Spring football ended two weeks ago and fall practice won't begin for another three months, but we'd be remissed here at the GPP if we didn't get to the 2nd Annual MARIOS Spring Football Awards.
For those that did not attend last year's inaugural Marios awards, here's our disclaimer: The Marios do NOT include opinions expressed by the FIU head football coach and all results are tabulated by the accounting firm of: Soley, Maya, Opinion and Dats-It.
Each Marios award winner will receive a 1-foot high MARIO statue (picture, right) depicting an Italian plumber, because like the plumber all Marios award winners have shown that they are not afraid to get their hands dirty to get the job done on the gridiron this spring.
Let's welcome our Marios awards presenter to the stage, Miss Jennifer Aniston, who is currently in Miami filming a movie with Dupree at the Marlins game last Friday. BTW, JA is holding the prototype Marios award in the photo on the left. Now, on to our first Mario....
The Visine Award....And the Mario goes to....Jeremiah Weatherspoon and Marshall McDuffie. Both players were a sight for sore eyes with their returns to the team, especially for an FIU secondary in need of some safety help. JW had an excellent spring, not only in the defensive backfield, but returning kicks as well. At 6-1, 221 and with a burst of speed, JW could be a weapon returning kicks. He returned one for a TD in a scrimmage. MM is a great story coming back after the whole brawl fiasco. Besides making things better off the field, MM also showed he wasn't too rusty on the field.
The Missouri Award....This award is named after the "Show Me State", because the recipient, you guessed it, showed what he could do in the spring and now looks to bring that same effort to the regular season. And the Mario goes to....It's a three-way tie. FIU running backs A'mod Ned, Julian Reams and Daunte Owens all receive a Mario for showing flashes this spring of what they can do. AN had a long touchdown run in one scrimmage. JR broke free for 37 yards at the Blue & Gold Game and had a 40-yard kickoff return in another scrimmage. DO ran for nearly 120 yards in the first spring scrimmage. Now it's time for one or more of these backs to consistently show us again starting at Kansas, Aug. 30.
The Robin Hood Award....And the Mario goes to....Colt Anderson. It may have been the quietest, strong performance of the spring. Like the denizen of Sherwood Forest did with a bow and arrow, CA showed he can be pretty accurate throwing the football. In the last two scrimmages, including the spring game, CA was 15 of 18 throwing the pigskin.
The Matrix Award....And the Mario goes to....The new option play. Unveiled this spring, the play gives the FIU offense another dimension. New offensive coordinator Bill Legg brought a revamped spread offense and with it the option. Not saying FIU is turning into the old Big 8 Conference teams of Oklahoma and Nebraska, but the option is a nifty little play to have in your arsenal. Reams broke a long TD run off the toss from Paul McCall in a scrimmage this spring.
The Surround Sound Award....And the Mario goes to....Bill Legg. Without some throat drops or some hot tea, the new FIU OC won't have a voice by the third game of the season. Remember, Turtle with the mike at FIU baseball, no microphone needed for BL, who could be heard loud and clear this spring while he taught the new O to the Golden Panthers. Would like to hear a contest between BL and FIU D-coordinator Phil Galiano (who won the Mario for Best Pipes last year) to determine whose voice would last the longest.
The Food Network Award....And the Mario goes to....The H-Back/Tight End position. Something special could be cooking with this position in 2008. Four players (Travis Felder, John Ellis, Eric Kirchenberg and James Wiggins) manned the position this spring and some intriguing possibilities resulted, especially with JE going long on several passes. TF, with his basketball skills, may have the most athleticism to become a big part of the FIU O here. (NOT comparing here, but remember San Diego Chargers TE Antonio Gates and Kansas City Chiefs TE Tony Gonzalez were former hoopsters).
El Monstruo Award....And the Mario goes to....Another three-way tie or we could just rename this the Munsters Award. Defensive linemen Reggie Jones, Quentin Newman and Jonathan Betancourt all brought to mind former FIU and current Baltimore Ravens LB Antwan Barnes, with their tenacious work in the offensive backfield this spring. Although not with the same quickness as AB, these three excelled. In two scrimmages, RJ had 6 sacks, QN had 5 1/2 and JB had numerous tackles for loss, along with 3 sacks.
The Anti-Saturday Night Live Award....And the Mario goes to....Marquis Rolle. Unlike, the SNL performers, MR is ready to be a prime time player. The receiver has size, is physical and showed a penchant for making catches in traffic and beating defensive backs for balls downfield. Twice MR and Colt Anderson connected for long TD passes down the sideline.
The Sleeping Giant Award....And the Mario goes to....The FIU Athletic Deparment. For the second consecutive year, the Blue & Gold Spring Game was a hit drawing more than 3,000 fans after having more than 2,400 people show up last year. Like it's been mentioned on here before, if there is this kind of interest for a 6-year-old program that hasn't had that breakthrough win yet, imagine the response when winning becomes a habit at FIU.
The Cindy Crawford Award....And the Mario goes to....The 63-yard touchdown pass from Paul McCall to Jeremy Dickens down the middle of the field that split the defense at the start of the spring game. Like our inaugural Marios Awards Show presenter, Miss Crawford, the pass play was the prettiest of the spring and got the loudest reaction from the spring game crowd. When PM dropped back you heard the crowd buzz and when Dickens got open and caught the ball, a big roar came from the stands.
That's going to do it for the 2nd Annual Marios Spring Football Awards. Thanks for reading and thanks to Jen for presenting the Marios. New football season starts in 117 days.
OutoftheCage88: Welcome to the GPP. Still a little too early for making any predictions on the coming football season considering the whole team has yet to practice (the freshmen arrive in August). Your 9-3, 8-4 and even 7-5 records may be a bit out of reach this season. Still those ambitious records would probably result in a Sun Belt title and Coach of the Year honors for MC. But you may be getting ahead of yourself there. Without having brushed up on FIU's opponents or having seen the entire Golden Panthers team, I would think if FIU wins 4 or 5 games it would be an accomplishment since the team is so young -- more than 70 percent of the team is freshmen or sophomores.
gpantera: The hiring of Tim Harris across town should not affect FIU's pipeline with Booker T. First of all, until FIU starts winning on a consistent basis, the canes are going to have first choice in recruits. But the canes can't get them all. All college teams are allotted 25 scholarships each season. Plus, when you factor in the work ethic in recruiting of MC and his staff, FIU is going to get its share of quality players. Remember, MC and co. have contacts all over the U.S. Last year, while TH's kid, Brandon, signed across town, FIU still got Florida's sacks leader in Kambriel Willis and defensive end Jonathan Jackson, plus Tarvis Pullins and Winston Fraser.
FIUBlueandGold: I really don't have an answer for TH taking an admin. role instead of a coaching role in Coral Gables. Maybe there are no coaching positions available now and after this season Randy Shannon will fire someone and then TH becomes a coach over there. I'm sure TH will be involved with recruiting over there. You don't hire the coach of the #4 high school team in the country to push papers around and serve coffee to the coaching staff.