FIU could have its new defensive coordinator in place by the end of the week. It's looking like it might be Central Florida linebackers coach/recruiting coordinator Geoff Collins who could up being the new FIU DC.
Collins (left) turned around one of the worst defenses at Western Carolina as DC. He also helped bring the best recruiting class in Alabama's history as the Tide's director of player personnel. Not too shabby a resume.
Until we know for sure, here's a preliminary list of possible offensive coordinator candidates that I'm hearing about to replace Bill Legg -- now the OC at Marshall. These names are in no such order so don't think anyone is more of a leading candidate than the next guy. MC said last week he would like to have the DC in place before moving on to the OC.
Charlie Weatherbie - former ULM head coach
Rob Spence - former Clemson offensive coordinator and Syracuse OC
Gregg Brandon - former Bowling Green OC under Urban Meyer and Virginia OC
Shane Montgomery - Akron OC
Mike Cassano - FIU running backs coach
Mike Groh - Alabama offensive GA and former Virginia OC.
These are just some of the first names to emerge for the OC spot. There will be some more to eventually surface and will get them on here.
PantherPride: Pete, what exactly happened with Kambriel Willis? Wasn't happy at FIU? Academics?
PP: From what I can tell you, it was just not a good fit for both parties (KW & FIU).
Baltimorepanther & FIU Rage: Hi Pete, can you please give us some information on any of the players transfering?
PP: Outside of KW, there aren't expected to be any other transfers.
Miri: Pete, did you see how Antwan Barnes helped the Ravens get into the playoffs? They had a nice report on him on (I think?) ESPN on Sunday night. They said that it looks like he will play in the next game. It's very nice to see Antwan get some playing time and attention as well. Was he hurt?
PP: El Monstruo was not hurt. Ravens coach John Harbaugh and EM did not see eye to eye at the beginning of the season. Apparently, it has been patched up. During one FIU spring practice last season, I was speaking to a Ravens coach that was at FIU to evaluate some Panthers and he said the Ravens expected big things from Barnes this season and the coaching staff did not just see him as a special teams player. Antwan plays one of his favorite QBs to sack this Sunday in the playoffs. The Ravens take on the Patriots and Tom Brady, who Antwan sacked twice in one game (photo, right).
Julias P.: Hey Pete - Whatever happened to Ricky Booker?
PP: Booker was let go from the team more than one year ago. He also did not enroll at FIU. He had off-field issues.
gpantera: PETE, Is Mike Shula a good option at OC? Didn't he do a decent job at Alabama?
Aren't some of his players playing in this year's national championship game? He's currently the QB coach at Jacksonville...a move to FIU would be a step-up, no?
PP: Shula (photo, left) would be a great option at OC and would even give the annual Shula Bowl a different twist. Considering the NCAA trouble he inherited at Alabama and cleaned up for Nick Saban, Shula did a great job with the Tide. Yes, he has several players playing in the national title game. Not so sure, going from Jaguars QB coach to FIU OC would be a step up. Considering, Shula might be looking for an NFL OC or head coaching job. Plus, FIU does not have the alumni money to pay Shula.
We're less than a month away from National Signing Day and seeing who are your newest Panthers. Like we did last season, we'll start looking at each position regarding FIU recruiting as we count down the days until February 3 when the faxes start rolling into MC's office.
Much like the 2009 season and beyond the defensive line will have a huge impact in determining how successful FIU is each season. The play of the 2009 line was average with some young talent emerging.
Let's look at the DL, but first your OFFICIAL COUNTDOWN TO NSD: 30 DAYS.
One glaring spot that FIU lacked last season was that massive, agile defensive tackle to occupy some offensive bodies and allow the talented Panthers linebackers room to operate.
Maybe this coming season is the time that young defensive linemen such as Andre Pound, Donnell Wilson take that next step. Freshman-turning-sophomore Josh Forney is also another candidate to emerge.
Probably the more productive D-linemen last season were Tourek Williams (above, left, thanks Alex J. Hernandez photo) and Andrew Mattox (right, AJH photo). Thatcher Starling had a few games where he showed his potential.
James Jones, coming back from surgeries, was not 100 percent last season, but may get there by spring practice and into August.
Not having Reggie Jones or Jonathan Jackson all season certainly hurt the D-line's play. Jackson is recovering from foot surgery and might be back for spring practice, if not by fall camp in August.
Kasey Smith is one of the more intriguing Panthers D-linemen yet to make an impact. KS was hurt, but when healthy showed he can make plays on the D-line.
Schley at 210 doesn't really have the size for the DL. Schley also was a tight end in high school and maybe offense is in his future as a Panther.
Of course, the ultimate signee would be Northwestern's Todd Chandler, but FIU is not at the top of his list, even though the Panthers are on TC's list.
And how the D-line is used in 2010 will depend on what the new defensive coordinator's plans are for the FIU D. Nothing new with DC interviews as of today. Although Tuskegee defensive coordinator Reginald Ruffin and Wisconsin defensive line coach Charlie Partridge might be on their way to Miami to interview.
$.03 for 2010 -- Not all the players are in place yet for the D-line to be a strength of the FIU D. However, the majority of the D-line will be sophomores and juniors so there should be more size and experience for the Panthers. The only senior on the D-line in 2010 will be Starling. With a new defensive scheme, the new D-coordinator could also help in getting the D-line to take the next step. And of course, signing Chandler upgrades the entire line instantly.
The coordinator interviews continue as your Panthers are in the process of finding new defensive and offensive coordinators. More on that in a second. But first, a nice start to the new year for Golden Dazzler Vanessa.
One of our GPP readers e-mailed me some links with a couple of features regarding Vanessa.
In mid-October, Vanessa was selected as Sports Illustrated's Cheerleader of the Week. As SI's Cheerleader of the Week, the magazine/website shot a photo gallery of Vanessa which ended up being one of the most visited pages on the Sports Illustrated website this past year. If you haven't visited her gallery on si.com, then click here: Vanessa's photo gallery
Vanessa was also selected by Coed Magazine as one of "66 Women Who Wowed 2009". You can check out Vanessa and the other 65 notable women of 2009 by clicking here: 66 Women Who Wowed 2009
Now to the potential coaches that hope to wow the FIU defense in 2010. The defensive coordinator interviews are still ongoing this week. With the offensive coordinator interviews expected to begin at some point next week.
Besides the coaches mentioned in the previous football post on the GPP: Illinois's Dan Disch, Kansas's Clint Bowen, Akron's Jim Fleming and Vince Okruch, there are a few other candidates joining the interview process for the open DC job: former Western Kentucky head coach David Elson, William & Mary defensive coordinator Bob Shoop and Central Florida linebackers coach and recruiting coordinator Geoff Collins.
This is just a preliminary list of potential DCs. There might be several more to get into the mix, especially with some teams still preparing for bowl games. We'll have to wait and see.
You can check out each of the 7 coaches' bios and coaching experiences at their team's website or by typing the coach's name at google.com.
Read up on the first 7 DC candidates to emerge and vote in our poll: