Around sunrise -- yes sunrise -- next Monday, August 4, FIU football gets going and then takes the field at 7 a.m. for its first fall practice of the new season. Between now and then we'll take a look at your 2008 Golden Panthers and get your input about them.
In 2006 when El Monstruo, Keke Bouie and Alexander Bostic were leading the defense, the Golden Panthers delivered a consistent pass rush and led the nation in tackles for loss that season -- when they passed Florida State in the season's final game to register the most TFL in college football. Last season, FIU lacked that pass rush. Now with a season of experience in DC's Phil Galiano's system and one year in Roderick Moore's strength and conditioning program, we should expect some heat on the QB from the Golden Panthers.
Among the returning D-linemen: Reggie Jones (right), Artis Warthen, Jarvis Penerton, Jonathan Betancourt, Cody Pellicer, Daniel Chacreton, Curtis Bryant and Ricky Booker, someone has to emerge. If we go by spring ball, Jones, Betancourt, Bryant and Pellicer showed the most, but let's see who improved over the summer when fall camp gets underway. The return of Jonas Murrell will definitely help. The last time JM was on the field for FIU in 2006, he could be found in the opponent's backfield quite often. Bryant and Booker have all the physical tools to have big seasons as well.
Of course, we can't forget about the heralded freshman class of D-linemen of Jonathan Jackson, James Jones, Kambriel Willis (left), Andre Pound, Donnell Wilson and Kasey Smith. It will be interesting to see what the 2 JJ's and Willis can do early on. The trio combined for 54.5 sacks last season. Jackson and Willis attended several of FIU's spring practices to see what would be in store for them in the fall. Whether these guys will be ready from the start or might need a year in the weight room we'll find out soon enough.
Scott Bryant is poised to have a huge season after leading the team with 91 tackles (45 solo) last season. "The Buzzsaw" or "El Oso" (you pick SB's nickname) leads a talented LB corps and if the D-line can open some holes, these guys will help supply that missing pass rush.
Michael Dominguez (right), Ryan Martinez, Matt Garris, Toronto Smith, Mannie Wellington, Quentin Newman and Tyler Clawson round out the LBs. Martinez, Wellington and "Little Canada" had good seasons in 2007. The coaches say Garris had a good off-season. Newman had several sacks in the spring.
The frosh LBs (Aaron Davis and Winston Fraser) bring speed. Davis is recovering from a knee injury and Fraser was MVP of the state championship game with 13 tackles for a Booker T. defense that also featured Jackson and Willis.
Regardless, of whether the veterans or freshmen shine on the defensive front 7, FIU needs a consistent pass rush this season to have a better showing on defense and force opponents into more 3-and-outs.
While FIU almost matched opponents in time of possession last season (29:49 to 30:11), opponents did convert 3rd downs 42% of the time. Putting teams in longer down-and-distances this season with some defensive pressure will get that 42% into the 30's in 2008.
Have not forgotten about the second part of the new stadium tour. Will have that on here soon. We'll continue our 2008 position preview next with the secondary and punters.
Got word that FIU 1st baseman Tyler Townsend (right) tore it up during summer ball. In the just completed Valley League, TT led the league in batting average (.405), home runs (11), slugging percentage (.763), on-base percentage (.512), total bases (100) and runs (36). He was third in RBI (34), stole 13 bases and played errorless ball in the field. If you remember, TT finished last season by hitting home runs in 5 straight games.
Max: Any idea when the seats for the club level will be put in?
GPP: The club seats are expected to be installed in early August. After the next stadium tour post, I'll try to get some updated photos on here in August.
FIUPantherFan: When are FIU Radio broadcast rights are up and what [PG] intends to do about the lack of professional coverage?
GPP: FIU radio rights are up after this football season. Will try to find out about the future of FIU radio coverage for you.
FIU Florida Power & Light: Will FIU students get +1 guest entrance like it has been in the past? Or is it just one entrance per student?
GPP: For USF game, it will only be one entrance per student. For all the others, it has not been decided yet.
inspubadj: Any word on the hiring of the new basketball assistant? With all the problems with Jorge Decespedes is he still going to work in the athletic department?
GPP: No new assistant yet for hoops. JDC will not be working for FIU.
Looking at your voting, most of you believe FIU will be the 4th or 5th best team in Florida in 5 years. That will be very interesting to see where the 7 Florida Division I college football teams stack up in 2013.
And almost half of GPP Nation (47.6%), said the new FIU helmet is sharp. For those that didn't really like it, winning some games will make that helmet that much better looking.
We asked about who was the most improved returning defensive player earlier this month and you good people chose Anthony Gaitor with Reggie Jones coming in second. So now let's turn to the freshmen defensive front 7: