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 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.
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 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.
"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.
"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.