Already lined in the spring with a quality defensive secondary thanks to the returns of safeties Jeremiah Weatherspoon (13, right) and Marshall McDuffie, FIU also got back a healthy Robert Mitchell, who missed most of last season with a leg injury.
Then you add 5 talented incoming freshmen, plus redshirt freshman Alfonso Bryant (if he's cleared in time for the start of the season) and these could be the most competitive battles for starting positions throughout fall practice.
Going into Monday's practice, this is what the preseason depth chart looks like, of course, that can change quickly: Anthony Gaitor (26, left) and Dez Johnson (29, above, right) are listed as the starting corners. Starting safeties are Ash Parker (11, left) and Weatherspoon -- who has the potential to be the next FIUer in the NFL. Then you got Devin Parrish and Mitchell as backup corners and Kreg Brown and McDuffie as backup safeties....Not too shabby.
Add Bryant, a former all-world secondary player, who left Central Florida to come back home to FIU. Plus, Derrick Clark (Apopka) who led the entire state in interceptions last year. [That gives FIU the state sacks leader (Kambriel Willis) and INTs leader (Clark)]. Plus, All-County stars like DB Chris Charles, safety Chuck Grace and DB Emmanuel Souarin (right), who with his speed could be a factor in special teams as well, and you could see the potential for some lockdown pass coverage and serious help stopping the run.
FIU had the 4th best pass defense in the nation in 2006, not saying this group will go that high in 2008, but don't be surprised if before they all leave FIU, this group pushes the Golden Panthers back in the top 10 in pass defense in college football.
To wrap up the defensive preview, we'd be remissed if we didn't look at one of the more underrated positions in the game: punter.
Chris Cook battled a sore back last season and again in the spring. MC said he should be ready in the fall. When Cook is on, he can nail some long, high ones like the 68 and 71-yarders against Troy last season, and a 66-yarder against Maryland.
Former Miami High punter Carlos Munera showed his booming leg in the spring and with Cook gives FIU 2 strong legs to win the field position battle -- which is one of the most overlooked parts of a football game.
Will have the second part of the latest stadium tour photos on here next. And you can check in this weekend as we take a look at the FIU offense before they kick it off bright and early at 7 a.m. on Monday morning.
FIU Fan & esteban688: Where exactly is the parking and tailgating for the Stadium?
GPP: I'm told parking for the general public will be on the east side of the stadium in the empty grass field. Here's a photo (you enlarge for better view) on the right, which I was going to save for the next post with the 2nd part of the stadium tour. People with club seats and suites will have private parking on the south side of the stadium. Tailgating is being planned for the east side of the stadium and the north side like they did in 2006. Been told right now the plan is for the west side to be left alone, because the construction of the fieldhouse will be ongoing throughout the season.
Ghostrider117: Anyone know if practice is OPEN to the public?
FIU Fan: I remember for the first football game ever back in 2002 they had fireworks before and after the game. Do you know if they will be doing the same this year?
GPP: From what I've heard there will be some pre & postgame festivities like 2002. Of course, a win over the once-No. 2 South Florida Bulls will make that party last until Monday, Sept. 22.
FIUBaseball Girlfriend: Any other updates on how FIU baseball players did during summer ball?
GPP: Click on this for more FIU baseball summer updates: FIU Summer Pitch
FIUBlueandGold: Any word on give-aways for the 1st game?
The poll is still open, but from the early voting, you good people are talkin' about Willis....That is you're expecting the most from Kambriel Willis (57.1%) among the freshmen defensive front 7 players. Let's turn to the secondary for the next poll.