Arguably, the strength of the FIU D this past season was the defensive backfield led by All-Sun Belt DB Anthony Gaitor. And that was with the secondary having several heralded recruits getting fitted for redshirts and the Golden Panthers missing starting safeties for most of the season. Still, overall the FIU D kept the Golden Panthers in most games this season. You can vote for FIU's Defensive MVP at the end of this post after the Pawse.
Going against plenty of spread offenses in the Sun Belt, the Golden Panthers can never have enough DBs and will always be looking for secondary personnel. So it comes as no surprise we see FIU targeting, that we know of, 6 recruits that can play in the secondary.
Before we break down the secondary, here is your OFFICIAL COUNTDOWN TO SIGNING DAY: 44 days (Feb. 4, 2009).
FIU had some pretty good cover corners last season in Gaitor and in should-have-been All-Sun Belt in Robert Mitchell (left), who even did a good job when pressed into safety duty in the final 2 games of the season. Franklin Brown, Chuck Grace and Dez Johnson made some plays as well. Jeremiah Weatherspoon and Marshall McDuffie played well too -- they were truly missed against Florida Atlantic. Losing Ash Parker after the season opener at Kansas left a huge void.
Among the defensive backs/safeties, the Golden Panthers are targeting: Miami Springs's Derrick Jones (5-9, 180), who could produce the same magic on D that another Miami Springs product produced on O this past season for FIU. DB Jerome Swinton also is on FIU's radar. JS is small and but fast. He comes from Milford Prep in New York that gave FIU Marcelus Manear and Devin Parrish.
The other 4 known recruits are all listed as safeties, but that can always change after they step into FIU Stadium. North Miami Beach's Jonathan Cyprien (6-0, 185), Winter Springs's Cain Elliott, right (6-1, 210), First Coast's Jameel Franklin (6-1, 190) and former Rutgers commit and Archbishop Carroll's Terrance Taylor (6-0, 173).
Here are the DBs/Safeties FIU brings back: Franklin Brown, Kreg Brown, Derrick Clark, Brandon Ellison, Anthony Gaitor, Chuck Grace, Dez Johnson, Marcelus Manear, Ash Parker, Devin Parrish, Peter Riley, Emmanuel Souarin, Jeremiah Weatherspoon.
Here are the DBs/Safeties FIU loses: O'Darris D'Haiti, Marshall McDuffie, Robert Mitchell.
2009 guesstimations: FIU is not losing much depth here, but does lose 2 key cogs in MM and RM, plus a special teams asset in ODH. Like mentioned above, the Golden Panthers will keep tinkering with the secondary, as they should, to find the right personnel to match up against the spread-heavy Sun Belt. Can't have any more games like this season where the Owls and the Cajuns picked apart the Golden Panthers secondary.
Jones has the athletic ability to come right in and contribute. Also notice that FIU is not going after any DBs under 6-ft tall. Cain looks like a beast if he's already entering college as a 210-pound safety. And signing Taylor would be huge after he told MC's former boss at Rutgers that New Jersey was not for him.
Good to see FIU is looking at size at safety to take over after Weatherspoon graduates after next season. Getting back Parker to team with JW gives FIU a solid 1-2 at S next season while the freshmen get acclimated. Also look for Grace, Clark and Souarin to contribute next season.
Naples kicker Jack Griffin could be enrolled at FIU in January and be ready for spring practice in March. JG dealt with a little bit of a sore back last fall, but is 100 percent healthy now. He will compete for the FIU kicking job as soon as he arrives on campus.
Kicker Dustin Rivest improved from 2007, however, he would have to be more consistent this coming season to stave off JG who is ranked the No. 13 kicker in the nation.
Punter Carlos Munera is still awaiting word from the NCAA if he will be granted a redshirt after undergoing an appendectomy while he was in JUCO in California. CM, All-Sun Belt punter, is a senior, but could get one more year if the NCAA allows it.
Should CM not get the extra season, don't be surprised to see JG handle both K and punting duties. The kid is that good. Chris Cook was hitting some punts in practice late in the season, but he wasn't so sure if he can come back when I asked him.
Coming up next: Quarterbacks and Running backs
GOLDEN PANTHER PAWSE
FIU Fan For Life: Pete is Yari a junior? I would definitely attend more games if that squad stays intact! Congrats again.
GPP: Yes, she is and most of the team returns next season. So get your tickets.
Ultimate FIU Fan: Pete, I will not be able to attend tonight's men's hoops game vs. USA. Can you hold my prize (Footballl Media Guide) for next home game?
GPP: Will have it for you at the next men's home game on Dec. 27.
pikedanny: Pete, Are we going to see TY play basketball this season? He's in the Media Guide and listed on the roster on FIUSports.com. What's the deal with him?
GPP: I don't think TY will play hoops. He's got a lot going on in his freshman year. And with the curses hovering over The Bank Arena, it probably is not a good idea for TY to be on that hardwood.
FIUFan: Any chance Robert Marve will transfer to FIU?
GPP: There might be a better chance of winning the lotto and this is not a shot at FIU, but I think he would want to get as far away from Miami as possible. Heard LSU and UF might be interested.
Tico Gutierrez: Any truth to the rumor that former St Thomas Aquinas QB Wesley Carroll will be transferring to the FIU?
GPP: WC was released from his Miss. State scholarship and appeared headed to FIU, but now he's still thinking about it last I heard. He is technically a college free agent right now.
SouthPaw: Pete. In one of your follow on blogs, can you mention how many scholarships FIU has to offer this year? Also, can you give any updates that you have on former FIU committs from the past two years: Bryan Mann, Shaquan Hicks, Jermaine Malcolm, Jecorey Quarterman, and Tarvis Pullins?
GPP: SP, FIU football and baseball had all their scholies re-stored and can offer the full allotment. MC has 25 scholies to hand out this February. FIU hoops still has to surrender 1 more scholie before they are at full strength. Will look into the former commits and let you know.