If you're into spending mornings off watching football practice instead of splashing at a water park or helping the local economy by keeping a waterfront bar in business, here's the football practice schedule.
Tuesday-Aug. 9: 8:15-10:30
Aug. 11, 13, 15, 18, 20: 8:15-10:30 a.m. and 7:15-8:30 p.m.
Aug. 12, 14, 16, 19, 21-23: 8:15-10:30 a.m.
As far as the (potential) Class of 2015, FIU's killing it in Jacksonville. Jacksonville Trinity Christian's 6-3, 315-pound Deion Eakins became the fifth from the area to pledge FIU. Eakins is unrated by ESPN and 247sports.com and at two stars by Rivals.com and Scout.com.
Trinity ran for 266 yards per game last season on their way to a state title. According to an article in In The Game magazine, Easkins plays drums and is in the church band. If he comes to Camp Mitch, he'll combine with running back/singer Alex Gardner out of Jacksonville Raines to put FIU a lead guitar from a church trio.
St. Petersburg Admiral Farragut Academy sent running back Napoleon Maxwell to FIU this year. Jestin Green, a wide receiver and safety, says he's coming to FIU next year. Green's unrated by the four sites I usually site here.
The preseason Conference USA coaches poll put FIU ninth in the 13-team conference. Defending champion Texas-San Antonio was picked to repeat with Sun Belt immigrant Western Kentucky ranked second.
FIU put nobody on the preseason all-conference team, but Adrianna McLamb represents FIU on the conference's Student-Athlete Advisory Committee as its External Affairs Chair.
Monday's the first football practice. Aug. 22 is the first athletic event of the 2014-15 academic year, women's soccer hosting Arizona. Aug. 30, kickoff vs. Bethune-Cookman.
Who shrunk summer from back in the day, when it ran from Memorial Day to Jerry Lewis Telethon? Good golly, the week of no parking at Camp Mitch will be upon us soon.
Football coach Ron Turner said last week he was happy with recruiting for 2015 so far, especially coming off 1-11. He's certainly getting them out of Homestead, where he scored a committment from defensive back Ocie Rose. Rose transferred from Homestead to Booker T. Washington for his senior season, just as FIU commit Maurice Alexander did this year.
Ratings on Rose are all over the place. Rivals puts him at three stars. Scout.com puts him at two. ESPN.com and 247Sports.com don't have him rated themselves, but 247Sports has him at three stars on their composite rating. At 6-1, 185, Rose bloomed into a big safety who forced two fumbles last year in his 47 tackles.
Two-way interior lineman Richerd Desir-Jones, 6-4, 300, out of Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas gave his pledge to FIU. He's rated at three stars by Rivals and Scout.com, unrated by ESPN.com and 247Sports.com.
Orange Park Fleming Island center Neal Mars, 6-4, 275, also wears an FIU pledge pin for 2015. He's unrated by the four recruiting sites.
For what it's worth...247Sports has FIU's 2015 class rated 94th nationally, ninth in Conference USA. Scout.com has FIU rated 90th nationally, seventh in C-USA. Rivals puts FIU 91st overall, sixth in conference. Lot of months, a lot of games, a lot of standardized tests and a lot of grades between now and Signing Day. Plenty of time to move in either direction.
First baseman Gunnar McNeill was picked as the Valley Baseball League's Staunton Braves MVP after leading the league in hitting (.402) and RBI (50) with a team-high six home runs. In the playoffs, he went four for eight with a double and two RBI. For FIU, McNeill also pitches. He made three apperances for Staunton, once as a starter and had a 9.00 ERA in six innings pitched.
We do like our academic achievement around here. So belated big ups to the women's basketball team for their 3.37 grade point average being Conference USA's best in women's hoop.
The story on FIU is here. What follows supplements that.
When asked about the change that gives the "offensive coordinator" title to offensive line coach Steve Shankweiler, last year's "run game coordinator," head coach Ron Turner said:
“There were times last year when I was in with the defense and those guys were kind of waiting to give direction. Steve Shankweiler can take it and give direction for meetings and all that. The structure of how we do it is not going to change at all. I’m still going to call the plays.
"Steve will still be involved in it, the run game aspects of it. He’ll be able to take some of the offrensive team meetings and do some motivational stuff that he was a little reluctant to do last year when I was doing something else. He’ll head up the offensive team meetings, staff meetings and give it a little direction when I’m focused on other areas.”
I asked Turner about sophomore tight end Jonnu Smith.
“To me, it’s amazing what he did last year as a true freshman, all the things we asked him to do – dplaying tight end, playing fullback, splitting him out as a receiver, going in motion, all the things we asked him to do in the running game and the passing game. It’s amazing how he handled it, emotionally and mentally. He’s a great young man.”
“The good news is, hopefully, he’ll have a little more help around him. We won’t have to put so much on his shoulders.”
Turner said he was happy with the depth on the offensive line, wide receivers and secondary and most concerned about the lack of depth on the defensive line.
The running back position will be by committee. Last year's transfer from Bowling Green, Anthon Samuel, will be a walk-on. That hit to the knee sophomore Silas Spearman took in the spring game looked worse than just a "tweak." Indeed, Spearman's knee remains ouchy. “I think he’ll be OK,” Turner said. "Shane Coleman had a great spring. Hopefully, he can continue.”
“We’re not going to have one feature guy. It’ll be a lot of guys playing. Whoever’s hot, keeps going.”
Most players came in slacks and a polo shirt in school colors with logo. The preseason Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year, Marshall quarterback Rakeem Cato and defensive lineman James Rouse, wore suits.
The players decided their attire on their own. Rouse said he saw players at other conference's Media Days in suits and thought it looked nice. But, also, he said, it symbolizes the "all business mentality" Marshall wants to adopt once official practices start.
The Thundering Herd, upset losers to Rice 41-24 in last year's conference title game, rank not just as the overwhelming conference favorite, but are considered a possible undefeated BCS buster.
"We see ourselves as a good team," Rouse said. "We're working hard to prepare ourselves for each game. Right now, we're just worried about Miami of Ohio, the first game. We have to take care of business there before we (start thinking about the season)."
Cato said, "I think we have a good chance to have a great season. I love our team right now. I think we have a good shot to win it all."
If FIU's receivers didn't dribble more passes against FAU than former Owls point guard Ray Taylor dribbled basketballs for FIU last year, the Owls wouldn't have beaten FIU to become bowl eligible. And they didn't go to a bowl. Neither besmirches FAU's remarkable achievement in refusing to let its season get dragged into the Death Star trash compactor muck after head coach Carl Pelini and defensive coordinator Pete Rekstis resigned amid illegal drug use allegations, Pelini always has denied he used illegal drugs. When Pelini tried to withdraw his resignation, he was fired. He later accused athletic director Pat Chun of dishonesty and desiring his own choice of football coach.
Whatever the truth of that mess, it could've been the final torpedo in a season that stood at 2-6 after Pelini's last game. Instead, helped by closing against Southern Mississippi, New Mexico State and FIU, the Owls won their last four games. Senior tight end Alex DeLeon said he never stopped during the season to think about the wackienss surrounding the coaching situation.
“I can’t control that," DeLeon said. "The only thing I can control is being a leader for our team.”
Oh, and, much like FIU, FAU doesn't like Western Kentucky. When I asked DeLeon and senior linebacker Andrae Kirk for a conference rival aside from their obvious geographic rival, both pointed to Western. The Hilltoppers beat FAU in FAU Stadium's first game. Also, Kirk said, Western's ground bound offense under previous coach Willie Taggart made for physical games against another team with more than a few Florida players.
Both players politely declined to mention that Western under Taggart could be cocky, yappy and a wee bit nasty, especially in victory. Maybe they forgot after a year separated from the Hilltoppers.
Besides, this is a very different Western than the one FIU and FAU left back in the Sun Belt for a season.
“Coach Taggart, he’s the one who helped get the program on its feet and transition to Division I-A," junior defensive end Gavin Rocker said. "Coach Petrino came in and led us to our best record since we’ve been there. Coach Brohm, there hasn’t been too much of a difference between he and Coach Petrino because he was the coordinator under Coach Petrino so it’s been a smooth transition. He’s a players’ coach. You can tell he cares about us."
When Taggart headed back to his native area to coach South Florida, Western jumped on Bobby Petrino and he brought a staff that included offensive coordinator Jeff Brohm. Yes, he's the brother of Brian Brohm, quarterback of Petrino's best teams at Louisville, and was his brother's quarterback coach at Louisville.
Now, with Petrino back in Louisville after serving his penance for his Arkansas indiscretions, Jeff Brohm takes over. Instead of winning games 14-7 old school Big Ten style, Western won them 34-31 or 35-26. Brohm's offense set 18 single-season school records and averaged 458.5 yards per game.
MIDDLE TENNESSEE STATE
Conference USA's East Division could also be called C-USA Immigration & Naturalization. Four of the five teams that jumped from The Sun Belt to C-USA the last two academic years -- FIU, FAU, Middle Tennessee, Western Kentucky -- are in the East. They'll be joined by newbies Old Dominion and, next year, Charlotte.
“Conference USA is, top to bottom, more competitive," Middle coach Rick Stockstill said. "There’s a lot of great individual players in this conference. There’s a lot of great coaches in this conference. I think the facilities are at a higher level than the Sun Belt Conference schools. The professionalism and the organization of Conference USA is at a higher level than the Sun Belt.”
If everything's a step up, logic says program budgets must increase also. Or, should increase.
“I think we’ll see that this year," Stockstill said. "We had to pay an exit fee to leave the Sun Belt and we had to pay an entry fee for Conference USA, too. The money that we’ll receive from Conference USA I don’t think we’ll see the rewards of that until this year. With the bowl tie-ins, the TV packagres, the money you get is head and shoulders above the Sun Belt.”
Middle returns four running backs and one backup quarterback who had 100-yard rushing games in 2013 and eight starters on a defense that allowed 26.2 points per game. What they don't return quareterback Logan Kilgore. Sophomore Austin Grammer will get his shot at replacing Kilgore.
UAB beat one FBS team last year -- FIU. FIU beat only one FBS team -- Southern Mississippi. Southern Miss beat only one FBS team last year -- UAB. Change that. Southern Miss STOMPED UAB 62-27 in the season closer.
That finished the Garrick McGee era at UAB. Coming into a program that's gone 8-28 the last three seasons, new Blazers coach Bill Clark saw a scene reminiscent of what the incoming coaches saw at FIU in 2007.
"We started with the infrastructure," Clark said. "Do you have enough people training your guys in the strength program? Are they good at what they do? What's your nutrition look like? We needed a new locker room, so we built us a locker room. A video system...just some basics.
"Then, we went about the process of coming together. Were we working hard? Were we training correctly? Trying to make them into a family. Then, we had to go out and find some older guys to mix in with our guys because we were so young. Offensive line, we were down to eight players in spring (sound familiar FIU-philes?). Stuff that makes you say, "No wonder.""
Conference USA -- or Sun Belt 2010 Plus now that Western Kentucky joins this year -- put Commissioner Britt Banowsky and the West Division at the interview tables first at Wednesday football Media Day. The East Division, which includes your FIU Gilded Panthers, got sent to the live streaming interview room and take their seat at the tables later.
Barnowsky, who joked that Conference USA could be part of the group of mid-major conferences called The Second Five, said he thought conference realignment now would settle down: "There are better legal structures to hold conferences together. The idea that conference membership is like a country club membership, when you can leave when you want, is over."
Rivalries can develop. Athletes can know who's actually in their conference. None of the players I asked could name the Conference USA schools. North Texas' Derek Akunne came the closest, missing only Charlotte. After a handshake that left my right hand feeling like Fred Sanford's hand looked when he claimed his "ar-thur-itis" was acting up, Louisiana Tech's Tony Johnson got four schools then began looking around at the signs on the interview tables for hints.
None were ashamed -- nor should they be -- by that inability. They were amused, knowing it's more a commentary on the bed switching that's dominated college sports the last few years. The Rice players lamented they no longer play former Conference USA school Houston, 10 to 15 minutes down the road, and couldn't believe FIU didn't play the University of Miami ("You have to play that game.").
Barnowsky also said a new football helmet designed to redistribute a collision's impact so the brain doesn't take the full stress of the violence is in development at Alabama-Birmingham. He estimates a year at least before development's finished.
Instead of dropping a helmet from a height until it cracks, which Barnowsky described as the way current helmets were developed, are reaching for greater realism.
"(Dropping a helmet) doesn't in any way simulate what's happening on the field," Barnowsky said. "What the folks at UAB are doing is recreating what happens on the field through high technical video. Then, they're programming the dummies and sleds to reenact exact hits, such as the big hit in The Iron Bowl, Alabama-Auburn, where the kid got knocked out. Then, they measure the impact through sensors inside the dummies. We're excited to partner with them on that project. The person who's doing it, Dean Sicking, developed the crash wall for NASCAR after the (Dale) Earnhardt (fatal) crash."
Pick your bigger Conference USA 2013 surprise: Rice winning the conference or Texas-San Antonio, in its third season of football, going 7-5 overall and 6-2 in the conference. I asked head coach Larry Coker what factors put the zoom in the Roadrunners program development.
"I think we have an excellent staff," Coker said. "Texas high school football, recruiting. No Division I football in San Antonio. The Alamodome is a great place to recruit to. Honestly, myself having won a national championship -- not that that gets anybody -- but I think it gets their attention. They say, 'Maybe if this guy believes in it, we can believe in it, too.'"
Coker also said this was the first time he was at a school with good facilities.
One of the Dallas Airport Marriott's -- which are about as far away from the DFW Airport as South Beach is from MIA -- will host a flurry of preseason football activity Wednesday when Conference USA hosts its Media Day.
Each school's head coach along with two players from each team get to spread the summer gospel of optimism. Two fifth-year seniors, center Donald Senat and safety Demarkus Perkins, will represent FIU along with Ron Turner.
What do you want asked of the FIU contingent or anyone else in Conference USA?
Palm Beach Gardens defensive end Milord Juste announced his commitment to FIU the usual way, via Twitter. Juste, 6-2, 240, had 21.5 sacks and two forced fumbles for Palm Beach Gardens last season and was on the South Florida Sun-Sentinel's First Team All-Palm Beach team. On the hudl video, check out the play about 2:30 in, showing excellent hustle and pretty good speed.
Juste claimed offers from Army, Navy and Colgate. He's not rated yet by 247sports.com, ESPN.com, Rivals.com or Scout.com.
Friday means there's exactly one month until Miami-Dade County Public Schools -- and private schools that work off the MDCPS calendar -- fire up again. At the end of that week, we get the first playing-for-real FIU athletic event of the 2014-15 academic year, women's soccer hosting Arizona at 7 p.m.
Among the fall sports, FIU's best chance to win the school's first Conference USA title resides with the soccer women. FIU gets back fifth-year senior forward Chelsea Leiva and redshirt junior defender Nikki Rios -- best offensive and defensive players, both injury redshirts last year -- and have eight returning starters from last year's 7-12 injury-hampered team. So, this should look more like the team that won the Sun Belt in 2011 and got upset in the 2012 Sun Belt championship by North Texas.
Among the starters lost, two had eligibility left. Defender Jazmin Jones would've been heading into her junior season at FIU after starting 11 of 19 games last season. Alas, the Gig Harbor (Wash.) High graduate transferred a continental United States closer to home, to Washington State.
Goalie Paula Zuluaga started 13 games and had a 2.18 goals against average in 2013 as a redshirt junior with a year of eligibility left on the field. In the classroom, however, she was all senior, graduating magna cum laude with a Sports Management degree and a minor in Business. She's now an assistant coach at Johnson & Wales.
Jacksonville Atlantic Coast running back Terry Bennett, class of 2015, pledged his body and mind to FIU Thursday.
Bennett's a load, 6-0, 205, and seems to run like it. According to MaxPreps, Bennett ran for 639 yards and 5.1 yards per carry as a junior. He's got three yards and a cloud of dust written all over him at the college level, which means he's perfect for Ron Turner's offense. He's a good enough baseball player to be on Perfect Game's Honorable Mention list for preseason 2014 high school All-Americas.
None of the main sites -- Rivals, 247Sports, Scout.com, ESPN -- have rated Bennett yet.
The College Football Performance Awards put Leonard, a redshirt junior cornerback and possibly the fastest FIU player, on its kickoff returners watch list. Leonard averaged 29.5 yards per kickoff return in 2012 and had a 100-yard kickoff return touchdown that proved the most crucial score in defeating FAU. He spent last year academically ineligible.
Good news for FIU football fans who want to enjoy games in the privacy of someone else's living room or your hotel room! Conference USA and Sinclair Broadcast Group have an agreement that'll put 30 C-USA games, including six FIU games, on Sinclair stations around the country.
Sinclair owns no stations in Miami-Dade or Broward. The closest one is WPEC-CBS12 in West Palm Beach.
But if you happen to be high up in Colorado Springs or toddling in Toledo during these FIU games, you'll be back in business on Bluestar:
Aug. 30, vs. Bethune-Cookman, 7 p.m. at La Cage
Sept. 27, at Alabama-Birmingham, 3:30 p.m.
Nov. 1, vs. Rice, noon at La Cage
Nov. 8, at Old Dominion, 3:30 p.m.
Nov. 15, vs. Middle Tennessee State, 3:30 p.m., at La Cage
Conference USA announced the results of its preaseason football coaches poll Wednesday. No surprises -- no FIU players on the preseason all-conference team, FIU picked solidly seventh in the seven-team East Division.
Coaches unanimously predicted Marshall to win the East. No surprise there, either, with the Thundering Herd having seven preseason all-conference selections, the preseason Offensive Player of the Year (quarterback Rakeem Cato) and preseason Defensive Player of the Year (defensive lineman James Rouse). Any other result would match the bizarreness of the 1976 Academy Awards when Rocky somehow beat Taxi Driver,All the President's Men and Network despite Network winning Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress and Best Original Screenplay with landmark artistic displays by each winner.
The College Football Performance Awards, which loves it some FIU, put sophomore tight end Jonnu Smith on its preseason watch list for being among the nation's best tight ends.
SWIMMING & DIVING
Having a GPA over 3.5 and competing at the NCAA Championships got FIU's Sonia Perez named a Scholar All-America by the College Swimming Coaches Association of America. FIU's 3.13 team GPA for the spring semsester earned the team Scholar All-America designation.
Looks like Maurice Alexander's pretty acclimated to Booker T. Washington.
The transfer from Homestead High quarterbacked Booker T.'s 7-on-7 team to the South Florida title earlier this year and, representing the Miami Dolphins, the National Football League High School Player Development national championship in Indianapolis.
Each of the 32 teams at nationals took the names of the team whose regional tournament it won. So, Booker T. or "the Miami Dolphins" beat the "Houston Texans" (Channelview) 37-21 for the "AFC" title Tuesday and routed the "Carolina Panthers" (Mallard Creek) 34-14 in the "Super Bowl" later Tuesday.
Having saved head track and field coach money by assistant coach Ryan Heberling spending the 2013-14 indoor and outdoor track season as de facto head coach, FIU gave Heberling the actual title last week. Presumably, that means a bump from around $33,000 Heberling was making as an assistant. Former track coach Eric Campbell was making around $53,000.
Heberling, a former FIU javelin thrower, handled the throwers the last five years as an assistant and it's the women's throwers who have accomplished the most over the last few years.
The Women's Golf Coaches Association named senior Shelby Coyle, sophomore Meghan MacLaren and freshman Coralia Arias as All-American Scholars. That's four golfers whose academic prowesss received notice last season -- Ashley Shimmel earned the Conference USA Commissioner's Academic Medal.
Conference USA awarded junior catcher Aramis Garcia its Player of the Year honor. Tuesday, Garcia completed a sweet sweep, being named Conference USA's Scholar Athlete of the Year for Baseball. C-USA names one for each sport.
In the spring, Garcia also received the Conference USA Spirit of Service Award and was on the conference's All-Academic baseball team.
Here's two different ways to rank athletic programs' on the field/court performances.
The first is the National Association of College Directors of Athletics Director's Cup, which takes into account 20 different sports. It's sort of like The Herald's All-Sports Award we do for high schools, except no greater significance is given to the more promiment sports. It's designed for the broadest-based athletic programs to reach the standings' penthouse.
In that ranking, 2013-14 FIU came in 257th out of 298 schools.
The other way is the CBSSports.com way, in which you consider only the marquee sports -- football, men's and women's basketballs, baseball and the most successful that season among the other sports at the school (for FIU in 2013-14, that probably would be swimming & diving -- second in Conference USA, scoring a few points at the NCAA meet). Heaviest weight given to football, second heaviest to men's basketball. nly schools with FBS football programs were considered.
Looking at things this way, FIU finished tied with Miami of Ohio, Nevada and Temple for 123rd. Or, last.
Stanford finished first, no matter which ranking was used.
Yeah, I know the Ask Rosenberg Twitter chat was last week. Here's the highlights from President Mark Rosenberg's answers in case you were busy composing songs about Tim Howard or working on getting darker.
To "Will there ever be an outdoor rubber track on campus?": "Hoping this happens soon, having major conversations about additional space on this campus to continue building."
To "A lot of us in the FIU alum community lost confidence in our current AD. Will FIU do anything to remedy this?": "All of us are under continuous review. Nobody is exempt from being accountable."
To "Are we gonna have a chance to beat UM in the near future?": "Our objective is to be competitive and to win regardless of who we play."
Fifth-year senior center on the field -- graduate student off of it -- Donald Senat has been named to the 64-man Rimington Award Watch List. The Rimington Award, named after 1980s Nebraska center Dave Rimington, goes to the best center in college football.
FIU has hired former FAU athletic director Craig Angelos as the Senior Associate Athletic Director for Revenue. Between FAU and FIU, Angelos held an also-long title, Executive Senior Associate Athletic Director, at the University of South Florida.
Now, you might say FIU having a Senior Associate Athletic Director for Revenue would parallel BYU having a Senior Associate Athletic Director for African-American Student-Athletes. According to FIU's 2012-13 NCAA Financials Report, the latest one available, the athletic department received 68.9 percent of its total operating revenue from $19,519,332 in student fees. As far as contributions, the department brought in $2,830,915.
So, the department doesn't raise money so much as collects it.
Anyway, FIU's athletic department already has an Associate AD in charge of Development, Chris Bultinick. Bultinick's responsible for "all fund-raising efforts in the athletic department," according to his bio on the FIU website.
Senior Associate AD Bobby Staub oversees the marketing and ticket sales to the point he's got bonuses in his contract for attendance. So that shouldn't be on Angelos' plate, either.
Anyway, according to this 2012 story in The Palm Beach Post, poor fund-raising and marketing contributed to FAU not renewing Angelos' contract. The story by veteran reporter Tom DeAngelo also points out that Angelos got FAU's impressive $70 million stadium built. He had to raise money for that and the rest of the athletic department during a national economic valley. OK, so by that time that stadium's paid off, the rising coastal waters will have turned it into a beachfront stadium, but it's there.
We'll check after the holiday on what entry that's usually on an athletic director's To Do list is now on Angelos' for at least $141,000 per year. That's what Angelos pulled in at USF according to Florida Has a Right to Know.
So, there's been no track coach for the entire indoor and outdoor seasons. There's no softball coach because they wouldn't give him a big enough bump from $59,000. Various departments in the athletic department have been understaffed.