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FIU Spring Football: What To Watch For

Believe it or not, the 2011 season unofficially kicks off Thursday. Sure, the first game isn't for another six months, as we learned officially Tuesday.

But preparations begin in earnest Thursday with the first of 15 spring practices, all leading up to the Spring Game on April 1. Look for my profile of T.Y. Hilton and his supportive family in Thursday's Herald.

There will be a ton of storylines as the Golden Panthers mount their defense of their Sun Belt crown. Here are a few of them.

1. What's Todd Orlando's plan? FIU's new defensive coordinator inherits the conference's best unit from Geoff Collins, who's now at Mississippi State. Collins was a gambler, drawing up blitzes using FIU's athletic linebackers. Will Orlando do the same?

2. New faces, different places. While the bulk of FIU's recruiting class won't arrive on campus until August, there will be some fresh blood thrown into the mix. Junior-college transfers Tevin Blanchard (CB, Itawamba CC) and Jordan Hunt (LB, Co-Lin CC) will join freshmen already on campus Richard Leonard (CB, Killian) and Elijah Maxey (LB/S, Raines) on the field for the first time as Panthers.

3. All healed up? FIU was relatively lucky on the injury front last year, with their two major losses coming before the season even began. Neither linebacker Larvez 'Pooh Bear' Mars (ankle, car accident) nor right guard Kevin Van Kirk (knee) saw a single snap in 2010. If healthy, both are expected to play major roles on the 2011 squad.


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