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19 posts from March 2011

March 31, 2011

FIU recruit Wozniak named to Parade All-America Basketball Team

Sharp-shooter Tanner Wozniak -- the FIU recruit who will compete in this weekend's CBS/Maxpreps 3-point contest in Houston -- has been named fourth-team All-American in Parade's prestigious annual list.

Wozniak, a Keswick Christian senior who averaged 32 points per game as a senior, is one of just two Florida players recognized by Parade.

The other: Winter Park's Austin Rivers, the Duke-bound guard considered the No. 1 overall prospect in the Class of 2011.

March 30, 2011

Andrew Green named FIU's director of football ops

As I try to play catch-up, wanted to bring you this bit of (slightly old) news: Andrew Green has been named the football program's  director of football operations.

Green, who spent the previous three years as the administrative assistance to head coach Mario Cristobal, replaces Tony Egues, who left the team shortly after the season.

Spring Game -- Saturday at 10:30 a.m.

After a long, winding trip through the NCAA Tournament, back in the FIU saddle -- and just in time, as we've got the annual Blue & Gold Spring Game Saturday at 10:30 a.m.

FIUSports.com has a full run-down of all the giveaways, and watch for a preview of the game in Thursday's Miami Herald.

And if that isn't enough to get you fired up, here's this promotional video sent out by the program Tuesday:

March 25, 2011

Baseball update | March 24, 2011

Fresh off a 14-8 win over North Florida, the FIU baseball team heads into a weekend showdown, hosting Sun Belt Conference leading Western Kentucky Friday at 7 p.m.

The Panthers (14-9) scored 14 runs, including a season-high four home runs against the Ospreys on Wednesday. FIU stating pitcher Kyle Fitzpatrick (2-1) recorded the win, striking out six in five innings of work.

It was the first win for Fitzpatrick since pitching a no-hitter on March 2.

Lefty Phil Haig (3-0, 4.40 ERA) gets the start for the Panthers on Friday. Haig struggled in his last outing, giving up five runs on seven hits in 6.1 innings pitched to rival FAU.

The Hilltoppers, riding a six-game winning streak onto SW 8 st., will counter with lefty Tanner Perkins (4-1, 2.43 ERA). Perkins has been the Hilltoppers' ace this season, recording 28 strike outs and surrendering four walks in 33.1 innings pitched.


March 23, 2011

Q&A with coach Mario Cristobal

I put together a short Q&A with coach Mario Cristobal below from an interview I did after Wednesday's practice.

A little bit about what you did in practice today?

"Third-down red zone live work. Live action as well. All our packages on defense. Went short yardage. A complete day. We want to make sure every single practice going forward we are having a complete practice and we hit every phase."

Anything stand out to you today?

"We got to see Elijah Maxey back healthy. He got dinged up early in spring. He came back today. Made a couple of real nice plays...Playing physical ball. Winston Fraser is starting to play real good football. Anthony Gaitor did a lot of things for us last year and we want to have a lot of different body types that can do the same type of stuff with different personnel groups. We are cross training a lot of guys. They have done a great job taking in the information. We are going to push them to the limit all spring."

Anyone stepping up at line backer to replace Toronto Smith?

"I mean, they are all doing a good job, every single one of them. They all bring something different to the table. We are going to demand more from them. Our line backer productivity has to continue going up. We lost a real good player in Toronto Smith. We have a lot of young athletic, physically gifted guys that are putting in the work and putting in the extra time. We expect our line backer core to get better. It's continual work. They are putting in the effort."

How do you see the defense coming along under new defensive coordinator Todd Orlando?

"They are doing a good job. I feel real good about the ones [first-team]. They are out there, they know what they are doing. They twos are flashing, especially at the defensive line position. Which you always want to have a whole ton of depth at. I think for the first time in a long time, i don't want to say we have legitimate depth but we do have a couple of guys that can go in there and play and we can win with. We need to develop another 3 or 4 guys that can do that. Our defensive secondary I think is playing good football. They are extremely athletic, fast and can close on the ball. We want to have that next level defense."


March 22, 2011

Panthers fall at North Florida

The Panthers' baseball team fell 6-3 at North Florida on Tuesday. The Panthers (13-9) trailed the entire game after starting pitcher Michael Ellis (0-1) struggled giving up five runs in 2.2 innings of work.

Down 5-0 to start the sixth innings, the Panthers briefly rallied behind a three-run home run by catcher Jose Behar.

After starting the season winning 10 of their first 12 games, the Panthers have hit a rough patch losing 7 of their last 10 contests.

The Panthers face will North Florida again on Wednesday at 4 p.m. Boxscore


March 21, 2011

Spring practice resumes Tuesday

Getting back into town today after missing last week on furlough (week off no pay). The football team kicks off the second half of spring practice Tuesday afternoon.

Practice starts at 3:30 p.m. I set up a live blog for the start of practice. Post questions below.


March 14, 2011

FIU recruit Wozniak to compete in national 3-point contest

Tanner Wozniak, a Class of 2011 commitment to FIU, has been selected as participant in the National High School Slam Dunk & 3-Point Competition.

The shootout will be held April 1, and televised by CBS at 5:30 p.m. on CBS.

"I was excited to hear that I was one of eight players chosen nationally to compete in 3-Point competition," Wozniak said on his website.  "I've worked very hard over the years for the opportunity and I'm very honored by the selection and I'm looking forward to the competition in Houston."

Wozniak recently finished off his career at Keswick Christian School with 1,937 points. The 6-5, 190-pound guard averaged 32.1 points per game as a senior.

March 12, 2011

Panthers defeat Aggies 2-1 in extra innings

The FIU baseball team defeated No. 14 Texas A&M 2-1 Saturday afternoon in College Station, Texas. The Panthers' Bryam Garcia closed out the game, striking out the Aggies' Matt Juengel in the bottom of the 10th inning.

FIU, who last beat Texas A&M in 1995, took a 1-0 lead into the bottom of the eighth inning behind starting pitcher R.J. Fondon. Fondon pitched 7 1/3 innings, striking out seven and giving up six hits.

The Aggies countered with Michael Wacha, who pitched seven innings, giving up three hits and a run. Wacha raised his ERA to a minuscule 0.67 in 27 innings of work.

FIU will play the final game of the series, Sunday at 2:05 p.m. The Panthers' Danny DeSimone (2-1, 2.45 ERA) will face the Aggies' Dylan Mendoza (2-0, 0.64 ERA).


Panthers fall in extra innings

FIU nearly knocked off No. 14 Texas A&M Friday night losing 6-5 in extra innings. The Panthers (11-4) had an early 2-0 lead off Aggies' starting pitcher John Stilson. Stilson ran into trouble early, falling 2-0  in the top of first inning when designated hitter Mike Martinez hit a line-drive to center field scoring Jeremy Patton and Garrett Wittels.

Stilson, who had a combined 28 strike outs in his first three outings, gave up a season-high four runs to FIU. FIU starter Phil Haig gave up five runs in six innings of work, striking out four and surrendering two walks.

The Aggies bounced back in the bottom of the first inning, tying the game. Texas A&M would go on to take a 4-2 lead in the home-half of the third inning when Jacob House scored Matt Juengel from third base on a ground out.

FIU rallied to tie the game in the top of fifth, when Patton hit a two-run home run off Stilson. The Aggies would once again retake the lead in the bottom of the fifth when Mark House hit a home run to make the score 5-4.

Wittles, leading the team with 17 RBI, tied the game in the seventh, plating Pablo Bermudez after hitting the ball down the right-field line.

The game remained tied 5-5 going into the home-half of the 10th inning when short stop Kenny Jackson singled in the winning run off FIU's Aaron Arboleya (1-1). Boxscore

FIU will play the second-game of the three-game series Saturday at 3:05 p.m. The Panthers' R.J. Fondon (1-1, 5.23 ERA) takes on the Aggies' Michael Wacha (2-1, 0.45 ERA).


March 09, 2011

Fitzpatrick earns national player of the week honors

FIU's Kyle Fitzpatrick was honored with the Louisville Slugger and NCBWA Pro-Line Athletic National Player of the Week award for pitching a no-hitter last week.

Fitzpatrick was also named Sun Belt pitcher of the week.

Fitzpatrick struck out five and only surrendered a walk in the Panthers' 4-0 win on March 2.

Fitzpatrick's autographed hat was sent to the College Baseball Hall of Fame.


Spring practice report | Wednesday, March 9

The Panthers have a day off from practice today. Below, I put together what I feel would be somewhat close to an offensive depth chart for next season.

We all know that, Wes, T.Y. and a few other guys are virtually guaranteed a starting spot, but there are still a few places where it is yet to be decided who will be the starter.

Projected depth chart offense

DSC_0214 QB Wesley Carroll (center, with Medlock to the right)

I ensure you, there is no QB controversy this off-season. After last season's success, Wesely Carroll will likely return as the Panthers' starting quarterback. Carroll was 226 of 367 with 16 touchdowns and 14 interceptions last season. The job is Carroll's to lose and I do not see that happening. Jake Medlock has looked good at times and bad at others.

As a matter of fact, Carroll has not been all that impressive either but things are still early in spring practice. Third-string quarterback Blaine Dalton is still trying to learn the offense.

"Going into the spring we feel so comfortable with the offense," Carroll said after practice on Monday.

RB Jeremiah Harden (right) DSC_0170

  Harden only played seven games last year after being hampered by some injuries. Harden rushed for 327 yards and a touchdown. Both Darriet Perry and Darrien Mallary are back for 2011. I expect there will be some healthy competition in the back field. Perry was a monster last year, rushing for close to 900 yards and 16 touchdowns. Mallary rushed for 712 yards.

Mallary has been limited this spring, recovering from an injury he sustained during the bowl game. FIU will probably use the same three running back attack they used last year.

Expect Perry to continue being the goal-line back, with Harden and Mallary adding some speed on first and second downs.

WR T.Y. Hilton - of course

WR Jacob Younger

DSC_0167 WR Wayne Times/Willis Wright (left)

It will be interesting to see who will emerge to replace Greg Ellingson. Ellingson was a one of Carroll's favorite targets. Jacob Younger has made some plays in spring practice so far.

"You have guys like Jacob Younger now who is one of the veteran receivers. Wayne Times coming into his third year," Carroll said. "Glen Coleman looks really good right now, running good routs and catching the ball well. Willis Wright has continued to improve. We have to move forward. We have to progress."

Willis Wright has shown he is a big target out there. Glenn Coleman has also made some plays.

I asked Carroll if any of the receivers have started to step and try to take over for Greg Ellingson.

"It's extremely hard to replace a Greg Ellingson. He complemented T.Y. extremely well," Carroll said. "It really put defenses in a bind. He is certainly going to be missed. There is plenty of talent to take over where he left off. Greg had a extremely good year last season because what he did in the off-season. These guys need to take that lead."

TE Jonathan Faucher

With Dudley LePorte out, Faucher looks like the solid pick at tight end. Faucher will have some competition from Junior Delpe, Joey Harris and Colt Anderson.

DSC_0232 LT Caylin Hauptmann (right) - Lock at LT

Anyone's guess from here down.

LG Kevin Van Kirk -

C Giancarlo Revilla/Ceedrick Davis

RG Revilla

RT Rupert Bryan Jr.

 I could see Davis playing some significant time, but the big fella still needs to improve on a few things.

Revilla has done well at center.

The entire offensive line, even Caylin, have been bounced around during spring, so there is no definitive answer as to who will start just yet.


March 07, 2011

FIU Men's Basketball season ends with thud

While many of you were sleeping, Isiah Thomas' second season came to an abrupt -- and painful -- conclusion at the Sun Belt Conference tournament with a 73-38 rout at the hands of Middle Tennessee.

Now, the inevitable debate begins: Will IT be back for No. 3?

Our media brethern up in New York seem to have made a cottage industry out of Isiah's continuing connections to the Knicks, and no doubt many of those rumors have been just that. But certainly, with a coach with Thomas' pedigree -- and his on-the-record remarks about a longing to get back to the Big Apple -- where there's smoke, there's at least embers, if not an entire fire.

Last week, before the Panthers headed to Hot Springs, I chatted with FIU's head coach about this year -- and of course, got a question in there about his future. For what it's worth, he gave all the right signs about remaining at FIU.

Q: How has this year gone for you?

IT: "Actually, it’s been a good year. In terms of recruiting, in terms of building the program, establishing the way we want to play. I’m very excited about the future, in terms of what we have coming in, what we’ll have staying, what we’ll be able to add. Like Al McGuire said, the best thing is freshmen become sophomores. I think the experience that this group has gotten is definitely going to make them better."

Do you think you're improving as a coach?

"I think you always improve. This is a game you never master, and it’s a game you always try to get better. You always try to learn something new and every game you coach, you get better."

What's one thing that’s surprised you this year?

"I think the level of play in the Sun Belt is very underrated. It’s not a big-man’s league, but 6-7 and under, you better bring a lunch because they scrap and they go after it. The thing that this league doesn’t have is the dominant bigs, but out on the perimeter, you better bring a lunch."

Do you think you'll be a better coach next year?

"Every year in basketball that you have, you get better. You just keep acquiring knowledge. It’s like the more you go to school, the smarter you get. Some people. The longer you do it, the more experience you have. The thing that’s really helped me this year is I’ve learned my kids. I’ve learned what they can and can’t do, and having as many close games as we’ve played, I know who can do what and when they can do, as opposed to having to guess about it."

Do you think you need one or two more guys to emerge?

"That’s all recruiting. This is really our first class, and these guy, when you look at Ferguson, Allen, DeJuan, Taylor, Pack, Bell, these guys, that’s a nice foundation that they have. You add a couple of big pieces to it next year, we have a nice little foundation here."

Do you think there will be more noise surrounding you this summer?

"It seems to always be that way."

March 04, 2011

Spring Game moved to April 2

FIU has moved its annual Spring Game from April 1 to April 2, the program announced Friday. The game begins at 10:30 a.m.

The move was made because the original date conflicted with the Marlins' season opener.

Also, the Panthers will hold a scrimmage this Saturday that's open to the public. It begins at 9:30 a.m.

March 03, 2011

Pictures from Spring Football | Day 1

I took some pictures of the first day of practice.Hope you guys enjoy.


Practice football
Coach Mario Cristobal talks to one of his players before the start of practice on Thursday.

WR Willis Wright catches a pass.

Big nasties getting after it in practice.

More of the big nasties getting after it in practice.

DSC_0235 New FIU defensive coordinator Todd Orlando, center in blue.

LB Pooh Bear Mars, #3, standing next to LB Caleb Vincent.

Offensive lineman Caylin Hauptmann at practice.

DB Junior Mertile waits for the play to begin.

Start of practice

Offensive line practicing with QB Wes Carroll in red. OL coach Alex Mirabal, left in hat.


March 02, 2011

Spring practice starts Thursday afternoon

I know all you Panther fans out there have been eagerly awaiting the start of spring football.

Wait no more!!!

Practice gets under way Thursday at 3:30 p.m.

Unfortunately, practice will be closed to the public.

Members of the media will be allowed to watch the entire practice. I will be posting updates and pictures as practice goes on.

Check back around 3:45 for the first round of updates. I might switch to a live blog if we are allowed to sit in the press box. It would be a mission to do a live blog from the side lines.

Just in case, I set up a cover it live in case I can live blog from the press box. We most likely will be on the field for the first 15-30 minutes, so I'll start the live blog when I have a chance to get settled in.

If you want to participate before I start updating the blog, post comments and questions below and I'll try to answer them to the best of my ability.


Fitzpatrick makes history with no-hitter

Kyle_Fitzpatrick_Nohitter FIU's Kyle Fitzpatrick (left, photo courtesy Mat Ratner) pitched a no-hitter against Northeastern, Wednesday night at FIU Stadium. Fitzpatrick (1-0) had five strike outs and a walk in the Panthers' 4-0 win.

Fitzpatrick is first Panthers to pitch a no-hitter since Chris Lein no-hit Eckerd College in 1979.

Offensively for FIU, Pablo Bermudez was 2 of 5 with a run. Short stop Garrett Wittels was 1 for 4 with a run and a RBI.

First baseman Mike Martinez was 3 for 4, including connecting on his third double of the season. The Panthers had 12 hits in the game.

The Panthers (8-2), riding a seven-game winning streak, face Seton Hall, Friday at 6 p.m.



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.

March 01, 2011

FIU 2011 Football Schedule Released

Much more to come, but wanted to get this out as soon as I got it …

FIU 2011 Football Schedule

Thursday, Sep. 1: North Texas at FIU, 7 p.m. (ESPN3)

Friday, Sept. 9: FIU at Louisville, 7 p.m. (ESPN)

Saturday, Sept. 17: UCF at FIU, TBA

Saturday, Sept. 24: ULL at FIU, TBA

Saturday, Oct. 1: Duke at FIU, TBA

Saturday, Oct. 8: FIU at Akron, TBA

Week of Oct. 15: BYE

Tuesday, Oct. 18: FIU at Arkansas State, 8 p.m. (ESPN2)

Tuesday, Oct. 25: Troy at FIU, 8 p.m. (ESPN2)

Saturday, Nov. 5: FIU at Western Kentucky, TBA

Saturday, Nov. 12: FAU at FIU, TBA

Saturday, Nov. 19: FIU at ULM, TBA

Saturday, Nov. 26: FIU at MTSU, TBA

Week of Dec. 5: BYE

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