Of course, everyone knows the AOL signoff, but just as importantly several other young Golden Panthers WRs developed last season and an incoming freshman crop is ready to produce come August that could have the FIU spread offense resembling the old San Diego Chargers offense led by Dan Fouts (right) in the 1980's -- Air Coryell meet Air Cristobal.
Before we look at the WRs & TEs, here is your OFFICIAL COUNTDOWN TO SIGNING DAY: 27 days (Feb. 4, 2009).
Believe it or not, T.Y. Hilton can still improve. Goodbye will put on some weight and get stronger and faster (if that's possible) with Rod Moore's strength program. Greg Ellingson (left) emerged last season and with his velcro hands and height will also get better.
Junior Mertile (below, right) -- who caught the most famous pass (Hilton Heave) in FIU football history to date -- can have an Ellingson-like breakthrough this coming season. Remember, JM was only .01 slower than TY in the 40 on timing day last summer.
Jeremy Dickens and Jason Frierson also were dependable receivers last season with JF having some solid games down the stretch. More was expected out of Marquis Rolle, but so far the 6-2 receiver has not broke through. MR will be a junior this season, but is certainly not out of FIU's WR plans. However, the competition might be the toughest at this position and look at the guys mentioned above he has to surpass. Kendall Berry, who tore his ACL in preseason practice last season, should be back by spring ball.
The biggest impact from the incoming freshman class could be Northwestern's Wayne Times (left), who seems like a bigger version, but not quite as fast (4.5 to 4.2) as T.Y. WT came on toward the middle of this season when he was pretty much just playing WR. WT started the season playing some QB before the Bulls went to Teddy Bridgewater. WT is an athlete and we could see some WildPanther (Ronnie Brown, right) plays from him, T.Y., Darian Mallary and JM this coming season.
One of the more intriguing FIU WR commits is Central's Jairus Williams, who stands 6-5 and might see some jump ball passes toward him and once he gets in the FIU weight room, he's only going to become more dangerous on the field.
FIU's other WR commit is Ocoee High's Rocky Vann and the Golden Panthers are also targeting Edison's Larry McCoy.
Here are the WRs FIU brings back: T.Y. Hilton, Greg Ellingson, Junior Mertile, Jeremy Dickens, Jason Frierson, Marquis Rolle, Kendall Berry, Elliott Dix, James Rucker, Reggie Thompson, James Watkins, Jacob Younger.
2009 guesstimations: Throw the damn ball! would be the thing to say here, BUT should some stud running back recruits change their minds (Daquan - No to West Virginia, ATM - No to Purdue) we could see a more balanced FIU O out of the spread -- Darriet Perry and other RBs chewing up yards on the ground. Also, don't discount Mallary's athleticism in the passing game. DM is the kind of the player that can kill a defense both on the ground and through the air. The thought here is 2009 could see JM get to TY and GE's level. Also look for WT to become an instant playmaker.
Eric Kirchenberg (right) has become a reliable target for PM and freshman Jonathan Faucher had his moments last season.
FIU is not recruiting any tight ends that the GPP knows of, but one TE the coaching staff is high on is redshirt freshman Joey Harris, who spent last season working with the scout offense. John Ellis also worked some at TE/H-back last season. Also, it would not be a shock if we saw some other Panthers currently on the roster experiment at TE in spring ball.
2009 guesstimations: Don't discount this position in FIU's offensive attack. Yes, the WRs and the talented RBs will carry the load for the Panthers, but FIU TEs are expected to catch passes and be productive in the running game. EK is solid and expect to see JF and JH get involved in the O this season.
FIU Fanatic: Pete, you mentioned 9 Dade County commitments so far, including Times and Russell. I count 8 so far, including 2 that were not included as All County...WR Jairus Williams(Central HS), and DB Derrick Jones, Jr (from Miami Springs). Who is the other Dade County commit?...Is Tourek Williams from Edison the other commitment?
GPP: Yes, TW is the other commit and to answer blkpanther's question: heard TW could be a pass rushing beast according to some high school coaches who faced him. He will be a defensive end for FIU.
FIU_GPanther: Hey pete, do you know if mack has also enrolled for this semester???
GPP: Not yet, that NCAA clearinghouse is a tricky bunch.
Max: Pete, was just looking over future football schedules and I remembered, don't we owe Maryland another game over there?
GPP: Yes, FIU is still playing at Maryland in 2010.
So which FIU WR breaksthrough next season....