Time to wrap up the first week of camp with some highlights from Friday and Saturday's practices and also a Top 10 list of what we have learned in the first six days of 2008 FIU football.
Maybe it's because they couldn't wait to model the new FIU uniforms in Friday's FIU Media Day Luncheon or maybe they just wanted to get their names in the award-winning GPP blog, whatever the reason the Golden Panthers defense kept up the good work from Thursday's practice into Friday. That's the FIU secondary on the right. (L to R: Marshall McDuffie, Robert Mitchell, Anthony Gaitor, Ash Parker, Jeremiah Weatherspoon)
On Friday, safety Kreg Brown picked off Darold Hughes. Devin Parrish, Tyler Clawson, Peter Riley and Anthony Gaitor all had pass deflections to make it a tough day on the receivers.
Daniel Chacreton, Armond Willis and Jonathan Betancourt all got sacks and "Little Canada" Toronto Smith seems to be healthy again as he was a disruptive force in the offensive backfield all day Friday and into Saturday.
Before we get to Saturday, the offense had their moments on Friday. Freshman running back Darriet Perry had a nice run over left tackle during team drills and made some nifty moves on a screen pass to pick up yardage.
Greg Ellingson, Marquis Rolle and Jason Frierson all had nice grabs on passes from Colt Anderson. GE and JF's catches were on deep passes. Once again T.Y. Hilton caught a pass in traffic and then outran the defense. T.Y. is the Lamborghini or Ferrari, whichever is faster, of this team. Junior Mertile would be whichever car T.Y. is not.
What was apparent on Friday was how much quicker the FIU defense has gotten. Wouldn't say it's "El Monstruo"-speed yet, but definitely faster than last year's D.
This first day in pads with full contact turned out to be the day of the quarterbacks. The top 3 QBs: Paul McCall, Wayne Younger and Colt Anderson (right) all showed what they could do during 11-on-11's and 7-on7's.
CA placed a perfect pass over a DB's shoulder that Junior Mertile hauled in. CA also found Reggie Thompson on a 60-yard TD. CA's passes have been sharper and are tighter spirals all this week and in the latter part of spring. His decision-making seems to have improved considerably as well.
No shocker here, Blue25 (Alonzo Phillips) made a couple more acrobatic grabs both from PM. The second catch was more impressive. The FIU D blitzed a lot Saturday and on this play PM made a nice move to avoid the blitz, kept his composure and stepped up in the pocket to find a darting Blue25 across the middle, who caught the pass with one hand before securing the ball with the other hand. Found a Blue25 pic from last season on the left.
Jason Frierson and freshman Troy Dannehower also had a good throw and catch.
Marquis Rolle showed his toughness when he got drilled by two defenders, the ball popped in the air and MR still caught it. His right arm got banged up and missed the rest of practice, but came back for the 2nd practice in the afternoon. He's OK. There's the update you requested FIUJM.
The collision of the day, brought to you by State Farm Auto Insurance, occurred when 220-pound + safety Jeremiah Weatherspoon and tight end Eric Kirchenberg rammed into each other after EK caught a short pass. JW knocked EK's mouthpiece out, but EK remained standing while JW hit the turf.
EK looks to have packed on the most muscle from Rod Moore's off-season strength program. He's listed at 235 on the roster, 250 in the media guide, but looks like 270 and did I mention he can catch the ball too.
Let's not forget the defense from Saturday. The freshmen DBs continue to shine. Emmanuel Sourain and Chuck Grace had INTs.
Kambriel Willis, who looks like a Zach Thomas (left) clone, but with speed, got another sack.
Like FIUJM pointed out in his comment on the previous blog, punter Carlos Munera has got a helluva leg. Now if CM can improve the accuracy on field goals, then the Golden Panthers have got both jobs covered. CM nailed a 52-yard and a 57-yard punt on Saturday. The ball is like cannonball shot out of his leg on punts.
Top 10 List of What We Learned During the 1st Week of Camp:
10. OC Bill Legg's voice can be heard from SW 57 Ave.
9. If T.Y. Hilton or Junior Mertile get a slight opening, the D is not going to catch either one.
8. So this is what it feels like to be part of the workforce: getting up before the sunrise and driving to work each morning.
7. More and more high school football players show up for each FIU practice.
6. The new uniforms look sharp and have a different look from all those futuristic styles that are the fad nowadays.
5. There has been less puking during and after conditioning drills this season.
4. The top 3 QBs have all definitely gotten better with their arm strength and decision-making.
3. The freshmen on D are going to have an impact this season.
2. FIU's strengths so far are its "Air" people -- pass catchers and pass defenders.
1. There is no Jerrell Lamb on the team, but Blue25 is pretty good at receiver.
Your LAST CHANCE to see your Golden Panthers before they take on Kansas is this Tuesday, August 12 in the team's first scrimmage. Practice begins at 8 a.m., but as MC says "the hitting begins at 8:20 a.m". Sounds like it's time to call in sick to work.
FIU would scrimmage later on that day, but been told there's a risk of losing a practice day with the typical Miami summer afternoon thunderstorms.
**One more thing about the unis, which I think is a unique feature: all the new helmets have the eyes of a Panther above the facemasks. So when an FIU player is talking to you, there are four eyes looking at you: the player's eyeballs and the Panther's eyeballs. Will try to get a photo of it on here soon.
The idea is the brainchild of new FIU equipment manager Steve Smith. No, not the former FIU O-Line coach Steve Smith, this SS comes from Northeastern University.
Max: Section 114, row 8
GPP: From looking at the stadium diagram, it looks like you're seating is in the west end zone. So this on the right is what your view would be like. This photo is before the turf was laid down last Friday.
FIUChris: Where's the info on these bricks?
GPP: The FIU "Not Another Brick In The Wall" campaign (GPP patent-pending) is alive and well. Call FIU Brickmaster, Jose Sotolongo at 305-348-8393. Mention the GPP sent you and you get free admission to Tuesday's FIU football scrimmage.
FIU Fanatic: Any updates on what went on at the Media Day Luncheon?
NYCFIUFan: Has anyone seen the new SI College Football report? They have FIU ranked 118 out of 119 Division I schools and predict that we will match our win total from last year. (oh by the way they predict that FAU will go undefeated in the SunBelt and win 10 games this year). What are your thoughts, is there really that much of a disparity?
GPP: Remember most of these publications have never seen FIU in person and go about making guesses based on stats alone. I read SI and the 1-11 and 0-7 Sun Belt record predicted for FIU. I think FIU can win anywhere from 3 to 5 games this season, considering last season they were within a touchdown in 5 of the last 7 games in the second half. FAU is loaded and could run the table in the Sun Belt and will be good next year, too. The Sun Belt is a very even league so don't be surprised by anything that happens in this conference.
TheChampionUnderdog: What's Wayne Younger weighing in at now?
GPP: 180 from the latest roster handed out at practice.
SouthPaw: It does look like we're officially dropping the "golden" from our name in looking at these uniforms. Pete, can you confirm that isn't true?
GPP: I am still writing "Golden" Panthers in everything that hits the Miami Herald both in print and in cyberspace. FIU is NOT making any official announcement of dropping "Golden". Only shortening the three words of the school to just FIU for all sports stories and references. So what we got is the "FIU Golden Panthers". BTW, the beloved blueberry pants from last year are being used as practice pants. The new blue pants are a darker blue.
FIU Fanatic: Are Cedric Mack and James Jones, two of FIU's best recruits, eligible for this season and/or enrolled at FIU?
GPP: Mack practiced all week and looks like a mountain. Jones is awaiting clearance.
chris smith # 39: Welcome to the GPP. This secondary has a chance to be as good as your No. 4 FIU pass defense of 2005.
OK, all you Monday morning GQ editors, you decide: