FIU's last team conference champion that plays its sport on an FIU campus opens its season Friday, 7 p.m. against Arizona. Hopefully, I'll have a season preview up tomorrow or Friday.
T.Y. Hilton's having a spectacular preseason for Indianapolis after showing himself to be one of the most dangerous young receivers in the NFL last season. Becoming enough of a national name to be name-checked by national media pales next to his accomplishment this spring: Hilton finished his work toward an FIU degree in Liberal Studies.
So now the best player in the history of FIU's highest profile program can fully claim the description "student-athlete."
As for the football team's Wednesday morning practice...kind of good news/bad news.
The good news: freshman running back Alfonso Randolph showed the vision and cutting ability FIU coaches like on a 20-yard third-and-long run and a 16-yarder, two plays later. His next carry, senior defensive tackle Isame Faciane destroyed the blocking and planted Randolph for a loss of 2. Randolph wasn't heavily recruited, but he's run well throughout camp.
The first team offense drove 65 yards to a touchdown on the second team defense, converting a fourth down along the way.
Kicker Sergio Sroka nailed a 47-yard field goal attempt and freshman Austin Taylor hit from 46.
The rain held off until 15 minutes after practice.
The bad news: way too many drops and jumps. If you play the way you practice, get ready for an overabundance of "aw, he had it..." plays this season. This isn't just from Wednesday and isn't just about the receiver drops -- when Dominique Rhymes dropped two perfect throws from E.J. Hilliard, it seemed the perfect benediction for practice. The near-interceptions kill. There were too many late, telegraphed throws from Hilliard and Jake Medlock that shouldn't have been launched and should've been picked off. To pull off the upsets FIU desires, you have to grasp those turnover opportunities.
The second-team offense committed most of the false starts.
While kickers hit two long field goals, two more field goals were blocked. Paul Crawford got some of a Sroka 46-yard attempt -- 6-8 Tall Paul, long kick, no surprise -- and a shorter field goal got smothered by a third of the block team.
"Good for the defense, not good for the field goal unit," FIU coach Ron Turner said. "Like I said, we might lead the country in going for it on fourth down."
Each of the three times Turner's said that, there's less levity in his voice. Like I said before, coaches despise uncertainty on special teams. They want nice snaps, clean holds, punts and kicks that clear the line of scrimmage and go where they're supposed to go and returners that hold onto the ball (the only thing that could keep junior Richard Leonard, who blew a punt Wednesday, from being one of the nation's best returners). So far, FIU's found some consistency in Chris Ayres punting and Sroka's kicking. The long-snapping, the holding, the blocking for kicks, the fielding of punts and kicks...comfort level not reached yet.
Redshirt junior backup defensive lineman Jerrico Lee is out with "health issues" and will miss at least the opener at Maryland. Freshman offensive lineman Tim Thomas is still dealing with family issues in Texas.
Personnel deployment: sophomore linebacker Patrick Jean (pronounced "jahn," he confirmed today) took second team reps at outside linebacker. In the 11-on-11s at practice's end, the first team corners were Brad Hyman-Muhammad and Jeremiah McKinnon, the safeties were senior Mitch Wozniak and fifth-year senior Terrance Taylor. The second team corners were redshirt junior Sam Gervais and freshman Wilkenson Myrtil.