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.
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 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."
"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 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".
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.