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What of this class? What of this staff?

As expected, FIU's initial class rank for the 2013 signees might remind you of the class rank held by guys you knew would someday wear work shirts their names sewn on them (and, you realize years later, probably possess greater job security and general happiness than your downsize-ducking white collar butt).

For what it's worth...

 

247Sports ranks FIU 16th out of 20 Conference USA schools, ahead of only UNC-Charlotte, North Texas, Old Dominion and UTEP. And UNC-Charlotte and Old Dominion aren't even football members yet. They put FIU at 101st nationally. 

Scout.com thinks 247 overrates FIU. Scout's plunged the Panthers down to 122 out of 126 schools, ahead of only North Texas in Conference USA. If I'm reading their site correctly, they shouldn't have FIU that high. They still have Miramar wide receiver Sean Avant, who'll be a preferred walk-on at FAU, and Cypress Bay center Jason Rae, who FIU pulled a scholarship offer from, as FIU players.

Rivals refuses to acknowledge any conference realignment, so UCF's still in Conference USA and FIU's still in the Sun Belt. Rivals puts FIU seventh in the Sun Belt, 111th of 124th overall.

This wasn't a recruiting class for winning Signing Day. Maybe it's not a class for winning down the line, either. I can say the former definitively. I'm hesitant to say the latter because you really don't know. Clearly, this class would look more impressive with some of the players who decommitted after the Mario Cristobal firing. And I'd look more impressive with another inch of hairline and the inches I used to have on my chest. Alas, my hairline's as lost as Sandley Jean-Felix and Simeon Thomas, so we all move on and play with what we've got.

Then again, last year's class looked impressive until some of members hit the classroom. Or, didn't hit the classroom perhaps would be more appropriate. Just 87 seconds into his opening statement to the media Wednesday in the lecture hall-style football meeting room, Turner brought up the academic support staff and made sure to tell us of the program's emphasis on academics.

"I also want to thank your academic support staff for spending a tremendous amount of time and energy working with our athletes, expressing to them and their parents the importance we place on academics and getting well-rounded student-athlete, not just an athlete. That's very important to us. I wanted our prospective student-athletes to understand that.

"They sat right here in this room, the very first thing they did on every recruitng visit, and talked to the academic support staff. We wanted them to understand that if they come here, that's going to be just as important as football. Sure, our goal is to win games, our goal is to move into Conference USA, compete for and win championships. We're going to work extremely hard to do that. We're also going to work extremely hard to make sure that these 18 that we signed today as well as the others on our team not only win on the football field, but win off the field -- academically, socially, representing this fine university with a lot of integrity and character in the right way."

I know Turner felt embarrassed by the strip club-Twitter mess. He's 59, an age by which most of us lose all but a few atoms of patience with near-adult kids acting a fool. I can't imagine him saying it, but in a shaking head, behind eyes closed by anger and incomprehension, you can bet there's an "ain't nobody got time for that" running through.

The academic situation creates uncertainty. Coaches hate uncertainty.

Turner hasn't spoken with a group of media types since his introduction. So not only did he want to get his Signing Day message out, he clearly wanted to address a topic or two he knew FIU followers were discussing.

Turner said in the creation of his staff, he placed great importance on "getting people on the staff that I knew. Either I had worked with personally and know what kind of people they are; or they had worked for or with someone I had worked for or with and know personally and trust. Every guy on this staff that I hired fits that bill."

I asked if, seeing what he had so far on the roster and in recruiting, did he plan any changes in his offense.

"The starting point for the offense is what I do, what I know, what I believe in -- pro-style offense, running the ball, multiple formations, lot of different personnel groups, moving guys around, putting guys in different positions, always trying to create matchups," Turner said. "Having pretty good abalnace between run and pass, the power running game, inside-outside zone game, yet being able to spread people out. One thing I've prided myself in is being able to adjust the offense to what I have. So, once we get into spring ball and I know our players better -- I only know them from film -- so I can't wait to get to know them better as people and as football players."

The two players I find most intriguing -- because I've seen or heard scouting reports on them that say they're the type of players who make game changing plays -- are Bradenton Manatee safety Willie Smith and Seminole Ridge running back Silas Spearman. Turner said he noticed the same thing about Smith that I've heard from others, that he gets his hands on a lot of balls for interceptions, knockdowns, deflections.

Turner's still got spots to fill this signing period: kicker, adding another punter, another quarterback, more offensive linemen.

"Our staff's focus was the same as it is next year and the year after: get football players," he said. "That sounds simple and it is simple. But too many guys get caught up in numbers -- how tall, how much does he weigh, how fast is he, what schools recruit him. I really don't care about any of that stuff. I tell the coaches all the time, 'Trust your eyes. Trust what you see on the film. Don't try to make somebody into something he's not. Don't overlook something you might see because a guy has great size and great speed. You say, 'Well, he's not doing this, but...' Forget about the 'buts.' Find the guys who make plays. Find the football players."

STAFF CHANGES

We all knew tight ends coach/recruiting coordinator Dennis Smith would be leaving after Signing Day. Nobody knew that special teams/secondary coach Jeff Popovich would need a parachute. Popovich got aced moments before Turner met the media. He coudln't have been more stunned if Turner had shot him with a phaser set on that.

Joey Corey's going back to his previous job of director of athletic operations instead of staying director of football operations. The reasons are either a) the football operations job is too time consuming for a happy family life and he's got wife with a kid on the way b) the football operations job could have far too many headaches for happiness, especially over the next year or so c) FIU is keeping Corey away from the football side of things until that whole thing in Coral Gables where his name might pop up is over.

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