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32 posts from August 2011

August 13, 2011

Friday Night Lite Bites

Some morsels to chew on from Friday night's scrimmage, where FIU quarterbacks threw as many interceptions in 108-112 plays (Cristobal estimate on the play count) as Dolphins quarterback Chad Henne did in four possessions up in Atlanta. Also, where the FIU women's soccer team didn't lose a preseason game to Jacksonville 2-1, althought that did happen Friday.

As noted in the story that'll probably be on http://www.miamiherald.com/sports soon, you'd have thought there was festival seating for a Lil Wayne concert in the offensive backfield and the defensive line was FIU Lil Wayne Fan Club. On the second play, defensive tackle Andre Pound marched up the middle with nary an "excuse me" and put the tag sack on Wesley Carroll. That pretty much set the tone. The count on the first four possessions, two by the first team, two by the second team: three sacks, a fumble, a drop, a penalty and minus 9 yards of offense.

A screen to Kedrick Rhodes netted 21 yards and might've gone all the way if center Giancarlo Revilla, hustling downfield to make a block, hadn't instead made an excellent, if unintentional, tackle by running into Rhodes with his full torso. Given that reprieve, the first team defense caused losses on three consecutive plays to end the possession.

Rhodes really got going only on one possession, though it seemed like more. On the fifth first-team possession, he ran for 9 up the middle; three plays later, showed a nice hop to the left and step to the right, er, uh, hop to the right through a hole and ran for 11. Rhodes, Darriet Perry and Darian Mallary all had moments, but spent most of the night trying to keep small gains from being small-to-medium losses.

6-9 Paul Crawford, a sophmore out of Carrollton, Texas, picked up two sacks and a holding penalty on offensive lineman Prince Matt, a freshman from Bradenton Manatee. Crawford says he's 260, 40 pounds up on when he enrolled a year ago, and wants to get to 280 or 290. Right now, he's got something of the Ted Hendricks build working -- all long arms and legs, with a kind of whipcord strength. Just like the Miami Springs-raised Hall of Famer from Hialeah High who holds the NFL record for blocked kicks, to not have Crawford on special teams is a waste of length. College field goals, especially from the hashes and close in, can require more precision than NFL kicks. Imagine doing that with a 6-9 guy leaping and waving his arms at you.

Aside from the running backs, the skill position guy who engaged in the most contact was second-team quarterback Jake Medlock, a redshirst freshman out of Jacksonville Fletcher. On a third and 8, he sprinted out, saw nothing to throw to, then tucked it under and met junior linebacker Kenneth Dillard at the first down marker. The equipment crash drew enthusiastic grunts or cheers, especially when it was clear Medlock had the first down. Three plays later, he dipped his head and shoulders into linebacker Jordan Hunt for a 6-yard gain, another first down, another demonstration that people like to translate as "That Medlock, he's not a quarterback, he's a real player." As if quarterbacks don't take a beating, too. Medlock was done in on a couple of drives by Jeremiah Harden and T.J. Lowder drops.

Pete Garcia's pal Butch Davis was in the house.

Redshirt freshman offensive lineman Jordan White jumped on a fourth-and-4 34 yards from the goal line. Thus endeth the drive. On a later, second team play, both the right tackle and tight end jumped. It was that kind of night for the offense.

Feeling pretty sleepy and practice is at 9:15 a.m. tomorrow. So, as you're probably reading this Saturday morning...





August 12, 2011

Mike Baiamonte: from FIU hoops PA to the Heat to FIU football PA

And, now, the circle is complete for Mike Baiamonte.

Baiamonte, whose signature voice and catchphrases have become Miami Heat home game trademarks over the last 21 years, began working the public address with the first FIU men's basketball team in 1981-82. This season, the FIU '86 grad will assume the PA for FIU's home football games.

Baiamonte said he "absolutely loved" doing the PA for last season's opener against Rutgers and was thrilled when athletic director Pete Garcia approached him recently about doing it permanently. So far, there are no scheduling conflicts with the Heat game schedule. The Heat special community events might be another story. Baiamonte said Garcia, "has been gracious about understanding the priority if there is a conflict." (The Heat trump).

As you'll find on this blog (probably to a nauseating degree), little fascinates me like time's passage and the changes it brings. Sometimes, I sit in the office of my South Beach apartment and count the buildings that didn't exist when we moved in here or when I first moved to South Beach. I did the same thing sitting in the FIU stadium press box during Monday's scrimmage with the buildings on campus. I counted 10 buildings that weren't here when I covered FIU before. I asked Baiamonte if he gets similar feelings. 

"Every time I go back to the campus, usually for a sporting event, I think, 'This is not the same place I went to school,' he said. "When I went to school, there were five buildings on campus. There's more parking garages now than there were buildings then. And I'm at a football game at an on campus facility...people used to fly airplanes there. You used to park your car there so you could walk to class."

And as for sports, Baiamonte had the mike for the first 12 years of FIU basketball. They used to play at Miami-Dade's Kendall campus, then called Dade-South, and that was probably their best home court before Sunblazer Arena/Golden Panther Arena/US Century Bank Arena/Whatever Too Big Too Fail Buys US Century Bank Arena.

"We'd play about anywhere we could find a place," he said. "We played at Miami Christian High School in Sweetwater. We played at the James L. Knight Center. That was the most surreal venue I've ever worked."

Because the Knight Center was set up for concerts, the crowd was behind Baiamonte, the court in front of him and a curtain across from him.

Give Garcia credit for stomping the gas when the engine looks strong. With a potentially fantastic football season on the horizon, Garcia pushed for the Hilton4Heisman campaign; brought in Rick Sanchez as radio color analyst, a move guaranteed to get attention and could be at least fun; got the Mario Cristobal extension done; and hired Baiamonte to add a sound many South Florida sports fans now associate with winning and a cool, party atmosphere.

It could all wind up like Senna at Imola. Hilton could get injured or just have a blah season. The close games that went FIU's way last year could go the other way. Sanchez could get too blustery, or, worse, just be flat and boring. But you don't go from outsider to out in front without putting yourself out there somewhat.

By the way, check out today's story on night vs. day FIU football at http://www.miamiherald.com/sports. Follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/DavidJNeal.

August 11, 2011

From practice in the darkness on the edge of town...

Overpriced colada in hand, I hit The Cage at Camp Mitch before 6 a.m. A few drips and drabs of information:

Wide receiver Rockey Vann's got a dislocated elbow and will be out a month, according to Mario Cristobal. Defensive lineman Jason Fitch has a sprained medial collateral ligament in his right knee that Cristobal put somewhere between a Grade 1 and a 2. Fitch hopped off the field on his left leg after one of the last plays of Monday's scrimmage and immediately one of the trainers began feeling around the knee, never a good sign. 

After today's Panther Preview shindig at 6:30 at the Stadium Club, the Panthers will have a full scrimmage at 7 p.m. after a closed special teams scrimmage in the morning.

(Yes, really. A closed special teams scrimmage. It's special teams, not special ops, Formula 7X or the Krabby Patty Formula. Just a hypothesis: they'll practice punts, kickoffs and returns of punts and kickoffs. They'll practice blocking schemes and kick blocking schemes, most of which will be revealed by the third game. As quarterback Wesley Carroll's the holder on field goals and extra points, they'll probably also practice a few fakes. Oh, and a reverse on a punt return and a fake reverse, both probably involving T.Y. HIlton. They'll also practice what to do on bad snaps from various points on the field. Because that's what really well prepared teams do.)

As for the scrimmage, expect more of a game tempo and setup than Monday's scrimmage.

"We need to get used to being on the field more than four, five or six plays," Cristobal said. "We nened to get used to going 12 plays, getting your water, be back on the field and execute."

The scrimmage being at night prompted me to ask Cristobal how he felt about FIU being a night game team at home.

"I'm a noon guy," he said. "Playing college (here) then watching Miami Dolphins...I remember the Dolphins would wear all white and watch those teams come down here in October and November and melt. I'm a big fan of that. But I know we have to do what we have to do to make sure we always do what's best for our university and fans pack the stadium as much as we can. But am I a fan of noon? Absolutely. Light it up, make it 110 degrees and play football."


August 10, 2011

Some soccer and baseball midday

Another day off, another chance to get some work done. But a couple of things popped up...

FIU put one player, junior defender Anthony Hobbs, on the preseason All-Conference USA team. The league's coaches ranked FIU eighth out of nine in the conference this season. So, down on the Modesto Madique Campus (Camp Mitch), the soccer guys can say, "Whatcha got to say about that, Memphis!"

Traditional power SMU is ranked No. 1 (five first place votes, FIU faces ) with Central Florida No. 2 (two votes), Tulsa (one) and South Carolina (one) coming behind, in that order. The men's soccer team's first preseason game is Sunday against Broward Community College and Saturday, Aug. 20, against Barry. Both are free. The season opener is Aug. 26, when they host Nova Southeastern.

The baseball team promoted Frank Damas to recruiting coordinator, and pulled in Alan Burr as strength and conditioning coordinator and Tommy Kanganis as director of baseball and softball operations. Burr was last the strength and conditioning coach at Central Connecticut State. Kanaganis just earned a masters at St. Thomas after being on the suit side with the Florida Panthers, the Dolphins and FAU's football operations department.

August 09, 2011

If you ask me, 9-3...and other things.

Today was listed as a day off for me, so I got a chance to get some work done.

One of the tasks assigned me for our preseason football sections is provide a short analysis and prediction on each FIU game. I'm supposed to do the same with the Dolphins. Going game-by-game, considering team matchups, location, point in the season, blah, blah, blah, I came up with FIU going 9-3, 6-2 in the Sun Belt. I went back over each game briefly, reconsidered and decided to stay on 9-3 and 6-2. You'll have to pick up the section smorgasbord to see when I thought the Golden Panthers would fail to get the job done.

No matter what I predict for a team, it's never personal, always business. It's part of what I do. In any sport, I might think a guy's an incredible athlete who'll make the difference for his team but also find him a pompous weenie who I'd like to lock in an outhouse with a weed whacker and a wolf. But if things appear to be aligned that way, I'll pick his team to win. That's part of my job -- tell you what I think is going to happen.

Now, I'm not stupid enough to consider any preseason prediction of mine something to be discussed in the same conversation with Revelations. OK, maybe I am stupid enough, but I'm not arrogant enough for that. So what's your call on this season? And which bowl, if any, do the Golden Panthers reach?

As I apoligized for the late blogs last night (early this a.m.), I apologize to the soccer fans for not getting more soccer on the blog yet. I'll do better in that regard or surrender my Juventus jersey to that netherworld that must have eaten my Real Madrid jersey back around 2004.

A few lines of scrimmage analysis

Some stuff from Monday's full pads scrimmage, which began in a light rain and closed in a clear buggy-ness that attempted to envelop and invade Coyote III in the parking lot. He wasn't happy. Neither was I.

(By the way, sorry I'm making this Late Night with David J. on my blog days. That's just the way we've had to work during the preseason, especially when practice ends in the late afternoon, there's no terribly breaking news, I still have to write the daily stuff for print and have to Eddie Arcaro the kid through dinner, teeth brushing and into bed. So, with The Crusaders' Southern Comfort album as soundtrack, I'll proceed...)

After a 70-yard bomb to T.Y. Hilton on the second play of the scrimmage, first team quarterback Wesley Carroll completed his next six passes for 90 yards and a 14-yard touchdown to Jairus Williams. As the rain stopped, Carroll arced a beautiful rainbow down the right sideline to Jacob Younger behind Jose Cheeseborough for 35 yards on a third and 2. Carroll threw well on the move to his left throughout the day. His next incompletion came on throw to the back of the end zone. The play after that, linebacker Christopher Edwards strung out Darian Mallary and Chuck Grace dropped Mallary for a loss of 3. A third down fade pattern to 6-2 Glen Coleman didn't work because 5-9 cornerback Richard Leonard wouldn't let Coleman big brother jerk him out of the way. On the next snap, sophomore linebacker Gregory Hickman blocked a 35-yard Dylan Lynch field goal attempt. Hickman also had a sack that ended the third 1s vs. 1s possession.

The day's John Mackey Award goes to tight end Colt Anderson, who caught a short ball from Carroll, then bounced through two tacklers the way the recently deceased Colts tight end used to do.

(Digression: Double shot of pain for old Baltimore Colts fans recently, with Mackey and Bubba Smith passing. Both were significant players in football history. Mackey was the first truly modern tight end -- fast enough to get deep and a big, powerful, bed-wetting nightmare for defensive players to tackle in the open field. That it took 20 years for him to be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame can be blamed in two things -- some old-time journalists resenting his role with the NFL Players Association and sheer ignorance. Bubba Smith was very good in the NFL, but awesome at Michigan State. Nobody wanted to face him on the field in college, nobody could fail to like him off the field. How did a 6-7 guy from Texas escape the old Southwest Conference? It was 1963. In a great HBO documentary on the integration of the SEC, ACC and SWC, Bubba told of talking to legendary Texas coach Darrell Royal about coming to Austin. Royal said he'd like to have Smith, but didn't know if he could get him a scholarship. Texas didn't have any black players. In fact, their 1969 national championship team would be the last national champion without black players. Bubba, who wanted to go to Texas like kids want to go to Disney World, summed up the pain and stupidity in racism when he recalled thinking "How is it you don't like me and you don't even know me?" Bubba took his personality and game to East Lansing, where he became BMOC, incredibly popular among students of all races, an All-American and staple on one of the greatest defenses in college football history. Michigan State crushed opponents with black players the SWC and SEC didn't want. Bubba would be the No. 1 overall pick in the 1967 common draft  between the AFL and NFL.)

Sophomore defensive tackle Isame Faciane had a nice scrimmage and drew a holding penalty on Shae Smith that wiped out a Carroll completion. But Faciane, 6-3, 290, said he's still getting used to playing with his added weight, 10 pounds since the spring, 45 pounds since the end of last season, and playing inside. When I was in college, I saw a lot of people try to get used to moving with an extra 45 pounds after their freshman year. Most weren't 6-3 and playing defensive tackle, although they could do to a Mother Bear's or Pizza Express pizza what I saw senior James Jones do to a few running backs Monday.

In the kicking game, kickoff edge to Dylan Lynch, kicking field goals edge to Jack Griffin. Griffin nailed a 47-yarder to trump Lynch's 40-yarder and a block of a Lynch attempt by Hickman (either because of Hickman's penetration or Lynch not getting the ball rising quickly enough). On the kickoffs, Lynch's greater height gives the coverage team time to get there. Though they only went to the 11-yard line or so, better that than Griffin's easily returned low liners to the 5.

Kedrick Rhodes ran for 34 yards on six carries. He said he's up 12 pounds over last season and worked on his speed and cutting with speed. It showed. Running back Jeremiah Harden had my favorite run of the day, actually a swing pass reception that he took up the sideline...and over a couple of defensive backs. Harden's 5-9, 200. Like Jim Brown said in one of his autobiographies, if you're big and fast, let them worry about living to fight another day.

For other stuff from the scrimmage, see the story at http://www.miamiherald.com/sports. For that story, let me correct that the walk-on quarterback is Fred Porter, not Frank. I had the roster in front of me, but did the writing version of misspoke.

T.Y. Hilton's on the Paul Hornung Award (most versatile player) watch list. Hey, a college award named after a player who was, wow, actually great in college! Hornung won the Heisman Trophy while at Notre Dame. In the NFL, he played running back, threw the occasional option pass and kicked. His 176 points in 1960, a 12-game season, stood as the NFL record for a single season until LaDainian Tomlinson broke it with 186 in a 16-game 2006 season. The award's given by the Louisville Sports Commission, which is why it's named after Louisville guy Hornung and not future Dolphins quarterback Bob Griese. Griese ran, passed, punted and kicked for Purdue (blecch) in 1966. The Boilermakers lost only to Notre Dame and Bubba Smith's senior year Michigan State team, both of which finished undefeated with only the blemish of their 10-10 tie on their records.

OK, since I referenced the truest form of my fellow Indianapolis native's late night show earlier, we'll close with a video from the last Late Night with David Letterman on NBC. From June 1993...


August 07, 2011

And on the seventh day, FIU started early...

...not as early as Thursday.South Westside-20110804-00073

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but Sunday's full pads deal got going well before the scheduled 8:30 practice time. Coach Mario Cristobal said it had to do with still being in finals for summer session, giving some of the kids the chance to get in, get out and study, rest or go to church. Cristobal's mentioned church or prayer each day I've spoken to him this week. What's interesting to me -- just as a personal observation, means nothing as far as, say, how good the linebackers are going to be -- is how it came in the normal flow of his speech. It wasn't forced, like he was trying to show off how important his faith is to him.

Monday will be the first scrimmage, at 3:30. I won't live blog unless ordered to do so. For a scrimmage, I'd rather keep my usual detailed notes, observe for the blog and daily story and throw out the occasional Tweet.

The Sunday-for-Monday newspaper/website daily story is on Wesley Carroll. Carroll didn't participate much in team drills Sunday.
"We didn't go live on him," Cristobal said. "The other quarterbacks went live. And for a reason. We've got to get used to getting guys on the ground. We're playing so many young defensvie guys, you hate for them to get in the habit of getting to the quarterback and tagging off. It's a whole different dynamic when he ducks and shrugs out of there. At the same time, these young quarterbacks haven't played yet. They need to get hit."

That obviously didn't help the first team offense, which went three-and-out against the first team defense on the first two series. Cristobal says the offense has expanded by 40 percent since the end of last season. That plus with the usual trend of defense being ahead of offense early in camp and the two three-and-outs add up under the Neal math to equal, "Ehhh."

They ran 27 plays of team drills. "We are taking a lot of the freshman and putting them in with the ones and twos just to see where they're at," Cristobal said. Asked who has "flashed" (a trending piece of coachspeak over the last three years that just begs for juvenile jokes that shouldn't be made) among the freshmen, Cristobal named defensive linemen Denzel Perrine, Giovani Francois, Cody Horstman and Aaron Neilsen; linebacker Luis Rosado; Miami Killian graduate and cornerback Richard Leonard; wide receivers Dominique Rhymes and Clint Taylor, both out of Miami Northwestern; wide receiver T.J. Lowder; and running back Shane Coleman. Cristobal called Coleman "one of the faster players."

Running back Torrence Seymour, a redshirt senior out of Varela High, hopped to the locker room with assistance with what looked like a right knee injury.

Cristobal said kicker Jack Griffin is in competition for the punting job with returning punter Josh Brisk and Dylan Lynch. "No hesitation in making that move if he wins the punting job as well." He said he wanted to see Griffin really improve on kickoffs. Borrowing from baseball, Cristobal joked it would be great if Griffin were a "three-tool player" -- kicking scores, kicking off, punting. Of course, he might just be trying to remove any comfort level from Brisk.

As far as long-snapper, an underrated position until a screwed up snap costs you a playoff spot (Cincinnati Bengals, one year) or a playoff game (Dallas vs. Seattle, Jan. 2007), it's a battle between two west coast products -- junior Mitch MacClugage from Naples Barron Collier High and redshirt freshman Nick Thorstenson, a redshirt freshman from Naples Lely High. MacClugage has the experience edge, filling in some last season, but long snapper is all about bottom line dependability right now. You blow two snaps, the other guy blows none, he wins. You snap perfectly, the other guy throws back a couple of low ones, you win.

I'm on Twitter at http://twitter.com/DavidJNeal



August 05, 2011

Friday practice report

Day 3 of fall camp kicked off at 9:15 am Friday morning. The players went through their usual stretching and individual work before coming together for some team practice. According to Panthers coach Mario Cristobal, the team continued splitting half the field and using two units at a time to get some early looks a number of the players both on offense and defense. Day 3 marked the first day the Acristo players were in shoulder pads so far in fall camp. 

"The upper pads were on today. We call it thud tempo. It is live, we just aren't going to the ground," Cristobal said. "Years of recruiting have allowed us to obtain the types of athletes that can practice at a very high tempo but can stay off the ground to prevent injuries."

"We continue to go two sets of teams, meaning two sets of offense and two sets of defense going at the same time to increase the amount of reps we can get," he added.

New and Notes


Early in practice, all five quarterbacks worked on passing drills simultaneously. The five stood shoulder to shoulder, throwing passes to five receivers that were each running a different route. Of the three freshmen QBs, Akil Dan-Fodio showed he has the speed to run the ball of the pocket. Dan-Fodio, from Stone Mountain, Ga., was able to run past the defense during one of the drills.

"They are all doing a good job. Every single one is a student of the game," Cristobal said after practice on Thursday. "They are getting significant reps as well which they have to take advantage of. There is going to be a point in camp where we'll have to trim it down to who are those two or three guys that are going to get the bulk of the reps. With the first two getting 80 percent of the reps."

Barring some unforeseen development, it is a good bet that Wesley Carroll (right) will start again. Carroll, who FIUfootball 03 Seven PAB is a senior this year, should take a step forward this season with an added season of experience in Cristobal's spread offense. Jake Medlock, a red-shirt freshman, will most likely be the back up.

"We are looking at guys that are either going help us win this year or can develop into good players to help us be a better program in the future," Cristobal added.


Cristobal spoke little about losing Anthony Gaitor and what he brought to the team.

"It's football. Everyone has to do it every year. You have good players and they move on. A guy like that was here for four years so he knew us inside and out. He represented and epitomized what the program was about. Hard work and becoming a champion. What you do is throughout the course of Anthony's career he's constantly grooming those kids behind him. He's constantly teaching them. He still texts and calls these guys all the time to let them understand what they have to uphold," Cristobal said. 

Cristobal feels there is enough depth in the secondary to help cushion the effect of losing Gaitor.

"There are enough guys back there that collectively we will and must come up with a solution," he added.

Jonathan Cyprien, who led the team with 113 tackles last season, is wearing Gaitor's #7 this season.


Offensive linemen Ceedrick Davis and James Wiggins wore the orange injury jersey on Friday.


Saturday's practice will be at 8:30 a.m.

Justin Azpiazu

Follow me on twitter @JustinAzpiazu

August 04, 2011

Defensive position battles Day 2

Line backer

There is still no word on who will replace former line backer Toronto Smith

“It’s tough. Obliviously not only what [Smith] does as a football player but also his leadership qualities,” Cristobal said.

Cristobal mentioned he expects junior line backer Markeith Russell “to take a step up.”

“There is a lot of good young talent that was sitting behind [Smith] waiting for their turn and learning,” Cristobal said.


In the defensive back field, new defensive coordinator Todd Orlando has several options to replace safety Ash Parker. Orlando mentioned he is pleased with the way senior Chuck Grace has progressed.

 “Chuck has done a real solid job for us. He’s a guy that knows our packages,” Orlando said. “We have the flexibility to move Cyp [Jonathan Cyprien] if we need to. We have the flexibility to move a couple other defensive backs that have some skill sets at safety.”

Orlando went on to say that it is still early in camp to decide on starters and that the coaching staff needs to see the players in pads to get a clearer picture. 

Justin Azpiazu

Follow me on twitter @JustinAzpiazu

Line backer


There is still no word on who will replace former line backer Toronto Smith. 


“It’s tough. Obliviously not only what [Smith] does as a football player but also his leadership qualities,” Cristobal said.


Cristobal mentioned he expects junior line backer Markeith Russell “to take a step up.”


“There is a lot of good young talent that was sitting behind [Smith] waiting for their turn and learning,” Cristobal said.




In the defensive back field, new defensive coordinator Todd Orlando has several options to replace safety Ash Parker. Orlando mentioned he is pleased with the way senior Chuck Grace has progressed.


“Chuck has done a real solid job for us. He’s a guy that knows our packages,” Orlando said. “We have the flexibility to move Cyp [Jonathan Cyprien] if we need to. We have the flexibility to move a couple other defensive backs that have some skill sets at safety.”


Orlando went on to say that it is still early in camp to decide on starters and that the coaching staff needs to see the players in pads to get a clearer picture. 

Fall camp day 2 quick blast

Going to keep this morning's post relatively short. I spoke with Panthers' coach Mario Cristobal about Pooh Bear Mars and recruit Corey Tindal.

Pooh Bear is listed on the roster but has not participated in practice yet. Freshman defensive back Richard Leonard is currently wearing  #3 on the field, which was Mars' number last season.

"[Pooh Bear is] doing OK. He has some things he has to take care of. He has to take care of some academic work as well. It's a work in progress. His injury was obviously very significant. Pooh Bear is a great kid," Cristobal said.

On the Corey Tindal front

I was surprised when I was looking over the roster last night that Corey Tindal's name was missing. I asked the FIU information staff if he had been over looked but they assured me the roster was accurate. I spoke with Cristobal about Tindal this morning and learning that he is having some issues with eligibility.

"Still waiting [for Tindal]. Cristobal said. "NCAA eligibility center issues, which is typical this time of year with some of the signees. We are waiting, hopefully things will get worked out."

Crisotbal could not comment further on the matter and there is no time table for Tindal joining the team.

Check back later tonight for a full camp report.

Justin Azpiazu

Follow me on Twitter @JustinAzpiazu

August 03, 2011

First day of fall camp report

Practice began a little bit earlier then the scheduled 3:30 p.m. start time due to some nasty looking clouds that were hovering over FIU Stadium. Players started their warm ups around 2:40 Wednesday, but practice was cut short when the lightning alarms sounded. The coaches took the players off the field and under the bleachers for cover. For obvious reasons, the players and coaches have to clear the field for at least 30 minutes when an alarm sounds.

Practice continued under the bleachers for nearly an hour until the all clear was given. The Panthers briefly made it back to the field when a second lightning alarm sent the team back under the bleachers. It looked like practice would be cancelled but the weather cleared enough for a short hour-long practice after the delay. Due to the shortened day, practice will started tomorrow at 6:00 a.m. at FIU Stadium (Practice is not open to the public.)

News and notes from day 1


Panthers coach Mario Cirstobal (right) feels the team injury wise is starting fall camp "pretty good." 

Senior offensive lineman James Wiggins is recovering from offseason surgery.

Senior offensive lineman Kevin Van Kirk has healed well from knee surgery and was not limited in practice.

Sophomore line backer Larvez "Pooh Bear" Mars participated in practice and was not limited.

I need to double check the Pooh Bear item, I was almost positive I saw him out on the field but I might be wrong.

Checked up on Pooh Bear this morning, seems he did in fact miss yesterday's practice. No word yet on why Pooh has been out. Both Pooh Bear and Richard Leonard are sharing number #3 on defense.

"There are some guys that are nicked up that we'll have to ease back into camp but I don't see anything really holding anybody back for more than a week or two," Cristobal said.

Incoming freshmen class

"They're talented. Even today, we went two groups at a time just to get double the reps to make sure we get on film and can identify the guys that currently possess the skill set, the body and the maturity to compete right now," Cristobal said. "We feel very good about the majority of the class being able to contribute right now.  Tomorrow again we'll really crank it up on them."

Adade09 11 MHS CM One guy who stood out to me was former Northwestern receiver Dominique Rhymes (left, preparing to catch a pass against Central at FIU Stadium). Rhymes is a big kid - listed at 6-4 on the roster - that can move quick down field. Rhymes is stepping into big shoes, wearing Greg Ellingson's #82.

Offensive line

I spoke with offensive line coach Alex Mirabal for a little while this afternoon. The Panthers have two spots to fill up front with the departures of center Brad Serini and left guard Cedric Mack.

Mirabal expects RT Rupert Bryan Jr., LT Caylin Hauptmann left tackle, RG Curtis Bryant to start.

"Our left guard and our center spots are the two spots that are open," Mirabal said. "A lot of people forget that Kevin Van Kirk (right, #67) was really our starting left guard prior to him getting injured. That opened the door for Cedric Mack to come in. I really believe we have a chance to be more athletic at both Fiufootball0309 a epf spots and nastier."

About Van Kirk, Mirabal spoke highly about his potential.

"We got great news yesterday when [Van Kirk] was granted that extra year of eligibility," Mirabal said. "He's the toughness of the group. He's a true leader. He's not afraid to tell these guys what they need to hear and not what they want to hear."

During spring practice, Giancarlo Revilla and Ceedrick Davis split time at center.

Junior college transfer Shae Smith, a junior, could also see some playing time along the line. 

Justin Azpiazu

Follow me on Twitter @JustinAzpiazu

Cristobal signs extension through 2016 the night before practice begins.

So, as you can read in this morning's Miami Herald, Tuesday night, head football coach Mario Cristobal and FIU extended their marriage through June 2016, which is longer than my daughter will live if she ruins another one of our surroundsound speakers that she's never supposed to touch.

As far as a potential divorce, unless Cristobal violates his contract in some way, FIU would have to pony up two years salary or 906,366 to Cristobal. If Cristobal wanted to better deal FIU and move on to where he's not the fourth school in a two-school town, it'll cost him a year's salary, $453,183 to buy his way out of the contract. That's double the $200,000 it reportedly would cost Middle Tennessee State coach Rick Stockstill if he caught crazy and wanted out of a deal that could pay him $1 million a year in a few years.

In the Sun Belt, Cristobal's new base salary of $453,183 puts him behind North Texas' Dan McCarney, who goes into his first season with the Mean Green with a $475,000 base salary. Both McCarney (12 years as FBS/Division I head coach) and Stockstill (temptations from elsewhere) have bonuses packages that put almost another $100,000 on their deals before incentives. Cristobal received a $50,000 bonus Tuesday and will get another one next June 12. In addition, each June 30, he gets a "retention bonus," of $25,000.

(That's how fast your life can change when you're a coach or professional athlete -- you get roster bonuses and retention bonuses, schools and teams way of saying, "Way to not get fired!")  

With the plans they have for the stadium and hopes for the athletic program, FIU not stupid enough to do the euphemistic "go in a different direction" just when the football program's marching properly  since going Division I/FBS/FDS/Whatever They're Calling Big Boy Football These Days. FIU was motivated.

Cristobal likes working at FIU, so close to where he grew up. His wife's active in the community. These two busy people have a toddler and an infant, which means having the family support system within babysitting distance is invaluable. And any coach in that situation who doesn't think about that will be reminded of it by his wife. Cristobal was motivated to get this done, too, besides the obvious benefits to his career, his bank account and recruiting.

Cristobal wants to take care of his assistants, too, so he took a little less salary scratch. There's a $112,000 bump in the budget for the football program that was earmarked for various things, including some extra jack for the assistants. The coordinators have contracts. The rest have salaries, but not contracts.

Anyway, I'm writing this late at night. And posting it early in the morning. And in a nod to both those times...



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