Freshman Alex McGough very well could be FIU's opening day starter at quarterback.
I write that not because FIU coach Ron Turner, asked directly if he'd start a freshman quarterback, said he'd start the best player at any position regardless of class or scholarship status. And not because of the day of practice by E.J. Hilliard, who affirmed, correctly, he feels the starting job is his to lose. Hilliard looked OK, according to those who saw practice.
It's because of how McGough and fellow freshman Bud Martin looked on the first day -- like they belonged.
(Practice was closed to the public and media. But La Cage isn't Langley. Classes get held there. Athletes run through the stands. Eyes, ears and smartphones are everywhere. And so to me does information flow...).
McGough and Martin's throws were accurate, catchable and got there in a hurry. Both came out of pro-style high school offenses and that familiarity showed.
"First of all, they're quarterbacks," Turner said. "They're very instinctive. You can see it. You can see the way handle themselves. They're freshmen. They should be in hgih school right now. And they're out here taking charge, being leaders. They have a quarterback demeanor. Both of them. We had them in camp, so we knew that. That's one of the advantages of our camps. You can see the ability on film, but we can get to know them. Things come to them pretty quickly. They were in pro-style situations. Probably the concepts are similar, so that helps. Definitely helps."
McGough looked the better of the two freshmen. Both got snaps with the second team and a few with the first team line. Hilliard got the majority of the first team work in team drills, of course.
Turner said they worked with more offensive sets than they did any time last season. To lay observers, it looked like pretty much more of the same. Then again, you don't overhaul the offensive concepts after everybody's spent a year getting into gear on this one.
Setting the first team offense: left tackle David Delsoin; left guard Jordan Budwig; center Donald Senat; right guard Byron Pinkston; right tackle Aaron Nielson; tight end Jonnu Smith; wide receivers T.J. Lowder and Dominique Rhymes; running back Lamarq Caldwell or Silas Spearman. So, pretty much the same as last year.
Second team offense: left tackle Dieugot Joseph; left guard James Cruise; center Danny Nunez or Michael Montero; right guard Chris Flaig or Trenton Saunders; right tackle Edens Sineace; tight end Ya'keem Griner and/or Cory White; wide receivers Glenn Coleman and Fred Porter; running back Spearman or Shane Coleman.
First team defense: defensive ends Michael Wakefield and Denzell Perine; defensive tackles Leonard Washington and Darrian Dyson; outside linebackers Patrick Jean and Davison Colimon; middle linebacker Luis Rosado; safeties Jordan Davis (with Justin Halley wearing the Home Depot orange injured jersey after shoulder surgery) and Demarkus Perkins; cornerbacks Richard Leonard and Jeremiah McKinnon.
Second team defense: defensive ends Giovanni Francois and Wonderful Monds II; defensive tackles Lars Koht and Imarjaye Albury; outside linebackers Caleb Vincent and De'Shawn Hazziez; middle linebacker Treyvon Williams; safeties Vontarious West and Deonte Wilson; cornerbacks Randy Harvey and Wilkinson Myrtil.
In one-on-one drills, Richard Leonard didn't allow a catch against him until the last rep, when Leonard lined up well off the ball and Fred Porter ran a short stop pattern for Hilliard. Hilliard threw the drill's only interception, a throw to the right sideline either too far inside or to a receiver who didn't compete hard enough inside. Either way, Myrtil easily stepped in for the pickoff.
In seven-on-sevens, McGough made the best completion of the day, hitting Fred Porter on a 15 to 20-yard slant in stride. Martin dropped a nice bomb in to Coleman behind Xavier Hines.
Hip-hop music thumped throughout practice, a change from the norm of that being confined to the pre-practice stretching. The quarterbacks' red no-touch jerseys had three white stripes on the shoulder. Hilliard said the rest of the team gave the quarterbacks guff over looking "fancy." This old man thought they looked like 1970 Nebraska jerseys.