One week from Monday, your Panthers begin preparations for the 2009 season with the opening of camp and by then all you good people can say goodbye to your long off-season without FIU football.
The first practice of the 2009 season takes place early Monday morning, August 10 over at FIU Stadium and is open to the public. Until then we'll take a look at your Panthers as they head into camp 7 days from now.
Let's go camping....
Unlike the first two seasons under MC, we know who will take the first snap under center or out of the shotgun when the season kicks off on Sept. 12 at Alabama. Paul McCall established himself last season by throwing an FIU-record 15 TDs and taking control of Bill Legg's spread offense. This season PM is like a kid on Christmas morning with all the new offensive weapons to go to as well as returning playmakers such as T.Y. Hilton, Greg Ellingson, Junior Mertile, etc.
A second season for PM and the rest of the offense under Legg will only benefit them, but like last season the schedule is brutal at the start with Alabama and Rutgers so don't be surprised if FIU doesn't get rolling on offense until the third game and home opener against Toledo. Although, a strong showing in New Jersey would not be a shock. With a potent offense at his disposal, PM has a real good shot of surpassing his FIU TD pass record and the FIU single-season record of 2,493 passing yards by former FIU QB Josh Padrick set in 2003.
Backup Wayne Younger has bulked up to 200 pounds and has shown more zip on his passes this summer. Although, WY did not play much last season with PM taking over the starting job, WY has a good grasp of the offense. WY was constantly instructing the new walk-on QBs and some of the receivers on certain parts of the offense during summer workouts. If WY is pressed into a game, FIU should be fine.
With Colt Anderson's move to tight end and Darold Hughes transferring to a lower division college, the third quarterback job will be up for grabs between freshman walk-ons Junior Delpe (North Miami) and Chris Schirripa (Cardinal Gibbons). Both were talented, athletic high school QBs here in South Florida and both have shown some flashes during summer workouts.
Wesley Carroll, who has to sit out this season due to NCAA transfer rules, will be the nation's best scout team QB in 2009.
This might be a huge area of concern for FIU, because of the lack of depth at the position. And if FIU struggles to establish a running game this season, it will hurt the effectiveness of the spread offense. A one-dimensional offense only works in Nintendo's Tecmo Bowl.
The FIU running game starts with Darriet Perry (left, thanks Sam Lewis photo) and the Panthers need DP to stay upright this season. We all saw what DP can do on the field in the final 2 games of the 2008 season. The 3 Florida Atlantic defenders that DP took for a 13-yard piggy-back ride in last year's Shula Bowl are still wondering how a freshman can carry 3 defenders.
DP is not a big back, but he is a strong back and can be that everydown workhorse back that FIU needs this season and that I'm sure MC is recruiting more of for the coming seasons. However, DP needs to stay healthy, because of the lack of experience behind him.
Going into training camp, MC has said that fullback/h-back John Ellis is the No. 2 back on the depth chart. JE has always shown sparks throughout his 4-year FIU career, but has never really gotten enough carries to produce consistently. With DP having limited contact during the spring, JE showed what he could do running ball and had some where-has-this-been-hiding runs that had his teammates nicknaming him "The Bus". If JE can bring that production to the regular season backing up DP, it could be a tremendous addition to the FIU O.
While DP and JE are FIU's bruisers at RB, Daunte Owens (right) and Darian Mallary are the Panthers home-run threats (No, they are not playing for Turtle). DO and DM both run 4.4s and if they get a crease, there are not many defenses that are going to catch them. DO, who has had a history of injuries at FIU, gave us a glimpse of his potential last season against North Texas and Troy. DM led the county's Class 3A-1A in rushing last season, but this is a whole different level of football. Still, could envision DM eventually moving up the depth chart and playing a big role in the offense.
Two wild cards among the RBs are Kendall Berry and Trenard Turner. KB, who arrived at FIU as a receiver, is moving to the backfield where he played quite often in high school. KB is not as fast as some of the other backs but is very athletic and could help. TT, like JE, has shown potential both running and catching the ball. TT is coming off knee surgery and is 100 percent healthy and ready to go. If he can revert to his pre-injury form, TT could be a secret weapon for FIU.
Freshman Wayne Times is an intriguing player to watch for this season, because he could find himself playing both roles in the offensive backfield -- WildWayneCat or WildTimesCat or just the WildPanther. WT played some QB at Northwestern and has definitely run the ball too. We could see some interesting action on the field with WT before this season is complete. However, entering camp WT will be working with the receivers.
Thanks for dropping by the GPP, Rashod Smith -- FIU's all-time leading rusher with 2,195 career yards. Still remember your touchdown runs through the driving rains on Halloween night against Jacksonville. You and the rest of the players on the early FIU football teams were true pioneers and helped establish a program that is about to take off.
Congratulations to RFeng for getting the highest score (17 out of 20) on our FIU Football PSAT from the previous post. RFeng can submit his guest blog to my e-mail and we'll post it on here. On Monday, I will post the answers to the 20 questions and the tiebreaker question on the previous post with the PSAT.