Let's move on over to the defensive side of the ball now that we've finished previewing the FIU offense.
Starting here with the defensive line, we'll then take a look at the linebackers on Friday, defensive backs on Saturday and we'll round up our camp preview Sunday with the top 5 position battles to follow during the 5 weeks of camp.
Heading into camp, the FIU defensive line is like a big jigsaw puzzle. There are plenty of pieces and during the next month the Panthers and new defensive line coach Cary Godette have to find a way to make all these pieces fit in the right place.
Talking to MC about the D-Line, he says there is no order right now in a depth chart, everyone has to battle in August for playing time.
On one end of the line we find Kambriel Willis (left, thanks Alex J. Hernandez photo), Jarvis Wilson, Cody Pellicer, Artis Warthen and James Jones. Last season KW showed some flashes of the speed rushing menace he was at Booker T. High, but was undersized. After another off-season in the weight room and up to 220 pounds, KW could be making offensive linemen say "Whatcha talkin' bout Willis?" this season. Sorry, couldn't resist the Different Strokes punchline.
Wilson could be an intriguing rusher with his speed. During one summer workout, offensive lineman Andy Leavine was explaining to JW the moves former FIU pass rushing hombre El Monstruo Antwan Barnes would make to blow by offensive lineman before EM took his talent to the NFL with the Baltimore Ravens. If JW catches on to just half of what EM did, it will be a big help to the FIU D.
Pellicer had some production during his freshman season two years. Now a redshirt sophomore, CP looks bigger and stronger to handle the big uglies on the other side of the ball. MC said Warthen has looked good in the offseason and James Jones is just about ready to return from the knee tear he sustained against Kansas in the season opener last season. Jonathan Jackson has not completely healed from surgery on both feet and could possibly end up taking a redshirt season this year.
At tackle we find one of the stars of the offseason strength and conditioning program in Jonas Murrell (left, thanks Sam Lewis photo) who is down from 358 to 314 and maybe less since the 314 was from 2 weeks ago. JM can provide a big boost to the FIU D opening up some holes for the linebackers and causing havoc in the backfield like he did in the 2005 season, in this photo left, sacking Middle Tennessee QB Clint Marks.
Reggie Jones could be another impact player on the line. Need proof, look at what he did last season in his only game at North Texas before breaking his foot. Kasey Smith and Josh Forney, two younger guys, could also find themselves in the mix for playing time -- as we're likely to see a steady rotation along the line.
At the nose, Andre Pound, Donnell Wilson, Justin West are competing for a starting spot. One player, who could be a nice surprise is walk-on Andrew Mattox (right) -- a 1st team All-State player and the Volusia County Defensive Player of the Year from Spruce Creek High (Cody Pellicer's high school).
Mattox had 70 tackles last season with 38 tackles for loss and 5 forced fumbles. He is 6-2, 250 pounds and has a video on YouTube cleaning and jerking 330 pounds. Here it is: Mattox Power
On the other end of the line, you have the other Willis, Armond Willis -- no relation to Kambriel, along with Thatcher Starling, Joey Harris, who made the move from tight end and had a solid offseason getting up to 260 pounds. MC said JH has looked great in the offseason. Freshman Tourek Williams has made a strong first impression according to MC, who says TW is "an absolute beast".
Max: Any news on a big home game for the basketball team this season?
PP: Not yet. The schedule is not expected to be done until later this summer.
Tri-Panther: Do you know if Mack will play this season at all? I highly doubt it since dropping 40 pounds is no easy task.
PP: It will be tough. He has to get in football shape in order to see playing time.
Jsuarez88: Pete, can Cmack redshirt this season? And for the last post, Doesn't Larvez run a low 4.5? Didn't Mallary reportedly run a 4.3? not a 4.55? I'm interested in knowing Times' actual 40 time too.
PP: Counting this season as a junior, CMack has 2 years left to play college ball. No more redshirt.
The times I was given for the 2009 class were for the top 5 fastest players. Pooh Bear came into FIU at 230 needing to drop a few pounds so he did not run the 40 in 4.5. Mallary might have run a 4.3 at Gulliver, but FIU's stop watch had him at 4.55. Some times high school times are a little quicker ;) so that high school coaches could possibly help in the college recruiting of their players. Times came in at 4.6. But don't worry, if these guys can score, who cares what they run in the 40......6 is the number FIU is looking for from these players. They don't hand out the Sun Belt Championship Trophy for 40-yard dash times.
PP: He was cleared in the spring, but will not play in the fall, because he doesn't want to risk anything with the neck injury he had. You don't want to mess with any kind of neck injury. Former FIU safety John Haritan -- who still holds the FIU single-game record with 21 tackles and is 3rd all-time in tackles at FIU -- did not play his final season either, because of not wanting to risk his neck injury.
pikedanny: Pete, Two quick questions: 1 - Is the Season Opener on TV? 2 - Is Sports Grill going to be ready for the Blue and Gold Invasion that day if the game is on TV?
PP: The season opener against Alabama is on pay-per-view, according to the SEC website. The new Sports Grill (Bird Road and SW 117 Ave. next to Publix) opens in the next couple of weeks and is hosting FIU watch parties so pay them a visit.