For 26 years, summer didn't necessarily mean the start of camp, but training camp (Panthers, Dolphins, now FIU) definitely meant the end of summer. Let the rest of the world believe summer stretches to Sept. 21. To me, it ends Monday at 9:15.
Here's a few questions that'll start to be answered over the next three weeks:
Which gambles pay off? FIU rolled the dice on freshman quarterback Israel Paopao (grades), running back Silas Spearman (grades), running back Eric Moate (injury) among others. If they get a parlay of hits, this season might not resemble a Detroit neighborhood while also setting the table for future feasting.
How well did new head coach Ron Turner recover in recruiting? With recruiting halted after the firing of the previous coaching staff and Turner just returning to college football, FIU's recruiting class got ranked in the triple digits by everybody who does such things. They lost Bradenton Manatee defensive back Willie Smith, generally ranked among their five best 2013 recruits (for what all those rankings are worth). But FIU picked up some late signees over the next two months as well as some junior college transfers that might have improved that class somewhat. They'll have enough guys running around out there to do a team show of The Warriors.
Who'll be backup quarterback? Jake Medlock's injury past and the offensive line concerns say Medlock could be calling "MEDIC" by the time the first conference game rolls around. So, is E.J. Hilliard an option that gives FIU a chance to win as opposed to last year when Hilliard got undone by his own inexperience and some strange coaching strategic decisions? Or is Travis Wright or Paopao a better option?
Also, how much have the quarterbacks internalized the offensive system? You could almost see Medlock and Hilliard thinking in the spring scrimmages. First one to fully grasp the systeam might be the first guy taking snaps at College Park, Maryland, Aug. 31.
How many freshmen offensive linemen? They've got a few in the class. If you're going to be short on experience and mature bulk, how much do you start building it now?
Linebackers. A learning year for a group no longer headed by an entitled pothead (If we're to believe the e-book. And Central Booking).
Who'll replace running back Kedrick Rhodes or kicker Jack Griffin? FIU's got several players who think they can make up for Rhodes' production all by themselves. Doubt it, but it'll be fun watching them try. Between showing maturity and mental toughness, kicking battles always are the least predictable of a football training camp.
By the way, for all the national jokes about FIU coach Ron Turner's age and familiarity to the modern college athlete's world, Turner's on Instagram as "FIUCoachRT."