National Signing Day is getting closer and your Golden Panthers are assembling a pretty solid class. But like a top-notch quarterback is vital to any offense, so is an impenetrable offensive line. Any John Madden knows that if you can't block, then you can't run or pass.
The FIU O-line had a good season in 2008, but there's always room for improvement. Outside of games against Kansas (3 sacks), Iowa (6 sacks) and Troy (7 sacks), the O-line made steady progress throughout last season.
Of course, not all of the sacks or difficulty running the ball falls on the OL -- the rest of the offense has to do their part when it comes to avoiding sacks and running the football effectively. And if you remember, as last season progressed so did the entire FIU offense.
Before we look at the OL, here is your OFFICIAL COUNTDOWN TO SIGNING DAY: 19 days (Feb. 4, 2009).
FIU established a starting base on the OL last season with Ula Matavao at LT, Andy Leavine at LG, Brad Serini at C, Mario Caraballo at RG and Joe Alajajian at RT and the unit jelled as the season moved on.
However, several of the linemen could be in position battles come spring practice and into fall camp, because of the talent MC, OL coach Greg Laffere and the staff is recruiting. In addition some of the freshmen holdovers that redshirted last season such as Kenny White and Stephen Bailey could get in on the fun. Plus, if and when Cedric Mack joins the group that will also make it interesting and Chris Cawthon (knee) was playing well last season before the injury at North Texas.
Adding into the OL mix are heralded incoming freshmen linemen such as Giancarlo Revilla (270s lbs.), Dave Istanich (290s), Derek Wimberly (250-260s) and Rupert Bryan (250-260s), who could move to the other side of the ball.
6-6, 310-pound Aaron Schulte (North Dakota State College) also could step right in and play should he become a Panther and the most intriguing recruit still available for FIU might be Claudyson Calixte (right), who plays for small school Westlake Prep in Davie, but there is nothing small about CC who measures 6-7 and weighs 356.
Here are the OL, FIU brings back: Saf Ahmad, Joe Alajajian, Michael Alls, Stephen Bailey, Mario Caraballo, Chris Cawthon, Devon Dickerson, Chad Edwards, Juan Gonzalez, Javon Hill, Andy Leavine, Cedric Mack, Ula Matavao, Luis Pena, Brad Serini, Kenny White, James Wiggins.
2009 guesstimations: There is plenty of returning talent and even more talent incoming. The sky seems to be the limit for the OL, especially with another offseason in the weight room and another year playing together.
The FIU offense developed some playmakers last season and is getting another influx of talent at the skill positions this year. With improved line play this season, the Panthers O has a chance to be real special.
FIU surrendered 28 sacks last season. If the OL made progress in the offseason conditioning program and all the new OL talent makes it to FIU by August, then we could see a vastly improved running game and sacks allowed drop to the range of 10-15. Challenging the program record of 9 sacks allowed in 2004, might be a bit of a stretch this season, but there's no reason the OL can't do it in the coming years.
To the questions:
FIU Love: Didnt Devin play last year in one or two games and do excellent?
GPP: Parrish played in 2 games last season.
Jsuarez88: Any word on AJ Grant? Kyle McDowell?
GPP: Not likely coming this way.
GPP: Was told Galindo and Asprilla both will play Saturday night vs. Denver. Although, like Clawing Cancer pointed out an exorcism priest could come in handy with the health of the hoops team this year.