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Saturday in The Cage

About an hour into Saturday's scrimmage, public address announcer Jay Rokeach announced a first down for the offense. It jarring me into a realizing how rare I'd heard JayRo make that announcement today.

Even the one touchdown shouldn't have been. A cheap pass interference penalty when Jake Medlock overthrew a covered T.J. Lowder extended the drive before Medlock zipped the 29-yarder to Willis Wright.

That and an earlier 18-yard completion to a sliding Wright amidst three defenders were Medlock's two best passes of the day. You could almost see he and second string E.J. Hilliard thinking the progressions. Certainly defenders could -- they were hijacking routes like Jimmy "The Gent" Conway all day. Jugglers and butterfingers on the defensive side let the offense get away with only one interception, Sam Gervais' clutching of a tipped pass.

The offensive line got stampeded, making the defensive line look like the 1975 Pittsburgh Steelers and putting the running backs in the role of victims. Jakhari Gore, Shane Coleman and Lemarq Caldwell sometimes did well to get back to the line of scrimmage.

Though certain units were rotated with others (say, second team defensive backs with first team everything else), here's the two-deep as best as I could determine from Saturday as FIU leaves spring (none of this says who'll be academically eligible come August):

First team offense: QB Medlock; RB Kedrick Rhodes; FB (when FIU uses one) Lemarq Caldwell; WRs Willis Wright, Glenn Coleman, Dominique Rhymes; TE Ya'keem Griner; LT Aaron Nielsen; LG Delmar Taylor; C Donald Senat; RG Trenton Saunders; RT David Delsoin.

Second team offense: QB Hilliard; RB Jakhari Gore; RB Shane Coleman; WRs T.J. Lowder, Jairus Williams; TE Zach Schaubhut; LT Dieugot Joseph; LG Edens Sineace; C Michael Montero; RG Ian Koch; RT Aaron Nielsen.

First team defense: DEs Paul Crawford, Giovanni Francois; DTs Fadol Brown, Greg Hickman; LBs Davison Colimon, Patrick Jean, Luis Rosado; CBs Richard Leonard, Sam Miller; S Demarkus Perkins, Antwoine Bell.

Second team defense: DEs Lars Koht, Denzell Perrine; DTs Leonard Washington, Darrian Dyson; LBs Derrick Jones, Jr, Markeith Russell, Michael Wakefield; CBs Sam Gervais, Jeremiah McKinnon; S Justin Halley, Mitch Wozniak.

(Saturday, the second team linebackers played with the first team most of the day, but Turner's comments and the previous practices indicate the above is accurate.)

Special teams: K Sergio Sroka; P Jake Medlock, Chris Ayers; PR Richard Leonard, Jakhari Gore.

Medlock said of punting, "I've got to get back into it. I've got to take lessons from my little brother. He's been kicking the crap out of it so I've got to go back home and learn from him."

Medlock's two punts were just as good as Ayers three Saturday. At the practices I've attended, that's the way it's been all spring. Saturday, both Leonard and Gore muffed a punt, running counter to how well they've been fielding punts this spring.

When I asked Hickman to conpare the present coaching staff with the previous staff, he said, "It's similar. All the coaches are tough on you and want you to be the best you can be. Then again, Coach Turner brings an NFL mentality to it, which Coach Cristobal didn't have as a coach."

Turner often references the NFL when talking to the team. As Dire Straits said, them guys ain't dumb. Coaches know nothing gets a college player's attention like bringing up the names of the players and teams they grew up following or still follow. Sometimes, coaching's not so much about conceptual innovation as getting the player to listen, understand and put to use what you're saying. Often, that first hurdle, listening, is the high hurdle.

Turner was talking about the quarterbacks and the new offensive system when he said, "They'll have a summer to digest it, a summer to work on it on their own, to study it. We'll put all the cutups on film and make it available to them. They can come in and watch that. Watch themselves instead of watching Peyton Manning do it or Jay Cutler or Kyle Orton. We've been showing them those kind of films to watch those guys do it. Now, they'll watch themselves. That's the best way you can learn."

And it's a long way to fall.




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