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31 posts from August 2012

August 30, 2012

Hurts so bad and not so bad; road soccer

Wide receiver Dominique Rhymes' deep bruise is healed enough for him to make the trip to Duke. Otherwise, FIU doesn't have any new injuries to those on the two-deep as they head for North Carolina Friday.

By the way, the line favoring Duke is down to 3 points. The house likes Duke, but the handicappers like FIU.

VOLLEYBALL

Blame my lack of inquisitiveness for getting beat by FIU Student Media on this one.

As the volleyball results came in during Isaac weekend, I noticed a lack of Jovana Bjelica in the accounts. I shrugged, figured she'd had a bad weekend and went back to grinding out other work while trying to keep things from getting homicidal among the Sunset Harbour shut-ins.

Bjelica, FIU's best hitter and probably best player, will be out four-to-six weeks with a broken hand suffered during warmups before the first match. The team heads up to the FSU Volleyball Invitational Friday and Saturday, facing the hosts, Georgia and Florida A&M. FIU beat FAMU last weekend after losing to Florida and Florida Gulf Coast.

 

FOOTBALLERS

Like volleyball, both the men and women get on the bus this weekend.

Friday, the men (1-0) are at North Florida and Sunday at Jacksonville (0-2). FIU beat North Florida (1-1) 2-1 last year at home.

The women (2-0) get Florida Gulf Coast Friday night and Florida (1-1-1), ranked No. 22 in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America/Continental Tire poll, Sunday night. Florida tied annually strong North Carolina 0-0 and beat also annually strong Duke 3-2. FIU's unranked, but got votes in the South Region poll in which Florida's No. 2. Inexplicably, No. 1 in the nation Florida State and Miami get put in the Southeast region.

The Gulf Coast game is a rematch of a loss that typified FIU's early 2011 season. A 2-0 halftime lead turned into a 3-2 loss after three Gulf Coast goals in 12:23 of the second half.

Hoppin' on the bus reminds me...

 

August 29, 2012

Radio in your hands

Here are the details to FIU football games will be broadcast via the Internet:

With your iPhone, iPad, Android, laptop, Uniblab, whatever, go to http://www.fiusports.com and click the Stretch Internet audio link. Jerry Del Castillo, who did the Spanish-language broadcast of games the first eight years of the program and University of Miami 1994-2002, will do the play-by-play and FIU's Pete Pelegrin will provide color commentary. They'll do a 30-minute pregame show and 15-minute postgame show.

It's not traditional radio, but traditional radio might as well be called Interstate Radio. Unless you've got an institution doing play-by-play or color and fans have a habit of listening to the guy whereever they are, your audience is mostly comprised of people wearing seat belts.

This gets FIU, whose fandom skews younger than most programs, on devices most of their fans hold as dear as a previous generation held transistor radios. Depending how this works, it's possible other FIU events could be broadcast this way.

Radio, radio; Black & Blue Devils

Sometime later today, FIU should be announcing that their football radio broadcasts for this season won't be traditional over-the-air, but via internet, allowing folks to get the broadcast on mobile devices. Jerry Del Castillo on the play-by-play.

And in the Possible Irony department: while FIU's got a happy feeling generally about its health, Duke's been giving the med school graduates work. Since June, they've lost five starters, according to Raleigh News & Observer Duke beat writer Laura Keeley. The latest -- and the reason for the irony -- was safety Jordan Byas who went down with a torn meniscus, Keeley reports. And, she notes, Byas' backup, Plantation High graduate Jeremy Cash, had his transfer waiver denied by the NCAA last week. Taylor Sowell, who would've backed up Byas, suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon.

Two listed starting safeties, redshirt junior August Campbell and junior Walt Canty, are returning starters. The third, junior Brandon Braxton, just converted from wide receiver during the offseason.

 

 

August 27, 2012

Mario Wants Panthers to be Bubble Boys

Monday's nomadic FIU practice -- from FIU Stadium t0 under the south stands of FIU Stadium to the Dolphins practice bubble in Davie -- gave FIU coach Mario Cristobal a chance to point out to the school how handy dandy it would be to have one of these down at the ever-expanding Mitch Maidique Campus (Camp Mitch).

"I think it's a good idea to get our FIU people down here and look at this bubble first hand and see the benefits of something like this, especially with the weather we have here in South Florida," Cristobal said. "The track team, soccer team, certainly our football team. This is a tremendous investment and it showed today."

Don't pooh-pooh just yet. What I call the Nick Saban Memorial Bubble is air-supported and built to withstand serious hurricanes by Stiles Construction. The reported cost, back in 2006, was $2 million. FIU will have the land. As Cristobal pointed out, it could be of use to several teams (heck, you could open it to students for large chunks of rainy days). And, finally, let's be blunt: Cristobal's the most important coach FIU has right now, keeping him isn't a matter of throwing annual salary cash at him and a construct that would make him or his successor happy also would drop happy pills in a several other coaches' Kool-Aids.

The first players to enter the into the bubble took pictures of each other...

Davie-20120827-00708

...so did succeeding players (Ya'keem Griner critiques the work of photographer Jacob Younger)

FIUpracticeatbubble 008

By the way, looks like the joint is pretty much finished.


South Westside-20120827-00707

 FOR ENTERTAINMENT PURPOSES ONLY...

The latest line on Saturday's game favors Duke by 3.5 to 4.0 points, down from an open of Duke by 5.5. In other words, what money is coming in on this game so far is being put on FIU.

Expect some radio news by the end of the day tomorrow. I'll be on furlough, however, so the earliest you can read it here will be Wednesday.

 

August 26, 2012

No football, English or American

Topping this mini-post off with some electronic dap for T.Y. Hilton, who had four catches for 54 yards, including a 31-yard touchdown Saturday for Indianapolis against Washington. He also had a 22-yard kickoff return. The touchdown showed good resiliency after he had a tough first half last week against Pittsburgh.

Today's women's soccer game with Moorehead State has been cancelled as we wait for Isaac to do his thing. Don't bet on a makeup date.

The football team was scheduled to have the day off anyway.

While waiting for Isaac, check out this Isaac doing his thing...

 

 

August 25, 2012

Of Water & Watch Lists & Volleyball

This is why you do don't put off doing stuff when you can, as happened around here after Coyote 3 dogpaddled back home last night from what became Deutchsland Night at FIU men's soccer.

Let's say a water main near your building bursts one morning just because that's what water mains do occasionally. You have no running water in your crib, turning you into a high rise Okie, and your surrounding streets look like this.

Miami Beach-20120825-00697
That packed dishwasher that didn't get run the night before with the dishes in the sink that didn't get rinsed off? That shower you didn't take, though you already felt icky from pre-dawn to late night rippin' and runnin'? Those errands you declined to run the day before? Now all you can do is pull out the proverbial jug of wine, loaf of bread and jug of water (didn't do the pre-storm bathtub fill yet and your kidneys do not care...)

And blog about yet another watch list. The first Senior Bowl watch list includes FIU defensive end Tourek Williams, safety Johnathan Cyprien and offensive tackle Caylin Hauptmann. T.Y. Hilton was the first FIU player to be named to the Senior Bowl.

MEN'S SOCCER

Eric Reyes started 12 games for FIU in goal last season. For Friday night's opener against Bryant, Reyes watched freshman Robin Spiegel, from Wipperfurth, Germany, get a three-save shutout win. Spiegel was a relatively late recruit, according to coach Kenny Arena, a June find. 

"At this point in the season, we started who we felt was doing the best," Arena said of the whole lineup. "Like I told the guys, it's game by game, practice by practice."

Spiegel's sophomore countryman, Quentin Albrecht, potted both FIU goals.

VOLLEYBALL

FIU sits at 1-2 after a four-set win against Florida A&M Saturday evening at the (big breath now) Campus USA Credit Union Invite in Gainesville.

Earlier in the day, the Panthers suffered a five-set loss to Florida Gulf Coast 25-23, 13-25, 25-17, 18-25, 15-12. Senior Marija Prsa compiled 25 kills while redshirt sophomore Jessica Egan racked up 25 assists. Hopefully, there's no three-knockdown rule if FIU loses this afternoon to Florida A&M.

Friday, freshman Lucia Castro, out of Puerto Rico's Caribbean School, led FIU with nine kills and Egan had 21 helpers in FIU's 3-0 (25-21, 25-14, 25-12) loss to No. 18 Florida. FIU actually led 19-17 in the first before a 5-0 run swung the game.

 

August 24, 2012

"Oh, y'all doin' well..."

With a nod to my brother Ron Neal Jr., applying that line to...

Jovon Durante: The Krop sophomore wide receiver/defensive back, who already verbally committed to FIU for 2015, rolled up 201 receiving yards on Flanagan High Thursday night. Check out the video highlights:

http://sfhighschoolsports.com/videos/all/krop-vs-flanagan

Jabari Henry: The former FIU outfielder has been hurting the ball in August with Pulaski of the Rookie Appalachian League, hitting .412 with 10 of his 14 hits being for extra bases.

Nick England: The unusual football maturity and polish of the freshman wide receiver could get him some unusual playing time.  

Check out the previous post for words on men's soccer opening its season tonight at home and volleyball starting its season against No. 18 Florida in Gainesville.

And to whoever chose the dance club jazz playlist for the GC today: keep it up.

 

 

Men's soccer starting Friday; volleyball, too; football, see you next week

Both the soccer field and the men’s program needed a spruce up job. Friday against Bryant University, 7 p.m., will be the first showing for how far new head coach Kenny Arena is on both.

To swim down the fault stream of FIU Soccer Field just sends anyone who cares screaming for tequila, so let’s just use the old reliable “What a dump.” But Thursday morning, Arena stood at the field checking out some of the improvements being made that’ll make the field more presentable.

 “We’ve tried to make the players understand that this is a very important program with a very rich tradition,” Arena said. “We’ve tried to upgrade everything from the way we practice to our facilities, to make this an environment that not only looks very professional, but operates very professionally. It’s what this program deserves based on what the program has achieved.

The nod to that tradition comes from the replacement for the last connection to that tradition. Munga Eketebi – All-American player on the great mid-1980s FIU teams that were as good as any at any level, longtime assistant coach, then head coach – couldn’t beat NCAA sanctions and Conference USA. A 5-8-2 record last year left him at 27-51-9. Sacking Eketebi as the program finally got back to full scholarships reeked of both unfairness and an understandable desire to just start anew.

FIU showed signs of being something like what it once was last season. Against ranked teams, they went 1-0-2 and lost in overtime to perennially good SMU. But it also included a loss to Georgia state and getting smoked badly at Tulsa and Memphis.

“We definitely had a strong squad,” said senior defender Anthony Hobbs, FIU’s lone representative on the preseason All-Conference USA team. “It was whether we were going to turn out to play or not. Against the better teams we did well, we competed with them. Against teams we should beat, we just didn’t show up.”

In addition to Hobbs, FIU returns sophomore forward Quentin Albrecht, who lead the team in goals, and senior midfielder Lucas Di Croce, third on the team in scoring. Freshmen outnumber seniors, 8-5.

Perhaps it’s a good thing, then that Hobbs notes Arena brings a more positive vibe. Positivewavesbutton

When I asked Arena about his emphasis on the postive, he covered more ground than grass in an interesting answer:

“There’s going to be times you have to critique, but if you do it in the right way, everybody enjoys learning. So, it’s my responsibility to make sure that they want to come to work every day. That they enjoy this experience. But also that the experience is very challenging.

“I respect the fact that they have a lot of responsibility, being student/athletes and playing. We demand a lot out of them as an athletic department to serve in the community. Being a student-athlete today is one of the hardest jobs. When we’re done as an athlete, I don’t think the first couple of years when we have careers that it’s as hard as it is when we’re here. These guys train from 8 to 10 in the morning. that means they’re up at 6 eating breakfast. Then they have treatment, weights, they have classes, they have community service. Then they have to study, they have games. It’s a very exhausting, but very rewarding experience.

“If you’re asking them to do that much, then it’s our job to make it a positive environment so that you keep them going.”

Just as men’s hoop coach Richard Pitino clearly got his half his chromosomes from Rick Pitino, Kenny Arena couldn’t be more recognizable as the son of former U.S. National Team coach and current Los Angeles Galaxy coach Bruce Arena. I asked Arena, 33 hours ahead of his first game as a college head coach, to name the one or two biggest things he’s learned from each coach he’s worked under.

“Bob Bradley was very disciplined. He made sure everyone was held accountable all the time,” Kenny Arena said. “My father, he treated each player with an incredible amount of respect and gave them their freedom, but found a way to have a culture that every time they stepped on the field, they gave it everything they had.

“The last coach I worked with, (UCLA’s) Jorge Salcedo, he was very organized,” Arena said. “He found a way to make life easier for the players, whether it was during practice or traveling. From the details of the hotel to what they’re eating to the timing of all that stuff, he made sure everything was organized so all operations ran smoothly and I found that helped the overall psyche of athletes. When everything’s organized and thought of ahead of time, they can just concentrate on playing.”

 FOOTBALL

Last week, Mario Cristobal declared Jeremiah Harden "1A," close to Kedrick Rhodes at running back. I asked the pecking order and if Harden and Rhodes were even going into the season. 

"Ked is No. 1. Ked's going into the game first," Cristobal said. "Those other guys have earned playing time. Both Harden and Mallary have pushed really hard. They've got to play. theyr'e smart, they're tough, they've made good plays in practice. Shane Coleman, he's getting better. He's not at the level of Harden and Mallary yet, but he's a guy you feel comfortable putting in the game as well."

Just throwing out there: don't sleep on freshman defensive lineman Fadol Brown. Brown and Darrian Dyson might have some problems early in the season as they get used to dealing with pushing and shoving against nearly grown men for 60 minutes. But both possess the size and athleticism that'll eventually get you a few plays a game if they're rotating off the bench.

Tonight's the free food, drink, stuff meet the Panthers event at The Stadium Club in FIU Stadium.  

VOLLEYBALL

As change marks the men’s soccer program, so does the volleyball program head into its Friday night season opener at the Campus USA Credit Union Invite in Gainesville against Florida handling grand metamorphoses.

And we do mean grand – big group of newcomers containing bigger young women playing a vastly different style for a very different head coach.

Daniela Tomic rolled up a .721 winning percentage in seven seasons, easily the best by any FIU volleyball coach, before leaving for Bowling Green last winter. Former Tomic assistant and Trinidad and Tobago national team coach Trevor Theroulde took over, then added assistant Travers Green.

Redshirt sophomore setter Jessica Egan said, “The coaching staff is more in sync, which is vital.”

One consistency left from Daniela Tomic’s seven years as head coach: Jovana Bjelica making the preseason All-Sun Belt team. The senior outside hitter’s third such honor was announced Thursday morning. Bjelica led The Belt in kills last year and realizes as the established best player on the team as well as being a senior

“In a playing sense, I’m playing the same, but I think it’s harder now,” she said. “there’s a lot of younger girls who need some kind of role model and we older ones, upperclassmen, we need to be more of a role model. So, I have to talk more, which I don’t like.” Bjelica laughed at her shyness. “We need to talk a lot because many of them are still shy and don’t feel the freedom to talk.”

In a 2011 blog post about Bjelica, I noted that on the eye test, you’d pick her as FIU volleyball’s best pentathlete. On this year’s team, that athleticism blends almost as much as her height (5-10) does among the team’s 10 players 6-foot or over (last year’s team had seven).

“We’ve added a lot of height and we’re very stacked in positions, you could say,” Egan said. “Last year, we kind of ran into an issue where ran out of people with injuries. This year, we’re not going to have that problem. There’s competition at every position.”

Egan's playing time increased after 6-3 Renele Forde suffered a season-ending injury. Forde is back as a fifth-year senior.

Four or five of the new players walked through the Graham Center two weeks ago while I was working there around lunch time. You never saw that place get so quiet. Palpable awe.

“We are much bigger than before,” Theroulde said. “We are playing way above the net. We are much more athletic. We could be big and slow, but we’re not big and slow. We’re big, quick, athletic. We’re more aggressive.

“My style of coaching, we’re going to be more aggressive. We’re really going after the opponent.” Theroulde laughed, “I prefer to be the predator than the prey. I want to be the real Panther.”

Which brings us to FIU’s nemeses, Western Kentucky and Middle Tennessee, picked to finish first and second in the Sun Belt’s East Division. FIU’s picked to finish where they have the last two years, third.

“We’ve been changing our style,” Egan said. “There’s still some kinks to it. It’s a powerful style we’re going for. Western and Middle have really different styles. Middle Tennessee is very fast. The way we’re playing, we’ll be able to handle that, no problem. Western Kentucky, they’re simple, but they’re good at what they do. It’s just a matter of zoning in on those players and executing our side of the court.”

Theroulde said the team must play up to its ability, but getting that out of them is his job.

“I put a lot of pressure on myself. I said, ‘if we do not do it this year, we have to analyze ourselves as a coaching staff,’” he said. “We have all the pieces. We need to put those pieces together. And make sure they’re able to function effectively. Then, we’ll see that beautiful picture. We’re trying to play a different style of volleyball. It’s faster, it’s powerful.

They’re strong teams, too. They’ve added parts, too. It’ll be interesting to see how they deal with us. It’s a totally different team than we had in previous years.”

Wednesday, Theroulde watched video of FIU’s 32-4 2009 team.

He estimated, “In key positions, we’re way better. We’re still trying to develop that mental toughness that last team had. If we’re able to get that and a level of consistency, nothing is impossible.”

 

August 22, 2012

Football Friday to Futbol Friday

Wondering if I should shave my moustache for the first time since the Clinton Era (Bill, not George) while working on some last minute preseason section stuff...

At 6 p.m. Friday evening, this year's Panther Preview will be held in the Stadium Club at La Cage. Free food, drinks and prizes and I'm sure some rousing words from FIU coach Mario Cristobal. Now, I don't know what the prizes are, but when I was a college student with no money, free food and drinks (even if they were non-alcoholic) within striking range assured my presence.

Then, it's over to FIU Soccer Field for the season opener against Bryant University (is the strongest major there Heating & Cooling?), which starts at 7 p.m. The tailgate starts at 5:30 with free food there, too. So, maybe you start there, go over to La Cage, then back over to the soccer game, fat and happy. Hopefully, it'll be drier than last week.

 Men's soccer season opener advance coming.

August 21, 2012

Tuesday sans Morrie

The Tuesday morning full pads scrimmage began as another defensive crush job. But the first team offense eventually got its licks in and earned a split in the two-minute drill and the four-minute drill.

Those were two of the three situations coaches created that were derived directly from last year. For the two-minute drills, they used the situation from the loss to Louisiana-Lafayette (Lou-La prefers to be called just "Louisiana" so we will): down 36-31, ball on the FIU 21. In the game, Jake Medlock, playing his third quarter of college action, missed a fourth and 3 from the FIU 41 when he eschewed a clear running path to the first down and overthrew Wayne Times on the run. Tuesday, Medlock directed a scoring drive that ended when, he said, "Wayne Times turned a 20-yard pass into, I think, a 60-yard touchdown." 

For the four-minute, exhaust-the-clock drills, they used the situation from Western Kentucky: up 9-7, 3:31 left, ball on the FIU 11. In the game, FIU went three and out, Wesley Carroll holding onto the ball until he took a 13-yard sack on third and 3 from the 18. Western kicker Casey Tinius punched through a 34-yard field goal as time ran out. Tuesday, the offense successfully killed the time once.

Also, Mario Cristobal said, some players got used out of their usual spots to see if they could get FIU through in a pinch "Playing Kenny Dillard at mike linebacker. He did a great job. Putting (safeties Demarkus) Perkins and Chuck Grace in there for extended play. Chuck's been a fixture in our defense, but giving them a starting role and letting them run the whole way through. (Cornerback) Sam Miller played a couple of different positions as well. And limited some guys, like (safety Johnathan) Cyprien and Tourek (Williams). We want to see how well we can maintain that level that the 1s maintain with certain guys in the game. Like Giovani Francois, he took the bulk of the reps with the 1s."

Cristobal didn't say, but it's not hard to see where that let's-be-prepared came from. As referenced often on this blog by me and some of you, the two games after Grace went down last year saw disorganization in an inexperienced secondary that was inexpertly guided. Louisiana and Duke strafed FIU in those losses.

Freshman defensive tackle Darrian Dyson, the 6-3, 315-pound Lousiana land mass with legs, got some time with the elder group, as did freshman cornerback Jeremiah McKinnon out of Southridge; wide receiver Nick England; linebacker Leroy Owens; and wide receiver Raymond Jackson.

Cristobal called the No. 2 quarterback competition still too close to call, but he'd decide by the end of the week. From the plays I saw, freshman E.J. Hilliard was working more with the second team and Lorenzo Hammonds with the third team.

 

August 20, 2012

Sun Belt officials for Duke

Apparently, I was misinformed.

August 19, 2012

Enter Sandman?; FIU busing

Lauderdale Lakes Boyd Anderson offensive lineman Sandley Jean-Felix, a 6-5, 300-pounder, committed to FIU Saturday night. Rivals and Scout.com both have him at three stars with various other offers. The Herald high school hawks ranked him as the No. 7 senior in Broward County. Word is at FIU's camp he was folding opposing linemen like corrugated boxes.

 

The AP Top 25 poll came out Saturday. As far as FIU's concerned, the biggest news is Louisville, which visits Sept. 22, starts the season ranked no. 25.

Oh, by the way, for the Duke game: ACC zebras. That's all I'm going to say about that (for now).

(UPDATE: I was called Monday afternoon with the information that Sun Belt officials will be used for the game against Duke. I guees my Camp Mitch source, usually unimpeachable about such things, was mistaken)

ROAD TRIP

Spearheaded by Pete Garcia, the athletic department and the Student Government Association will bus 1,000 students to the Sept. 15 game at Central Florida, feed them on the way and give them a ticket to the game.

How will the students be selected? OK, before Aug. 31, they have to click https://qtrial.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_difTrGx3YgRUinr. Then, they have to attend the home-opener, Sept. 8 vs. Akron. An e-mail will be sent afterwards to students who attended the game telling them where and when they can get their Road Trip pass. First 1,000 to pick up the pass, you're on the road.

 

 

August 18, 2012

Friday in the wet...

As the rain fell on Camp Mitch, the women's soccer team handled it like Michael Schumacher, drenching Stetson 4-0 while dominating possession for at least 75 of the 90 minutes.

Meanwhile, the crew keeping statistics and running the game clock from a deck that stood where a condemned press box once stood tried to keep the electronics dry.

August2012 011

It got worse later when the canopy sprung a leak.

FOOTBALL

Meanwhile, over at FIU Stadium, Friday's scrimmage started on time. FIU coach Mario Cristobal, after watching film until half past midnight, passed along these tidbits:

Nobody got hurt. The defense definitely had the better of it over the 120 plays, as expected. "It wasn't until late that the offense got going," Cristobal said. He was once again especially laudatory toward defensive end Giovani Francois ("playing at an uncommonly high level" and has been "explosive) and also complimented Tourek Williams, Greg Hickman, Winston Fraser and Jordan Hunt. Defensive tackle Isame Faciane, apparently, has satisfied the coaches lately. 

Also getting head coach props were linebacker Kenneth Dillard and Mitch Wozniak, who switched from wide receiver to defense this week and had an interception.

On offense, wide receiver Willis Wright "had his best day" and caught a long touchdown in the overtime drill from Jake Medlock as Medlock escaped the pocket. The offense did convert in some short yardage situations and was good on second down. Both sides of the ball showed good awareness in third down situations of the yardage necessary. In the two-minute drill, the offense hustled well and did the little things that give you extra seconds that can add up to another play or two.

Next scrimmage Tuesday. Saturday, the team took a recess field trip -- South Beach for sand, bowling and barbeque.

BASKETBALL

Sorry I didn't include this yesterday, but FIU officially announced the transfers of Louisville's Rakeem Buckles, FAU's Dennis Mavin and the Owls' Raymond Taylor. Mavin and Buckles had been noted here previously. All will have to sit out this season before being eligible in 2013-14. Both Taylor and Buckles came out of Monsignor Edward Pace High, where FIU assistant coach Mark Lieberman coached for 13 years.

August 16, 2012

Defending Sun Belt women's soccer champs open Friday night at home vs. Stetson

Half the starting lineup from last year’s Sun Belt Conference champions is gone, so the Sun Belt coaches poll picking FIU women's soccer as the preseason favorite gives props to the talent in the 2010 and 2011 recruiting classes.

On the 24-woman roster, there are 15 juniors and sophomores, eight freshmen and one senior, goalkeeper Kaitlyn Savage.  

Last year’s leading scorer and preseason Sun Belt co-Offensive Player of the Year forward Chelsea Leiva, midfielder Nicole DiPerna (also preseason All-Sun Belt) and Kim Lopez (five goals, tying Leiva and Ashlegh Shim for the team lead) are juniors. Shim, midfielders Johanna Volz and Sara Stewart are sophomores. While last year's lineup might've been senior-dominated, last year's freshmen and sophomores quickly garnered the respect of their elders with their skill and fitness.

“The players returning to the team, we’re in a good place,” FIU coach Thomas Chestnutt said. “Those two years of recruiting classes are very competitive, very hungry, willing to do what it takes to be successful. They’re able to take some of the experiences from those players, they already have that competitiveness and drive, so it’s helped them become stronger leaders on our team because we have a young team this year.

“We won’t have quite as much that experience, but we have that energy. With the older returning players molding that the right way, we can do some good things this year.”

Chestnutt seemed to almost shrug at that 4-0 loss to North Florida in the preseason. He said he regarded it as "a training game" and handled it accordingly.

Leiva laughed, "Glad it happened earlier than later."

Chestnutt holds a special place for last year's seniors, his staff's first recruiting class at FIU.

"When I started here, we had a vision for this program," Chestnutt said. "That was to be contending every year for the confenrece titles; to be ranked in the region; and to get to a place where we can be a top 25 team in the country. The set of girls who graduated last year were sold that when they came in 2008. They were able to realize those goals. That was a redeeming thing for them. They came in here believing in us and we believed in them. Together, they were able to make these things happen. We talked about how special it is to do these things at a program (like FIU) as opposed to being at a program where they might happen all the time.”

 

Track soon? XX soccer picked to repeat; Basketbal Wright

Heard this morning that while the Sun Belt Conference tolerated FIU not having any track facilities -- heck, the 2013 Sun Belt conference meet will be hosted by FIU...in Miramar -- Conference USA isn't playing that. Word on the street is C-USA has given FIU a time frame, perhaps as short as 18 months, to get its track and field team an actual track.

About time. Track's not a revenue sport, but, to be honest, what is at FIU? Look at the number of track Olympians with South Florida connections. Look at what Eric Campbell and his staff has been able to do with less than an above average high school as far as facilities. That tells you this is a potentially dynamic program that the school needs to get behind so in four years, when America pays attention to track again, "FIU" has a better shot at being prominently heard on the prime time Olympics broadcast. 

WOMEN'S SOCCER

As I tweeted a couple of hours ago (http://twitter.com/DavidJNeal), FIU's been picked to repeat as Sun Belt Conference champions, getting five votes from the conference's 11 coaches. North Texas also got five votes (Middle Tennessee got the other vote), but FIU had 114 total points to North Texas' 110.

Junior forward Chelsea Leiva, preseason co-Offensive Player of the Year with North Texas' Michelle Young, junior midfielder Nicole DiPerna and senior goalkeeper Kaitlin Savage made the preseason All-Sun Belt team.

FORMER BASKETBALL

So, DeJuan Wright's off to play some basketbal in the Netherlands.

Earlier today, Eiffeltowers Den Bosch announced the signing of FIU's best player over the last two seasons. In a story on Eiffel's website, the coach lauded Wright's ability to play two or three positions. Eiffel opens its season Sept. 29.

 

August 15, 2012

Specialists

After Tuesday's special teams scrimmage got delayed an hour by rain, freshmen Leroy Owens, Patrick Jean, Davison Colimon and Michael Wakefield and redshirt freshman Akil Dan-Fodio drew recognition for their work.

"All those guys are 6-2, 6-3, 210, 235. Wake's about 245 now," FIU coach Mario Cristobal said. "They're all big bodies who can go. They're on kickoff and kickoff return. They're all over the field and they're responding really well. Again, it's really encouraging how much help we can get from the freshman class."

In addition to Richard Leonard, Wayne Times and Sam Miller returning as returners, freshmen Nick England and Johnnie Durante have impressed enough to possibly get in on the action. Durante had a kickoff return touchdown during the scrimmage. Leonard noted to me last week that he learned from future University of Miami and Miami Dolphins running back Lamar Miller, who could wind up returning kicks for the Dolphins this year, when they were returners at Miami Killian and got to learn from T.Y. Hilton last year.

But as for seeing anyone who could zap an opponent the way T.Y. Hilton did for four years, Cristobal laughed, "In the NFL exhibition games or practice yesterday? I wouldn't say we're at that level. I say we have some ones who can do the distance. T.Y. could go the distance even when everyone has an angle. I think we have guys with similar speed but not the exact same explosion."

WOMEN'S SOCCER

Women's soccer season preview story coming tomorrow. Hey, how many FIU teams won the Sun Belt and went to their NCAA tournament last year?

August 14, 2012

Two more things from Media Day

A couple of things I forgot from earlier...

1. Some programs shoo NFL scouts away for fear the temptation of league money will shorten the careers of their best players by one or two years.

FIU, on the other hand, embraces the NFL hawks.

"Not every school allows them in for preseason camp," Cristobal said. "We do because that's the next phase of our program."

He said three NFL scouts would be at Monday night's practice and NFL scouts would be around the team throughout the season.

"When a guy like Anthony Gaiter and T.Y. (Hilton) catches their attention, now there's that much more focus that there are legitimate, really, really good football players down at FIU," Cristobal said. "So we open up the doors to them. We actually provide weekly e-mails and footage and information.

"We want guys to graduate and they will. Again, that's the most important thing. But we make no reservations about it -- we want guys to come here who want to play in the NFL. We want to coach guys and want to play with guys who want to play in the NFL, who want to make this a way of life. That do not want to make this a hobby."

2. The players present were logical ones: quarterback Jake Medlock; kicker Jack Griffin; and the preseason All-Sun Belt players -- running back Kedrick Rhodes, right tackle Rupert Bryan, Jr, left tackle Caylin Hauptmann, defensive end Tourek Williams, linebacker Winston Fraser, safety Johnathan Cyprien.

The only preseason All-Sun Belt player not there? Junior defensive tackle Isame Faciane, not having the best camp so far. I'm hearing it was a coincidence, however.

Quick hits from Media Day; T.Y. pics from Sunday

Not much new at Tuesday's Media Day. But here are a few tidbits, some of which appear also in a story that'll appear in tomorrow's print Herald and online later this evening:

Mario Cristobal said there's a significant gap from Jake Medlock to Lorenzo Hammonds, Jr., and E.J. Hilliard, but that in less than two weeks, he expects the latter two to be up to where they can help FIU win and not just get FIU through the night. As far as their classmates, he expects 23 to 26 freshmen or redshirt freshmen to play on the first or second string or play serious special teams time.

Cristobal called Jeremiah Harden "1A" at running back behind Kedrick Rhodes and said Darian Mallary looked as good Monday evening as he has in two years.

Senior left tackle Caylin Hauptmann, when I asked about the senior leadership this year and the way they've done so much teaching with the younger guys, he said, "When we went to our bowl game two years ago, we had great leadership from people like Brad Serini and Cedric Mack. Whereas last year, we didn't have a core leadership -- what to do, wehwer to go, what steps to take. I remember that, our seniors remember that. We just took from that. To be able to see that two years ago, we're just implementing it to them."

T.Y. HILTON

T.Y. Hilton, Sr. sent me some photos from Sunday's Indianapolis Colts preseason game. Here's one of T.Y., who had a total of five touches (three catches, one run, one punt return)...

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...and one of T.Y. Hilton, Sr. and Cora Hilton

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August 13, 2012

Another day at Le Cage; why is the Graham Center BK closed today?

Though posts on volleyball and soccer don't "move the needle" on this blog, readers from the last 12 months know I actually like to post on both. Those three teams started practice last week and I'll be blogging on them soon. Men's soccer has a preseason game at Barry Thursday. The women's soccer team took a 4-0 spanking from North Florida in a preseason game.

As for the American football team, today's a two-practice day. They got out of Saturday's scrimmage with only a minor toe injury to freshman linebacker Josh Glanton (and anybody who thinks there can't be a "major" toe injury has never had one or lived with someone who had one -- trust me, you'd rather they broke an arm). Glanton should be OK soon.

Upon further film review from Saturday, some guys earned practice time with the next unit up. Sophomore defensive end Giovani Francois earned some first team reps. Redshirt sophomore center Donald Senat got put with the first team offensive line for part of practice. Last week, coach Mario Cristobal said at each position, he'd put the best player on the field, but on the offensive line, he'd put the best five who worked in unison.

Redshirt sophomore Mitch Wozniak moved from wide receiver to outside linebacker/safety.

"He's been, arguably, our best special teams player over the last couple of years," Cristobal said. "And we're pretty thick at wide receiver. So we moved him over and his first play there today, he made a tackle for a 1-yard gain and caused a fumble. At 205 pounds, running the way he does. He's had two ACLs since he's been here. Now, closing in on the latter part of his career, we've got to find a way to get him on the field."

Also on the defensive line, fifth-year senior Andre Pound took many of the defensive tackle reps usually taken by Isame Faciane. It was exactly this time last year that Tourek Williams got put with the second team in favor of Paul Crawford because the coaching staff felt Williams wasn't putting out enough on the practice field and Crawford was showing well. Williams got the message, got to work and was back with the first team in a few days. Let's see what happens with Faciane.

Tuesday afternoon will be a special teams scrimmage.

To close, let me say...unless it's holiday break, spring break or major plumbing or fire problems, whether or not classes are in, there's no reason for the Burger King in the GC to be closed. Not like the GC was empty around lunchtime, either...

August 12, 2012

A few thoughts from Saturday night; Hilton's debut and football cards

Usually, as readers of this blog know from last year, my usual long-winded postgame blog analysis is done after the game and posted sometime in the wee am hours (exceptions for excessive sleepiness preceding multi-hour morning drives). Last night, I planned to do the same. I didn't plan to get home late, sleepy and still needing to hit Lincoln Road for dinner with the wife.

So, it's Sunday morning.

Head Coach's view (or, part of it):

"Kedrick Rhodes ran really, really well. Tourek Williams played really really well. Richard Leonard, Junior Mertile, big plays. Jeremiah McKinnon played some good fotoball...a lot of big plays both sides of hte ball. Back and forth in a good way. That's what you want to see. A really good first scrimmage."

While there were big plays by both offense and defense, it seemed most of the offensive explosiveness came from the 3s facing each other. My first thought after the scrimmage was, "Well, that's probably the best defense they'll face all season..."

Fireman's Fund full coverage in the secondary. A pass rush that usually got to or around the quarterback. Solid tackling. That was the first team defense all night. They had maybe two real failures in a series of downs. The first I describe in the next paragraph. The other was a third and 10 with the offense backed up on its own 1 on which quarterback Jake Medlock completed a pass to Zach Schaubhut for about 19 yards.

Medlock was upbeat afterwards, but that's him.  He's the kind of guy in the action movies who says, "So I lost an arm -- I still had one to shoot with and there was less of me for them to shoot at!" He said he wanted to show composure after bad plays and he did that. He also showed a good voice at the line, turning a third and 6 into a third and 1 by drawing defensive tackle Isame Faciane offside. He nearly did it again on the third and 1, the entire defensive line jumping forward and back like a quartet of Kappas or Q-Dogs in a step show. Rhodes plowed for a first down. Mario Cristobal was happy about that.

Othewise, it was pretty much a shutdown. The second teamers didn't have quite the same amount of success with the second team offense, but they allowed only one score, an incredible one-handed catch sky sweep by Jairus Williams with Mertile in his jersey. They had some outside containment problems. Shane Coleman got outside for a 48-yard run and Hammonds broke out for a 22-yard run. They had freshman linebackers Leroy Owens and Patrick Jean working the middle much of the night. That's going to happen with young guys. Owens, who also had a sack, made the interception that killed the second team's two-minute drill drive.

Among the third-teamers, quarterback E.J. Hilliard, aside from telegraphing a throw that allowed Mertile to jump the route for a pick six with the second team, showed his legs and a pretty good arm for distance and accuracy. He escaped the pocket and hit redshirt sophomore Michael Curry deep for a 70-yard touchdown.They hooked up for a 42-yard play earlier in the scrimmage. Both were behind freshman safety Davison Colimon, who bounced back after the first one with a fumble recovery.

The touchdown to Curry came with Hilliard being chased by freshman defensive tackle Darrian Dyson. A helmetless Darrian Dyson, who drew a flag for it. According to Mario Cristobal, this year, once you lose your helmet, you can't re-engage a block and can't rejoin pursuit of a player. Three helmets came off during plays Saturday night, which Cristobal mentioned as a concern.

Freshman quarterbcak Favian Upshaw hit redshirt freshman T.J. Lowder for a 44-yard touchdown late in the scrimmage. That kind of made up for the handoff between Upshaw and freshman fullback Lemarq Caldwell that freshman defensive lineman Diegot Joseph snatched up.

I would've been shocked if I had seen anything else Saturday night. FIU's a top notch defensive team -- and big, really looking big -- with a strong running game and a quarterback still getting it all together. That's only slightly less the case with the second team units.

There's still three weeks practice time left before Duke. And as I wrote in a story from Sun Belt media days, given the choice, every Sun Belt coach said they'd rather have the best defense than the best offense.

T.Y. HILTON

 Hilton made his preseason debut with Indianapolis today -- three catches for 25 yards, one rush for 9 yards around the right side as the Colts lined up in the shotgun, one punt return for 6 yards.

A few days ago, his father texted me pictures of three autographed Hilton rookie cards.

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283FF094835646E39FE9DAB9DD755257

 


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