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37 posts from August 2013

August 14, 2013

Killian's Anthony Brown commits

Killian defensive end Anthony Brown, 6-4, 230 pounds and formerly of Archbishop Carroll High, has given a verbal commitment to FIU. Brown's not rated by ESPN.com, Scout.com, 247sports.com or Rivals.com.

Not-So-Wacky Wednesday

OK, got my colada, which I really needed during the first half of Wednesday morning's practice, and an iced tea, so here's a recap of the morning.

The team was back in FIU Stadium. First to do the happy dance about that should've been the kickers, who were kicking line drives barely clearing the line, never mind the crossbar during Tuesday's Tamiami Park practice. Back on the fake grass, Sergio Sroka went three for three again in field goal drills, hitting from 33, 37 and 43. He was wide right from 43 in two-minute drills at the end of practice.

Other than that, well...Randy Harvey blocked a 47-yard attempt from Cody Hodgens. Hodgens hit from 33. Karson Dietrich had a 37-yard field goal blocked, then hit from 43.

Let it be said, also, that sometimes, long snappers Brandon Taylor and Sam Medlock get it back there just fine, and sometimes, they look like they're tossing infield practice at Marlins Park. With a new offensive line, FIU could have trouble in the red zone. That means field goal attempts for some three-point solace. Any comfort with a field goal attempt begins with the snap. "Smooth almost all the time" doesn't get it done, much less "sometimes."

Some personnel deployment noticed during drills: running back Jakhari Gore's in pads, but doesn't get any reps in 11-on-11, 7-on-7 or, today, the quarterback-running back screen-flat pass drills. That's not how you practice with somebody you plan to use 17 days from now. Bowling Green transfer Anthon Samuel's involved in drills. Generally, however, the top four running backs based on first and second team reps are sophomore Lamarq Caldwell, redshirt sophomore Shane Coleman, freshman Alfonso Randolph and freshman Silas Spearman.

University of Miami transfer Cory White got some first team reps as did freshman tight end Jonnu Smith. Freshmen linebacker Treyvon Williams and cornerback Brad Hyman-Muhammad (the subject of the next Herald story) ran with the second team during 11-on-11 drills late in practice. Afterwards, FIU coach Ron Turner said it wasn't just throwing the puppies some bones -- they've earned it through play in practice and have drawn notice from the coaches. Hyman-Muhammad picked off an underthrown Jake Medlock bomb to Glenn Coleman and got burned on a Medlock-to-Lowder 30something-yard toss to the corner.  

Best play of the day: in run game drills, senior defnesive tackle Isame Faciane buffaloed past center Donald Senat with such power and speed, Senat seemed helplessly swept in Faciane's wake. As Faciane shed Senat, he banged into running back Shane Coleman and the collision dropped Coleman for a loss of about 5.

Speaking of which, there was live tackling today for the first time in camp.

During some of the 11-on-11 and 7-on-7 drills, I started timing the releases for Medlock and sophomore E.J. Hilliard. Hilliard's were closer to what the West Coast offense demands when the ball was between the 20s, even getting off a deep completion to fifth-year senior wide receiver Jairus Williams in 3.3 seconds. 

From inside the 15 yard line, however, Medlock took too long only on his first pass, an overthrow in the end zone that took 3.7 seconds. After that, he was low to DeAndre Jasper in 2.0 and hit Jonnu Smith in 2.0 and 2.4 for touchdowns. Hilliard had a checkdown to Silas Spearman in 2.5 seconds, an incomplete fade in 1.7 seconds, didn't get rid of the ball in 4.5 seconds before scrambling (sack if it wasn't 7-on-7), incomplete in 3.5 seconds (another sack) then connected with Zach Schaubhut in the back of the end zone in 2.2 seconds.

Some of this is on the receivers, who aren't always getting open quickly enough. During one stretch of plays with Hilliard, the second team receivers couldn't get open on the third team secondary. One of the most undervalued skills of a quarterback is knowing when to throw the ball away. Though Medlock and Hilliard both know how to run, knowing when to fire into the fifth row also will come in handy this year.


August 13, 2013

Tuesday on grass

Tuesday's practice moved to a Tamiami Park field south of FIU Stadium's parking lot. Grass forgives more than artificial turf and, without the empty metal stands and fake grass, practice possessed less of an oven quality. A grass practice field is on the Ron Turner wish list.

Sophmore middle linebacker Patrick Jean returned to practice. One of the most impressive players in the spring has been back up in Palm Beach County, helping deal with a family situation. In his absence, freshman Treyvon Williams has gotten second team snaps at middle linebacker.

Richard Leonard (helicopter hover) and Demarkus Perkins (shoetops in stride) made the two most athletic interceptions of a practice that also saw Justin Halley and Randy Harvey pick off passes. Jake Medlock threw all but the Harvey pick. Defensive tackle Isame Faciane blocked another pass. I think that's five of the last seven days he's batted down at least one pass.

The obvious offensive bright spot would be, again, Dominique Rhymes using his length and leaping ability to come down with a couple of alley-oop catches (RIP R.C. Owens).

The kickers looked like they were hitting out of the rough, having a tough time getting height on their kicks off the grass. Serge Sroka hit two from short range, then got a 37-yarder blocked by 6-8 Paul Crawford. Austin Taylor hit from 32 yards.


Monday Night Football

Nice to see some of you blog readers at Monday's second practice, the 7 p.m. shirts and shorts runaround.

For those of you not there, special teams and some situational team drill stuff comprised the night work. Senior cornerback Sam Miller got redshirt junior quarerback Jake Medlock for six the other way when Medlock stared down the receiver on an out.

Practice ended with a 37-yard field goal off the right hash mark by redshirt freshman Sergio Sroka, a Belen graduate. Hit it and no end of practice sprints for his teammates. Miss it and everybody does a Jesse Owens impression. Sroka nailed a 47-yarder at the end of two-minute drills earlier. Here, though, with Belen players in the stands and shouting, chanting FIU teammates surrounding him, Sroka went wide right. 

Tuesday morning, FIU will practice on the natural grass on the opposide side of the main football stadium parking lot. It'll likely be at least 20 degrees cooler than the artificial turf to which left tackle Aaron Nielson slumped at a break in red zone drills. Nielson got helped into the shade where his body got cooled down.


Assistant coach Mandy Schuerman is returning to the Tampa area to coach high school softball.


Oh, yeah, they're headed for Spain tomorrow...

August 12, 2013

The Day After Sunday at La Cage

Third down situations and two-minute drills got work Monday. Again, the defense got the better of it, despite having only 10 men on the field for about three consecutive plays during third down drills.

In the two minute drills, the first string defense got a three-and-out on the offense on the first possession, then stopped the offense on downs when redshirt junior Jake Medlock underthrew a 5-yard slant to T.J. Lowder on fourth and 8. The offensive line had a problem blocking Greg Hickman and Isame Faciane and the receivers had trouble getting open. In the Twos vs. Twos, sophompre E.J. Hilliard got the second string offense to the defense's 30 and Serge Sroka nailed a 47-yard field goal.

Sroka also hit from 32 and 37 earlier. Freshman Karson Dietrich was wide right from 42, rang the left upright from 47. Freshman Cody Hodgens hit from 33 and was wide left from 37 off the right hash mark. Freshman Austin Taylor hit from 43 and was wide right from 47 in the middle of the field.

Fifth-year senior Rocky Vann got behind the defense in 11-on-11 and 7-on-7 drills to catch three bombs from Hilliard and freshman Israel Paopao. Paopao's clearly the No. 3 quarterback. His throws have hummingbird zip. Freshman Travis Wright's passes remind me of the E runner rating in Statis Pro Baseball: Slow. Painfully slow. Almost never gets there. (Among the 1979 season players in my college pal's set, I think only Pittsburgh's Willie Stargell had that rating). He's got time to improve that, but it's a tad disappointing based on his consensus rating and statistics.

All the quarterbacks, from Medlock to Wright, need to work on firing more quickly. Short to medium routes with short drops form the nucleus of the West Coast Offense.

"Our five step drop stuff, we try for two, three (seconds) and under," FIU coach Ron Turner said. "Some things if we go play action, seven-step drop and trying to get downfield, the low threes. That's the hardest thing for a young quarterback or a quarterback in a new system to do is get the ball out of their hands. We're constantly saying "get it out, get it out, throw it, throw it.'

"It's improving. It's not anywhere close to where we need it to be."

Transfer running back Anthon Samuel took second team reps in the two-minute drill. Perhaps FIU wants to be sure Samuel gets adequate work in case the NCAA grants his transfer waiver. Freshman running back Silas Spearman also got second team work. Behind sophomore Lemarq Caldwell, who again showed Monday he needs to work on holding onto the ball, it looks like the pecking order is redshirt sophomore Shane Coleman; freshman Alfonso Randolph; and Spearman. An eligible Samuel goes to No. 1 on the charts like he was sung by Jay-Z.

Those catching punts in punt return work: senior Glenn Coleman, junior Richard Leonard, sophomoore DeAndre Jasper, senior Sam Miller.

Turner said Vero Beach freshman offensive lineman Chris Flaig had "a health issue" and might not join the team until classes started. Or, possibly, until next semester.


August 11, 2013

2012 FIU in the 2013 NFL preseason

Quickie updates on a couple of last year's seniors trying to make NFL rosters:

Former FIU cornerback Junior Mertile got into Saturday night's Giants preseason game against Pittsburgh in the fourth quarter. He had two tackles and a tackle assist. Steelers wide receiver Derek Moye caught two passes in front of Mertile, one to convert a third down.

Friday night, San Diego sixth round pick Tourek Williams, converting to outside linebacker from defensive end, made a tackle for no gain and helped on a tackle for a 2-yard loss in the third quarter. He also had an offside penalty on third and 1.

Jacksonville held Johnathan Cyprien out against the Dolphins Friday night with his hamstring injury.

August 10, 2013

Saturday Morning Fever

Rolled up to La Cage and saw four of the FIU hardcores tailgating. Tailgating a Saturday morning training camp practice. That's dedication. Or an implied referral to therapy. They provided a fan's commentary soundtrack to practice that amused even some of the defensive players standing on the south sideline.

(One fan noticed I was once again wearing a Brazil national team jersey, as I was at a practice earlier this week. To clear up quickly: I have Brazil national team jerseys from the 1998, 2002 and 2006 World Cups, four or five thin gray A/X-type t-shirts and four or five pairs of black pants/slacks. So while you might see me wearing the same color shirt, pants or whole outfit as perhaps two days previous, they aren't the same clothes.)

The football highlight of practice would be the relatively clean quality. Another observer saw one fumble that I somehow missed. That included, still, it was good enough for head coach Ron Turner to call it the best offensive day as far as execution.

That didn't always translate into final success. Two third and short runs by Shane Coleman got devoured by the right side of the defense. The first and second string defense generally had the better of it on third downs, although Jake Medlock did manage to drop a deep throw in to redshirt sophomore T.J. Lowder behind the corner and in front of the safety. The first string offense got running back Lemarq Caldwell around the side and up the sideline on its best running play of the day.

Senior wide receiver Glenn Coleman came down with a nice leaping grab of a slightly underthrown ball from sophomore E.J. Hilliard. Coleman got open on a play action pass, which Hilliard sells well. Such ball-handling is underrated these days as the running game loses prominence at all levels of football.

For the third consecutive day, senior defensive tackle Isame Faciane blocked a pass. And, on one run of plays, redshirt freshman defensive tackle Leonard Washington devastated the second-team offensive line. FIU's got depth there.

The first pair of wide receivers to line up with the first team the last few practices: redshirt sophomores T.J. Lowder and 6-4 Dominique Rhymes. Speed and height, respectively.

In the kicking and punting battles, redshirt freshman punter Chris Ayers continued to pull away from his competition, nailing a 51-yard punt and a 40-yarder. Redshirt freshman Sergio Sroka had his best day on field goals, hitting from 26 yards in the middle of the field; 30 yards off the left hash mark; 36 off the right hash; and 42 off the left hash. Freshman Cody Hodgens missed from 26 in the middle of the field and hit from 30 off the right hash. Freshman Austin Taylor was wide right from 36 off the left hash and hit from 42 off the right hash.

The moment that jumped out at observers, however, was cornerback Richard Leonard dough-popping wide receiver Richard Burrows on a play over the middle after Burrows missed a pass. Burrows mouthpiece shot into the air and didn't land until after the penalty flags thrown by the officials present did. Kind of reminded me of the moment at 10:05.


Turner marched toward Leonard, who must have said something because Turner told him to shut up but used a few more words to do it. Turner then pointed out to the team a point he reiterated after practice -- that hit would've gotten Leonard penalized and ejected.

"I wasn't as mad about the hit -- I was mad about the hit because it's our own teammate and we don't do that to our own team -- but he was breaking on the ball and that stuff happens. It's football," Turner said. "I wasn't as mad about that as his reaction. They call it, they call it.

"I don't agree with the call. I don't agree with the rule," he continued. "I understand the purposes of it. I don't agree with all the concepts of it. I agree with what they're trying to do. But it's very difficult to play defense right now. You've got to change how you're teaching some things."

Turner said he had a "You've got to be kidding me" reaction to some -- not all, some -- of the hits Conference USA officials showed coaches that would get a player flagged and gone.

Burrows sat out for while then returned to practice. He later hung onto a short pass over the middle as Leonard also wrapped his arms around it in an attempt to just rip the ball away.

Offensive line coach Steve Shankweiler said the offensive line is "completely different" from where it was in the spring. Just having enough bodies for work and competition makes a difference.

"Whenever your job is on the line, you tend to take coaching a little bit better," Shankweiler said.

He noted that freshman guard Jordan Budwig is getting second team snaps because of injuries on the line and thinks Budwig and fellow freshman James Cruise will be good players down the line. He also pointed out that junior college transfer Byron Pinkston hasn't had a bad snap yet while working at center.

Sophomore middle linebacker Patrick Jean's been out for a few practices dealing with a family issue. Freshman offensive lineman Tim Thomas went back to Crowley, Texas for the same reason. Jean's expected back Sunday. Thomas will be back later.

Get one, lose one: walk-on freshman running back Eric Moate quit the team. Joining practice was junior college transfer Talir Satterfield-Rowe (5-10, 195). In 11 games for Los Angeles Pierce College last year, Rowe ran for 300 yards and a touchdown on 75 carries. He caught 30 passes for 253 yards and two touchdowns.  


August 09, 2013


As all the fall sports start practice, men's basketball coach Anthony Evans filled out his staff with assistant coaches Louis Rowe, Marco Morcos and Stephen Ott; director of basketball operations Gerald Gillion; and assistant director of basketball operations Juan Hernandez.

Rowe's a St. Petersburg native who has spent most of his college basketball staff career at James Madison. Ott worked on staffs at Siena and Lehigh during surprising NCAA runs, but most notably for FIU's purposes are the contacts he made while Director of Team Events for The Hoop Group. That put him in contact with AAU coadhes, directors and players around the nation.

Morcos most recently was an assistant at Rice from 2010-12 and director of basketball operations there and at Alabama-Birmingham. So, he knows Conference USA.

Morcos, born in Egypt, and two former Rice players, Iranian-born Arsalan Kazemi and Egyptian Omar Araby, alleged they were the targets of derogatory, discrimatory racial remarks from recently-departed Rice athletic director Rick Greenspan.


Friday at La Cage; Men's soccer picked 8th in C-USA

Distant lightning delayed Friday morning's practice for about a half hour.

Word had it that after I stepped away from Thursday's Ron Turner media session to talk to a player, Turner said there would be no scrimmages as well as no tackling during fall camp. So, the first full-on tackling of the late summer would take place Aug. 31, at Maryland.

I asked Turner about this Friday.

Turner said, "I think what I meant to say -- and I probably didn't say it right -- we're not going to have a Saturday like we do in the spring, "this is an all-scrimmage day." We're going to practice. Some of the periods might be live. A good portion of the practice might be live, might be tackling, whatever, but we're not going to have a scrimmage. Depends on our health situation, we may or may not do that. But we're not going to have a day devoted to nothing but scrimmage. We'll put them in a lot of game situations."

No tackling in full pads Friday didn't mean freshman running back Silas Spearman couldn't take a couple of serious shots, one from junior linebacker Matt Larrubia, another from redshirt junior safety Demarkus Perkins.

In the run game practice, redshirt sophomore Shane Coleman broke off the best run, starting a stretch left, then slicing hard back, almost all the way behind right tackle and catching half the defense unprepared to be part of the action. The offensive line opened some holes in red zone work, too. Turner said having enormous guard Jordan White back after he sat out spring ball makes a difference.

FIU can't count clean snaps and handoffs as givens yet. Jake Medlock, E.J. Hilliard, Travis Wright, placekick holder Chris Ayres all made surprise visits to Adventureland on handoffs or snaps Friday.

In the kicking game, Serge Sroka hit from 30 yards off the right hash and was wide right from 41 off the right hash. Karson Dietrich hit from 41 off the right hash. Austin Taylor was wide right from 30 off the left hash. Kickoff return work saw junior Richard Leonard and senior Sam Miller as the first duo.

Last night, finished my game-by-game for our preseason section. It came out 3-9. Two years ago, I was one game off, 9-3, and picked the upset at Louisville. Last year, well, I whiffed like A-Rod in the playoffs without any clinic visits. 


One Conference USA coach voted FIU his preseason favorite. The other nine differed strongly.

FIU was picked eighth, ahead of only Marshall and FAU, in the coaches' preseason poll and didn't have a single player considered worthy of preseason all-conference notice. Interesting, considering junior forward Quentin Albrecht earned Second Team All-Conference USA honors last year.

Tulsa topped the poll, although New Mexico received four first place votes to Tulsa's three. 

August 08, 2013

Caged Heat Thursday

Love the modern club jazz blowing through the Graham Center right now.

On the presence of running back Jakhari Gore, FIU coach Ron Turner said, "We let him back out. Each one is on a case-by-case bas. We felt it was best to bring him in so we brought him in." 

E.J. Hilliard fumbled twice in 9-on-9 drills (no wide receivers or cornerbacks) as they worked on the running game. Hilliard later hit Dominique Rhymes deep behind Randy Harvey on a beautiul pitch-leap-and-catch play. But the catch of the day came via the hands and concentration of sophomore wide receiver DeAndre Jasper. Keeping focused on a bomb through safety Demarkus Perkins' mistimed leap, Jasper grasped it and held on while colliding with Rhymes.

Of the two freshman quarterbacks, Israel Paopao looks less jittery than Travis Wright. Paopao couldn't get a break during 7-on-7 drills today, however. Once the ball slipped from his hand, Football Follies-style, as he cocked to throw. His next pass arced beautifully over 40 yards before going through sophomore wide receiver Raymond Jackson's hands.

Freshman cornerback Brad Hyman-Muhammad and linebacker Michael Wakefield picked off passes in 7-on-7s. Wakefield got Jake Medlock, although it's unclear whether the receiver cut off his route too soon.

Redshirt junior center Michael Montero, who had been working with the first team, wore the orange injured jersey Thursday. Donald Senat took his place.

(Can't the school get Home Depot to sponsor those jerseys? Seems a natural connection. Injuries mean the body needs repair, you go to Home Depot when stuff around the house needs repairing...there's a dollar to be made there).

Sophomore punter Chris Ayers had a "mine's longer" day compared to freshman Karson Dietrich during practice of short snap punts (punts from inside the 5) and regular long snap punts. From the 3, Ayers got off punts of 39, 47 and 56 yards. Ayers also slammed out a 52-yarder from the 24. Dietrich's best of the day was a 46-yarder from the 24.

Among the kickers, Belen redshirt freshman Sergio Sroka was wide right from 33 off the left hash mark, good from 37 (left hash) and 43 (right hash) and short from 47 (left hash). Freshman Austin Taylor was good from 33 (middle) and 37 (right hash). Freshman Cody Hodgens was good from 43, short from 47. 

As practice wound down, February signee Chris Flaig moseyed onto the field in shorts and striped polo shirt. The offensive lineman from Vero Beach High watched some linemen do some post-practice work, then headed over to talk with fellow freshman Vero alumnus Dietrich.

Got Gore?

Despite Ron Turner telling us Monday that senior wide receiver Willis Wright, redshirt sophomore running back Jakhari Gore and redshirt freshman safety Adrian Jenkins wouldn't be joining the team until at least the first day of classes, Aug. 26, it appears Gore's practicing this morning although not in any pads.

I'm still not sure Gore's academically eligible. But I did hear Wednesday night Gore was being told to come to camp. There might've been a mistake made with grade forgiveness that, if rectified, would push Gore closer to eligibility.

In team drills, Shane Coleman took the first reps with the first team offense as they worked on the running game without the wideouts and the cornerbacks.

Also joining the team Thursday morning was former Nortthwestern High defensive tackle Imarjaye Albury, who transferred from West Virginia.

The same injured players working on the side this morning as the last few days -- offensive lineman Yousif Khoury, safety Jordan Davis, freshman linebacker Jordan Gibbs.


August 07, 2013

Potential NFL Panthers

I'll be back at practice Thursday. One of our intrepid Herald interns was out at FIU Stadium this morning while we made a family trip to the pediatrician for the annual checkup.

Preseason football qualifies as the TV dinner of professional sports. That said, FIU followers might want to munch some NFL Network, which eventually shows every preseason game. A couple of former Panthers need to earn roster spots.

Former safety Johnathan Cyprien's got a spot with the Jaguars. Unless there's an arrest involved for something like domestic violence, nobody's cutting loose a second round pick before his rookie season.

While a hamstring has kept Cyprien sidelined throughout Jacksonville's camp, up at Giants camp, former cornerback Junior Mertile's doing what undrafted rookies need to do to make it past the first round of unemployment. At least, that's according to this Newark Star-Ledger story. The Giants play Pittsburgh Saturday night.

Out in San Diego, the Chargers official team website talks about former defensive end Tourek Williams and his attempted conversion to outside linebacker. The Chargers play Seattle Thursday night.


August 06, 2013

Female Footballers predicted 1st in C-USA East, 5th overall

The Conference USA women's soccer coaches voted FIU fifth in their preseason poll, but first in C-USA East. Colorado College is the preseason overall conference favorite. Another Sun Belt migrant, 2012 Sun Belt champion North Texas, was voted third.

Senior forward Chelsea Leiva, FIU's leading scorer each of the last two seasons, was named one of Conference USA's 16 players to watch.

Tuesdays, No Morrie

Tuesday's practice began before South Florida's chewy heat enveloped all in its sweaty aunt embrace. By the time practice ended, some guys looked like they just kissed Aunt Bunny.

The punters and kickers did their thing. Despite a terrible shank that bounced into the south stands, I'd give the Tuesday edge to sophomore Chris Ayers over freshman Karson Dietrich in punting. Among the kickers, freshman Austin Taylor hit three consecutive, the last two from 36 yards off the right hash mark and 42 yards off the left hash. Freshman Cody Hodgens missed from 26 and 36, but hit from 30 and 42.

Defensively, the defensive line and junior cornerback Richard Leonard again starred, although he and fellow returning starter Sam Miller tended to get run with the second team defense while sophomore Jeremiah McKinnon and redshirt junior Sam Gervais ran with the first team. McKinnon had an interception in team drills.

Santa Rosa Junior College transfer cornerback Randy Harvey joined the team, officially, Tuesday. Havey had three interceptions and 46 tackles in 10 games last season.

Redshirt sophomore wide receiver Clinton Taylor got behind the defense a few times Tuesday. Head coach Ron Turner said, "I think he's starting to understand the offense. He's playing it differently than he did in the spring. He's playing it much more relaxed. He's playing with confidence. The players did a good job in the player-led workouts (this summer)."

Turner said about DeAndre Jasper working with both the wide receivers and running backs, "We just want to have him ready as an emergency type guy in the running back position and focus on the slot receiver position. We'll see where he fits."

Here's the first team defense as it lined up Tuesday: defensive ends junior Paul Crawford and junior Giovani Francois; defensive tackles senior Isame Faciane and senior Greg Hickman; linebackers fifth-year senior Markeith Russell, redshirt sophomore Luis Rosado and sophomore Davison Colimon; safeties redshirt junior Justin Halley and fifth year senior Antwoine Bell.

Being from the steamy New Orleans-area defensive tackles, 310-pound sophomore Darrian Dyson and 270-pound Marques Cheeks, from getting baked (and not in the Winston Fraser way). Dyson barfed after a stint in team drills. He looked pretty ponderous Monday. Cheeks was crawling on the turf as a coach told a training staffer to get him off the ground because the fake turf is extremely hot.

Offensive line coach Steve Shankweiler climbed all over redshirt freshman offensive tackle Edens Sineace near the end of practice as Sineace hobbled over to a bench favoring his right leg. It sounded as if Shankweiler's patience with Sineace already is shorter than an Internet commercial.

Oakland Raiders scout Zack Crockett spent some time after practice with defensive line coach Andre Patterson. I'm betting they were talking about Faciane, who could be in the NFL after this season if he's not on Food Network. That's not a joke about his eating. He's apparently a good cook and has culinary artist aspirations.


August 05, 2013

Monday morning blues (and whites)

The football team practiced for two and a half hours Monday morning. They actually have enough players to do it, unlike the spring.

For what it's worth...sophomore Lemarq Caldwell took the running back spot with the first team through team drills and when they ran plays against air. Redshirt sophomore Shane Coleman also got some work with the ones. With Donald Senat at summer graduation, the first string offensive line went, left to right, redshirt sophomore Aaron Nielsen; redshirt junior Delmar Taylor; redshirt junior Michael Montero; redshirt junior Jordan White; and redshirt junior David Delsoin.

The second unit offensive line went, left to right, redshirt freshman Dieugot Joseph, converted from defensive line in the spring; junior Byron Pinkston, a junior college transfer from Dean College; freshman Danny Nunez from Dade Christian; redshirt freshmen Trenton Saunders and Edens Sineace.

Junior cornerback Richard Leonard picked off redshirt junior Jake Medlock twice, once in team drills, once in 7-on-7s, both times for what would've been house calls. Medlock blamed his own mental errors, but said Leonard's speed and football intelligence makes him tough to throw against. Leonard said he actually learned how to watch film during this offseason.

Medlock recovered to fire a deep strike to Rocky Vann behind Sam Gervais. Among the freshmen receivers, Shug Oyegunle, a small (5-9) package of explosives from Tampa Gaither probably had the best day. Losing a big, fast talent like Willis Wright hurts FIU -- go back and look at that touchdown against FAU last year to see why -- but there's some serious speed on this roster, guys who placed well in sprints at the state track meet or averaged over 20.0 yards per catch. Speed isn't the end all or be all of receiving, returning or being a defensive back. Doesn't hurt.

Freshman Sam Medlock is trying to make the roster as a long snapper. Redshirt sophomore Brandon Taylor is back in that role. Redshirt freshman Chris Ayers and freshman Karson Dietrich did the punting Monday. Dietrich and Sergio Sroka handled most of the kicking.

A few freshmen got You Ain't Playing Sunnydale High Anymore moments Monday.

The first pass in drills from Israel Paopao, a deep out to the right, got intercepted and taken the distance by redshirt freshman Deonte Wilson.

Cornerback Vontarius West wound up two steps in arrears as redshirt sophomore T.J. Lowder blew by him up the right sideline. To be fair, redshirt junior Justin Halley dropped by a little late with the help.

One freshman linebacker didn't get on the field for his rep, earning him an upbraiding from one assistant coach that included, "See if you get another rep today! I don't want to have to fight your --- to play!" He listened well enough to get on the field several snaps later when directed.

Among the new names dotting the roster is the wonderfully named Wonderful Monds II, a defensive back transfer from the University of Buffalo. His father, Wonderful Monds, knocked around baseball's minor leagues for a while. Both are from Fort Pierce.

An overload at wide receiver puts Brad Hyman-Muhammad, a Class 2A All-State wide receiver last season (20.1 yards per catch) for Riverview Admiral Farragut, at cornerback. That's where they tried to switch wide receiver DeAndre Jasper in the spring.

Among the Signing Day signees, Vero Beach offensive lineman Chris Flaig, Bradenton Manatee defensive back Willie Smith and Norland defensive tackle Akheem Barton were absent. Smith and Barton won't be joining the team. Flaig apparently will be eventually.

Some more transfers might be coming soon, including a running back last at an SEC school. Of course, that description fit Jakhari Gore, too.

Tennessee Titans scout Mike Yowarsky attended practice.

No Wright, Gore, Jenkins for now; good job, Senat

Among the absences on the first day of football training camp was center Donald Senat, who was marching in the summer graduation ceremony. Congratulations to Senat.

Unfortunately for FIU, others have not taken care of all their necessary business. Senior wide receiver Willis Wright, expected to be a starter after FIU finally got him the ball the second half of last season (and he hung on to it) and arguably the offense's most talented player; redshirt sophomore Jakhari Gore, the running back transfer from LSU; and redshirt freshman Adrian Jenkins, the wide receiver-turned-safety-this-spring will not join the team for fall camp until at least the first day of classes.

That's Aug. 26, meaning they'll be too far behind physically and mentally, especially with a new offense, to play in the first few games.

Redshirt freshman safety Jordan Davis rode the bike with a walking boot on his left foot. Offensive tackle Yousif Khory missed practice with an injury. All others on the roster were present.


End-of-Summer Camp

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."








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