg, who played center at West Virginia (drawing, above left).

MC said on Monday that FIU Spring Practice begins Tuesday, March 25 and the Blue/Gold Spring Game is Friday, April 18 at the FIU recreational fields behind the parking garage facing SW 8 Street. MC has yet to determine how many of those practices will be open to the public. When there is more info, it will be posted here.

MC said he interviewed more than 10 candidates for the OC job.

"We wanted to make sure we found the right guy for the job," MC said. "It was a very difficult decision, because we have some great in-house candidates and as well as guys from the outside. With Coach Legg, this was the way we wanted to go."

GPP: So what made BL the choice to lead the FIU offense?

"He's a dynamic leader and extremely knowledgable," said MC. "He's been at places where he's done awesome things and he's very experienced. He's seen and done it at the highest level. He'll help takes us to the next level."

MC added that FIU will still run the spread, but "an enhanced version". What's enhanced?

Ts "We'll keep that a secret until the Kansas game," MC said.

What did MC like about the Purdue offense so much that led him to BL?

"Explosiveness and a balanced attack," MC said. "Guys knew what they were doing and where they were going and got there fast."

BL on the phone line now....Congratulations on your new job.

GPP: So what's your offensive philosophy?

"On offense, just take the ball where they are not and don't be afraid to do what it takes to get there," BL said. "I'm sort of country so that may sound a bit too simple. We'd like to spread the field as much as possible and expose the defense at their weakest point."

GPP: How much did you know about FIU before taking the job?

"I knew a little bit about FIU," BL said. "But enough that when the job came available that I became very intrigued. There's no reason why FIU can't be a great place for football."

GPP: As you may know FIU struggled on offense last season. It can only get better in year two of the Stone_2 spread offense, right?

"This is a chance to start something special where superior talent is all around this area," BL said. "You can throw a stone anywhere in South Florida and hit a great football player."

Wanted BL to assess the FIU quarterback situation, but like it was written above the new OC has yet to see much game film. All of which should make for an intriguing 15 spring practices.


Yes, the hire of BL was a great one, but let's not all go crazy and say FIU will win 8 games next season. Remember, a coach is only as good as his players. Forget for a second the recent cheating of Bill Belichick. When he was the head coach in Cleveland, no one was mistaking BB as a great coach. Now put him in New England with Tom Brady, Laurence Maroney, Randy Moss and a terrific defense - B.E.M. - Before Eli Manning and suddenly BB is a great coach.

Eli The point is FIU and BL still need to find that every down workhorse, game-breaking speed running back that the Golden Panthers have been missing since Rashod Smith. Also FIU has to settle the QB situation, develop a downfield receiving threat and get more production from the O-line. Don't mean to rain on the parade, but the Panthers are a work in progress.

FIU Fanatic: Spoke to an Orlando writer that covers UCF and the word is Alphonso Bryant could be headed to FIU, but his grades are a major concern. The writer told me that Bryant is currently not enrolled anywhere and has a lot of work to do to get his grades up to par.

Baltimorepanther: Director of Basketball Operations at FIU will sort of be like a general manager.

fiufannn: Welcome to the GPP. Since he took over at FIU, MC has always said that the offensive coordinator will also be the quarterbacks coach so that there is no miscommunication.

March 08, 2008

Hoping to Get a Legg Up

That's what the FIU offense hopes to do with the possible hire of offensive coordinator Bill Legg, who was the Purdue Boilermakers co-offensive coordinator last season.

Blegg Spoke to a source, who covers Purdue for an Indiana newspaper, and word is Legg is headed to FIU as the Golden Panthers new offensive chief. Reached MC for confirmation late Friday night and the FIU head coach had no comment on the situation.

Legg has plenty of experience having coached at Virginia Military Institute, Eastern Illinois, West Virginia, Marshall and Purdue. Here is a link to his bio on the Purdue athletic website Bill Legg .

In 2006, Purdue led the Big Ten in passing offense and total offense. Purdue was fifth in scoring offense and second in passing offense in the Big Ten last season. Legg, who was the co-offensive coordinator last season, was re-assigned within the football program after Purdue head coach Joe Tiller brought in his head coaching successor Danny Hope at the end of the 2007 season. Hope will coach the offensive line until Tiller retires after the 2008 season. According to the source, Legg was the odd man out and was being rumored for the O-coordinator position at West Virginia for new WVU head coach Bill Stewart.

MC said when former FIU O-coordinator James Coley left for Florida State that he would re-evaluate the Golden Panthers offensive personnel before deciding whether to stay with the spread offense. Legg has coached the spread offense at West Virginia, Marshall and Purdue.

As soon as Legg's hire becomes official, this post will be updated.

March 07, 2008

:03, :02, :01...Hoops Season is Over, Here's What's Ahead

The entire title of this post is not completely accurate since the FIU women's hoops team beat Denver in the first round of the Sun Belt Tournament Wednesday night and now travel to Mobile, Alabama to play Iva_3 Arkansas-Little Rock on Saturday night. Congrats to the FIU girls.

As for the FIU men hoops team, their season ended for the second consecutive season at the Hooters home gym. Unlike last year's 91-88 overtime thriller, there was no suspense in this one as FAU went on a 22-7 run to start the game and finished off FIU with a 17-2 run in the second half. The Owls scored 91 points again, but FIU could only put up 64 points. Here's what appeared in the Miami Herald on Thursday morning: FAU ends FIU season

Unfortunately, space was limited in the Herald again, so here's what was left out from Wednesday's game, including a Seinfeld moment, and what FIU needs to do to get better next season. The interview with FIU Prez Maidique will follow this post, but first a wrapup of FIU hoops.

Mg MggWednesday's game came down to a matter of being physical as FAU coach Rex Walters said: "We talked about being a man and playing like a man and we did."

Besides being a poor road team this season (1-12), FIU also had a bad habit of not being physical enough in the paint and overall. The Golden Panthers were a basically a team of jump shooters that didn't play enough inside.

After all FAU outrebounded FIU 40-23 and held the Panthers to ONE offensive rebound in the first half. After the game, I asked SR why FAU was able to control the boards and here's what he had to say: "How about putting an elbow in your mouth. How about being tougher. Rebounding is toughness. It's a tough way to finish the season. They physically came out and bullied us and we didn't sustain the same intensity physically." Or if you ask Rex, FAU was a man.

FAU basically copied what South Alabama did to FIU in the season finale last Saturday. SA outrebounded FIU 41-23 and held the Panthers to 3 TOTAL offensive rebounds. So what's the solution?

"We're lifting four times a week," SR said. "My first meeting will be [Thursday] with the strength coach and he's going to have a game plan for individually getting my guys stronger. He's going to make Alex Galindo quicker, stronger and faster. Russell Hicks has to get his core stronger. He's got to be able to have enough strength to hold his ground around the basket."

While Rouco was saying what is written above, there was a humorous exchange in the postgame Ms interview with an old man who writes about FAU for one of those Boca Raton community newspapers. If you're a fan of Seinfeld, think of Morty Seinfeld (Jerry's dad) and the episode he ran for president of Del Boca Vista Phase II. In that episode the Boca Breeze community newspaper smeared him - Morty called the paper a "pinko, commie, rag". Well, this old man writes for a paper similar to the Boca Breeze. Average age of the readers is 112 years old.

So as SR is talking about lifting weights and getting stronger, the old man interrupts him and says in a New York accent: "G-a-a-a-a-rds, you need g-a-a-a-a-rds". SR smiling replied: "Excuse me, what's your name?". Old man says: "Lou". SR replies: "Lou, you're a genius. We've got four guards coming in next season."

That would be Josue Soto, T.Y. Hilton and two others SR could not talk about. And yes, Lou was correct FIU needs serious reinforcements at the guard position. For the past two years, FIU lost its four starting guards. In 2006-07, Elvis Lora and DeJean Prejean became academically ineligible. This season, Redd White quit the team and Michael James was kicked off the team.

As for the future of FIU hoops, asked PG about it and this is the AD's take: "Every coach and every person in the athletic department is evaluated on a yearly basis and then decisions will be made."

PG would not comment directly on SR's future when asked if SR is staying or going. However, word is SR is expected back next season.


Good win for the baseball team against Maine Wednesday night before a three-game test at Troy, who is 9-2 and two games against an underrated Jacksonville team. FIU can hit with anyone, with just a little bit better pitching the Panthers can make some noise in the conference.

Wouldn't necessarily agree that the search for an offensive coordinator is taking a long time. This is, arguably with the defensive coordinator position, the second biggest hire on a football team after a head coach. You can't win too many football games if you can't score points (ask the Balitmore Ravens defense) and having the right offensive chief for such a young team like FIU is critical. MC is not exactly looking to fill the position of Ja the assistant to the traveling secretary of the New York Yankees here. OK, enough Seinfeld references on this post. A new OC will be in place soon, because, per NCAA rules, the last day teams can have spring football practice is April 19.

FIUJM: Don't know if you could say this was SR's most talented team. The thought here is SR's first team in 2004-05 which went to the Sun Belt semifinals may have been better. There was some pretty good balance on that team with forwards Ivan Almonte and Ismael N'Diaye, and guards Junior Matias, Antonio Jones (who is tearing it up at St. Thomas now) and Jayce Lewis. Plus they upset Florida State and played George Washington tough.

GP1, INS PUB ADJ & OffTheFielder: Welcome to the GPP.

INS PUB ADJ: Yes, it looks like Jorge De Cespedes will become FIU's director of basketball operations. According to a couple of Miami Herald high school writers, after JDC's Sagemont High basketball team lost in the state championship in Lakeland last week, during the post game press conference, JDC told the high school reporters that he was leaving Sagemont for another basketball job not involving coaching. In the middle of the interview, JDC got a call and said "Excuse me, guys, it's my new boss I have to take this call. Hello, Pete."

March 05, 2008

Where Are You Going To Be Wednesday?

A little bit less than three hours before the FIU tripleheader, of sorts, kicks off tonight.

Were_3 Waldo_3 It's a where are you going to be Wednesday? You got your choice of game to be at tonight: baseball at home vs. Maine or Sun Belt basketball 1st round games: FIU women home against Denver or FIU men at the Hooters in the Mouth of the Rat.

The GPP will be on the Florida Turnpike north to FAU Arena, but will be keeping tabs on the Golden Panthers baseball team and what's going on at Pharmed Arena. By the way the Sun Belt has got some goofy people making the basketball tourney schedules. The SBC could have easily scheduled the men's opening round on Thursday and the women's opening round tonight. If the FIU men win, they don't play again until Sunday night. Plenty of time between Thursday and Sunday, uh?

So once you know where you're at, how's it all going to turn out? Send in your predictions. Let me put on my Carnac hat here and see what's going to happen tonight: Jc

FAU 83, FIU 76: You've heard the old adage that it's tough to beat a team three times in a season. Yes, the Hooters did it last year to FIU, but two of those games, including the overtime Sun Belt tourney game were at FAU Arena. I would like FIU's chances better here if this game was in the friendly confines of FIU's Medical Supply Arena. FAU is going to press the heck out of FIU tonight and make the Golden Panthers beat them by breaking the press. Not sure FIU can handle an entire game of full court press. Hope I'm wrong.

FIU 12, Maine 11: Both teams will be throwing basically their entire pitching staffs, except for each team's top starters. So you guessed it, there should be plenty of offensive fireworks. Kyle Preshong (2.08 ERA), who has been one of FIU's better relievers this season, gets the starting nod. Maine has lost four straight games. FIU is 4-6.

FIU 45, Denver 42: Each team is backing into the conference tourney. FIU has lost four in a row and Denver has lost four of its last six games. No doubt missing LaQuetta Ferguson has hurt the FIU ladies. Defense and the home court should help FIU prevail here.

Be back tommorrow with part one of the interview with the Prez.


Nothing new with the offensive coordinator search. I know that MC has interviewed plenty of candidates, but no decision has been reached yet. Therefore, spring football practice will not begin this Saturday, instead at a later date to be announced. Teams can only have spring practice until April 19 so FIU would have to begin some time soon. Will post here when there is more information.

Fiual: The adidas contract is with FIU for a while.

UltimateFIUFan: You are correct MC took over a football program that was "empty and nuked", but TT didn't exactly inherit the World Champion Boston Red Sox from DP. After seeing the first 10 games of the season, I am of the opinion that FIU needs a ton of pitching, especially relievers. Don't care if your coaching the Red Sox, the 1927 Yankees or a Fantasy Baseball team, you are not going to win without quality pitching and TT will go out and get what DP never had.

Ab "El Monstruo" has always been friendly with FIU fans. Antwan is a good kid that has not forgotten where he came from. He was at several of FIU's football practices this past season and has been at several hoops games.

You can be assured that once the workout facilities are built at the new stadium, that former FIU players will be welcomed with open arms. One thing FIU wants to do at the new fieldhouse is have a state-of-the-art training center and rehabilitation facility where not just FIU athletes train year round, but NFL players and other professional athletes come to train at FIU.

From what I've been told, FIU's new weight room will be 5,000 more square feet and have double the equipment and weights than the one pro athletes currently use in Coral Gables.

alt7778: Nobody is yet referring to FIU's teams as FIU, because the university has yet to make it official. When it does, eventually all the video games will catch on.

March 02, 2008


In the last few months several loyal GPP readers have brought up stories they heard on the changes that lie ahead for FIU's name, colors, logo, mascot, etc.

You've heard the tales: Pittsburgh Steelers colors, Oakland Raiders colors, Thundercats logo, etc.

Well, here's what is really going to happen as the GPP learned after meeting with FIU President Mitch Maidique the other day. On the next post, I'll have the detailed interview with the Prez about this, the state of FIU sports and his own sporting life before becoming FIU's chief.

Fiuuuu_3 Some time in the next month or two, there will be an official announcement that Florida International University's athletic teams will from then on go by FIU Golden Panthers.

In newspaper articles and on TV and radio, Florida International will no longer be used to address the teams. It will be F-I-U. Yours truly will write FIU in stories and not Florida International anymore -- once the announcement becomes official.

This makes sense, because 5 words in the team's name is a mouthful. Sort of like UCLA. When do you ever hear announcers say on TV, "The University of California, Los Angeles Bruins today will take on the Florida International University Golden Panthers." Grab a glass of water after saying that. The letters FIU will become the actual first name of the Golden Panthers teams sort of like UCLA, LSU, USC and UNLV use to address their teams.

It was bandied about, BUT the final answer is the "Golden" will stay with the FIU Golden Panthers, BUT after the first reference in a written story or on TV or radio -- the use of just FIU "Panthers" is sufficient.Panth

As for the colors, the dark navy blue and gold are staying. Sorry, Steelers and Raiders fans.

The 35 logos FIU currently has or whatever number it is (you probably got a better chance winning the Lotto than trying to guess how many logos FIU has) will become ONE logo with the letters FIU prominently on display. Sort of like the new caps the FIU baseball team is wearing this season. If you haven't been to the diamond this season, here on the left Fiucap_2 is 2nd baseman Ryan Mollica fielding a ground ball and modeling the cap at the same time.

The new logo has not been designed yet, but it should be revealed sometime this summer. The shield logo will be gone, the similar Florida Panthers hockey logo that graces the outside of the baseball stadium will be gone, so will the other 33 logos and the Thundercats logo will never happen.

The Golden Panthers mascot will remain a Golden Panther, but the panther is going into the gym this summer and putting on some muscles, but NOT with Barry Bonds, if you know what I mean. Roary will have a new costume when the new Bb_2 football stadium opens.

Speaking of football, the FIU football helmets may get a new design, but it won't be that Thundercats logo that surfaced around the internet late last year. The design of the new football helmets has not yet been decided -- it could stay with the letters FIU on the side, might have a Panther, or both.....Stay tuned.

Once I go through the tape of the hour-long interview with the Prez, I will post it on here. Until then, it's  FIU Golden Panthers, it's Blue and Gold, the letters FIU will be everywhere and Roary will be at L.A. Dumb_2 Fitness for the next six months.

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