We're down to our final 2 recruiting previews with a look at the running backs here and then we'll finish it up on the next post with the receivers/tight ends and kickers.
The Panthers running game was a work in progress last season, but with a highly-regarded recruit headed to FIU, a highly-regarded transfer already at FIU and the return of some key rushers the run game should improve in 2010.
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There were some bright spots among the FIU rushers last season, but certainly not enough of them. The development of former receiver-turned running back Kendall Berry (left, thanks Alex J. Hernandez photo) was a pleasant surprise, especially when he ran the WildPanther.
Daunte Owens also had his moments and provided some speed. Darriet Perry was slowed by a broken wrist and did not have the chance to show what he could do over the course of a full season. Darian Mallary did not get enough touches to show off his 4.4 speed.
Of course, most times a running game is only as good as its offensive line and we went over that in the O-line post.
Syracuse transfer Jeremiah Harden looked every bit the part of a No. 1 feature back last season while working with the scout team offense. And from seeing in person several of Harden's (right) high school games for national powerhouse St. Thomas Aquinas, I can tell you that JH has all the tools to be that No. 1 back for FIU.
FIU commit Kedrick Rhodes will no doubt have a say in the running back competition come fall camp. Rhodes, who also had offers from several BCS schools also has the package of speed and shiftiness that Harden possesses.
Harden, Berry, Perry, Mallary and Turner will get a head start on impressing for the RB job in spring practice. But keep an eye on Rhodes in August, because from what other media and coaches are saying the kid is legit.
$.03 for 2010: If the success of the offensive line is the most important component to FIU's offensive success in 2010, then the running game is a close No. 2. FIU needs much better production on the ground to not only have opponents from teeing off on Wesley Carroll, but to control the ball and keep the FIU D fresh on the sidelines. Going into camp, Harden might be the favorite for the top RB job.