The start of our recruiting look at your Golden Panthers begins with an area FIU lacked last season and that was the pass rush.
Before proceeding with the first blog in the Recruiting Prowl series, we must state the GPP disclaimer (the GPP lawyers -- NO not CrazyCane, U24/7 or MIA/NY Josh -- recommended to place the disclaimer here): None of the recruits mentioned on the GPP have signed any letters of intent yet. Please take any verbal committments at your own risk. Taking verbal committments from 18-year-olds, who may have trouble choosing which flavor of Gatorade to drink, too seriously may be hazardous to your health.
OK, glad we got that out of the way. Let's move on.
As of today, here's your OFFICIAL COUNTDOWN TO SIGNING DAY: 49 days (Feb. 4, 2009).
Throughout most of last season, the Golden Panthers played some solid D, but if you recall in blog posts over the 2008 season, the one part of the D we kept harping on was the lack of a pass rush. Part of that had to do with many of the FIU freshmen D-linemen not being big enough. The speed was there, but not the size.
The Golden Panthers have assembled some pretty good talent and depth at D-Line in the 2 seasons since MC took over. Thus you don't see an emphasis on this position this off-season, but the Golden Panthers are still targeting it. Big JUCO DT Mark Crawford at 6-1, 305 and a 4.6, 40 is supposedly down to FIU and Kentucky, even though he has offers from all over the country. He is one of those JUCO guys that can sign as early as today and be at FIU in January.
Depending on what the plans are TE/DL Tourek Williams of Norland could also work here. You remember the last 2 Norland defenders FIU had turned out pretty well in El Monstruo and Alexander Bostic III. Of course, there are other D-Linemen recruits that have not been made known yet.
Here are the D-Linemen FIU brings back: Ricky Booker, Curtis Bryant, Jonathan Jackson, James Jones, Reggie Jones, Jonas Murrell, Jonathan Nieves, Cody Pellicer, Andre Pound, Kasey Smith, Artis Warthen, Kambriel Willis, Donnell Wilson.
2009 guesstimations: Getting a seasoned JUCOer like Crawford or other JUCOers that may head toward FIU can only speed up the development of the FIU D-line. With a second season in the weight room look for Jackson (right, aqua shirt) Pellicer and Willis (right, suit) to get some size. RJones was pretty impressive in the one game he played at NT before getting hurt. Some guys who stood out on the scout D last season while redshirting were Pound and Smith. Still way too early to tell when JJones would come back from his knee injury. Interesting to see if Booker and CBryant can take that next step.
The FIU LBs have some talent coming back, but could use more depth, plus some size. Northwestern's Kenneth Dillard (right, blue jersey) will certainly push for immediate playing time. KD is fast, but at 190 might need to hit the weight room. Apopka LB Larvez Mars would be a great addition as well. For Mars services, FIU is up against teams from every BCS conference.
2009 guesstimations: Don't be surprised to see Dillard become a starter if he has the same impact that fellow NW Bull - Anthony Gaitor had his freshman season. Having seen KD in a couple of games this season, can tell you he is the real deal. If Mars were to become a Panther, then you could see 2 frosh starters with El Oso next season. El Oso and Clawson will provide experience to FIU's young backers. The LB that I'm very eager to see line up is Fraser, who redshirted his frosh season with a hand injury. He could be the next dominant LB at FIU following in El Monstruo's steps. Davis, Wilson and Brown are playmakers and Little Canada already has the speed as Arkansas State found out the last 2 seasons, now with another season in the weight room maybe LC becomes Big Canada.
Coming next: Defensive backs and Kickers
That got my vote. Besides the way the play developed, what I also liked was the crowd reaction. When Goodbye first got the handoff from PM, a collective cheer came from the crowd. When Goodbye fumbled the ball, you heard a collective o-o-o-o-h-h-h and when Goodbye threw the Heave and everyone saw Junior standing alone at the 5 yard line, you good people at FIU Stadium went nuts.
FIU75: Pete, is it true the Howard Schnellenberg from FAU will be coaching the rest of the nation against Texas during the ALL STAR game on the 31st?
GPP: Yes it is. Former Alabama coach Gene Stallings will be coaching Texas.
Ultimate FIU Fan: Good luck to SR and the men's hoops in conference opener @ Arkansas State Thursday. Pete do we have a chance w/o our starters?
GPP: UFF, very unlikely, because ASU is much improved under former LSU coach Brady. On the bright side, you can pick up your WIN A GPP BLOG 2nd prize (2008 FIU football media guide) on Saturday at the FIU hoops game. Drop by the press table and I'll have it for you.