August 17, 2015

60 Minutes (or so) on Sunday

UPCOMING HOME GAMES/MATCHES

Friday: Women's Soccer vs. Dayton, 7 p.m.

Sunday's practice and scrimmage looked about how you'd expect -- Manwich early, meatier later. Afterwards, FIU coach Ron Turner pressed more flesh than Jeb Bush between current players' parents, high school coaches and recruits (you might have to go back to the high school playoffs to find the last time that much Central green was at FIU Stadium).  

Let's get the injury report out of the way before we get to whatever analysis you can make of a training camp scrimmage.

The Home Depot team roster looked too good for comfort, but as of now only sophomore running back Napoleon Maxwell's a long term issue. Maxwell will have season-ending surgery to repair a torn ACL in his left knee and will redshirt this season. When I saw him limp off after practice the day he injured the knee, I thought it didn't look good, but figured only an outside chance it would be that bad. Light sprain, probably.

You hope the injury that put senior outside linebacker Davison Colimon's in orange isn't long term because it's his head. Colimon got a concussion Tuesday. Junior middle linebacker Treyvon Williams sat out with an ankle injury. Both could be back Tuesday when FIU resumes practice. Everybody speaks cautiously these days about concussions, as they should.

Also in orange was senior defensive end Denzell Perine. Unlike Colimon and Williams, Perine could do some of the non-contact running around, so he's in the Small-to-No Problem column.

Seeing all the Central heads reminded me to ask about incoming freshman cornerback Olin Cushion. Cushion had shoulder surgery in the spring. He'll be grayshirted this year and enroll in January. Same with Neptune Beach Fletcher offensive tackle Andrew Burgess, another 2015 signee.

On to the scrimmage.

The Skill Position Player of the Night: sophomore wide receiver Thomas Owens made the best catch of warmups, a one-handed grab of a knee-high 10-to-15-yard throw while he kept stride. Both the first and second string offenses resembled the blah attacks of the last two seasons when quarterback Alex McGough fired a right sideline throw that cornerback Richard Leonard looked positioned to pick off. Somehow, the ball materialized on the other side of Leonard into Owens hands as he tapped in a 13-yard third down conversion. Leonard appeared to applaud the throw and/or the catch. It would've been worthy praise. Owens later caught a lovely 26-yard pass over the middle from redshirt freshman quarterback Bud Martin. Turner said the difference in Martin this year is decision-making.

Lineman of the Night: Any of the ones who didn't get flagged for false starts or offsides. A defensive end being offside, especially on a passing down, is expected once in a while. Defensive tackles? If the ball that's a foot from your face doesn't move, red light. The defensive tackles blew through that hint and a half the way South Florida drivers blow through Stop signs (do drivers these days think Stop signs are sponsored by Publix's BOGO bargains, thus are two for one?). A helpful offensive lineman would give the 5 yards back by flinching or fidgeting.

The first team offensive line had redshirt freshman Chris Miller at Jordan Budwig's left guard spot. Mike Montero took center. Aaron Nielsen got moved back to right tackle. Before that, however, redshirt freshman Kai Absheer worked at right tackle. Junior Edens Sineace did second team duty at right tackle.

Out in the middle of the field, FIU's three first team receivers were Owens and Clinton Taylor with sophomore Dennis Turner moving Taylor to the slot in three-receiver sets. On the goal line, they went with Clinton Taylor, freshman Anthony Jones and Owens. Jones flared right to catch Alex McGough's rollout 1-yard touchdown pass on third and goal after Silas Spearman's two shots from the 2 gained 1-yard, then no yards into defensive tackle Darrian Dyson's bulk. Alex Gardner opened the scrimmage at running back, then Anthon Samuel got some carries before Spearman, senior Lamarq Caldwell and freshman Collin Olsen took the rest of the scrimmage.

The next drive ended with a Men II Boyz How Not to Tackle lesson from senior tight end Akil Dan-Fodio, 6-4, 225, to freshman Jestin Green, 6-0, 175. Green tried to bring Dan-Fodio down by the shoulders as Dan-Fodio collected a Bud Martin pass. Dan-Fodio shrugged like a babysitting older brother and dumped Green over the sidelines, then rumbled into the end zone.

Colimon and Williams on the sideline meant the first unit linebackers were redshirt sophomore Vontarius West, graduated senior Jephete Matilus and sophomore Anthony Wint. Matilus came out of Delray Beach Atlantic as a linebacker, got switched to fullback while at Minnesota, now is a graduate with a year of eligibility left. At least one site ranked West as FIU's best recruit in 2013 when he came out of Bartow as a safety.

"We felt we had depth at safety. We felt (West) had the body type and athleticism to help inside," Turner said. "He was a very aggressive safety and seemed pretty instinctive. Smart kid. We figured, let's take a look at him. He looked pretty good. He's a fast linebacker maybe not quite as fast as a safety that you'd want. Not that he couldn't play safety. He could. He's a very athletic linebacker. He's shown some instincts, reading things, deciphering plays."

You can see why Turner's high on freshman cornerback Emmanuel Lubin who was paired with redshirt freshman Mark Bruno out of Pembroke Pines Flanagan as the second cornerback pair behind Richard Leonard and Jeremiah McKinnon. Lubin made some nice breaks on the ball and did something disruptive when he arrived on the scene. You could also see that he's a freshman. The scrimmage ended when freshman Maurice Alexander gave a shoulder fake, Lubin bought it like french fries and freshman Mark Hutchinson raced past Lubin to catch a 37-yard bomb. 

Speaking of sold, backup Trey Anderson scored on a nice bootleg run around left end on which the defense was so suckered, only one block needed to be thrown for Anderson in about 20 yards.

As far as punting, Chris Ayers got off a returnable 56-yarder, a returnable 42-yarder and, from 43 yards away, dropped a punt that Deonte Wilson downed at the 2. Freshman Stone Wilson put a 46-yarder out of bounds and booted a 56-yarder rugby style.

 

August 05, 2015

29 Days

That's not the sequel to a Sandra Bullock flick about addiction. That's how many days until the college-affiliated football addiction for FIU fans gets satiated with the season opener against Central Florida.

Until then, there's training camp, more "training" than "camp." And FIU enters this phase with fewer questions than most teams coming off a 4-8 season.

Quarterback? Barring a positive drug test or arrest, neither of which seems likely, that'll be sophomore Alex McGough. Redshirt freshman Bud Martin will try to break up the Alexander monopoly on the quarterback position led by McGough and supplemented by the freshman Alexanders, Christian Alexander and Maurice Alexander.

Running back? Senior Anthon Samuel, sophomore Alex Gardner and sophomore Napoleon Maxwell stand above the running back pack.

Tight end? Junior Jonnu Smith (duh) and Ya'Keem Griner or senior Akil Dan-Fodio.

Offensive line: "We've got three starters back we feel good about," FIU coach Ron Turner said. Those would be left tackle Dieugot Joseph, left guard Jordan Budwig (24 for 24 on starts)

"Some other guys have to step up. Whether it's (junior) Edens Sineace, (junior) Trenton Saunders, whoever. I think they will. They did some good things in the spring." Senior Aaron Nielsen will be moved from right tackle, where Turner thought he was out of position, to center. 

Defensive line: Seniors Michael Wakefield and Denzell Perine on the ends. Redshirt junior Imarjaye Albury and either senior Lars Koht or senior Darrian Dyson as the tackles.

Linebackers: Senior Davison Colimon and sophomore Anthony Wint flanking junior Treyvon Williams.

Safties: Redshirt junior Jordan Davis and sophomore Shemarke Spence, who got time at safety later in the 2014 season. Expect redshirt juinor Deonte Wilson to challenge both.

Cornerbacks: Fifth-year senior Richard Leonard on one side, senior Jeremiah McKinnon covering the Leonard-Free Zone. 

Kicker: Junior Austin Taylor's the incumbent, but kickers define "fungible."

Punter: Senior Jose Laphitzondo and see "Kicker."

Notice I left wide receiver off this list. That's where the battles for position and playing time truly lay. And they begin today.

August 01, 2015

Football Practice Schedule (You Can't Come Yet)

Along with the football summer training camp practice schedule, FIU announced practices would be closed. I'm sure they'll be open via invitation at some point.

Wednesday: 9:05-11:30 a.m.

Thursday-Aug. 10; Aug. 12-17; Aug. 19-22; Aug. 24: 8:05-11:30 a.m.

Aug. 14, 16, 19, 21: Second practice at 7:15-8:30 p.m.

Aug. 11, 18, 23: No practice

FIU got more pledges Friday when Tallahasee Leon safety Damien Crumitie gave his word to Camp Mitch, as did Matt Kramer, Lakeland High defensive end. Crumitie is rated at three stars by 247Sports.com and two stars by Rivals.com. Kramer's unrated by both services.

July 31, 2015

Big Possibility Pencils in FIU

Look what happens when Ron Turner puts Tim Harris, Jr. on staff at FIU as running backs coach.

Arkansas wanted Central linebacker Donavan Thompson, rated at three stars by Rivals.com, like he was a Waffle House. Offer on the table and everything. But if you play football in that part of town, you know Harris, former coach at Booker T. Washington. So, you give a little more of your ear to the man when he talks to you about FIU. It also doesn't hurt when three very good teammates -- defensive lineman Fermin Silva, cornerback Olin Cushion, wide receiver/running back/offensive nitro Anthony Jones -- head for FIU with the idea of building an annual bowl team.

So, for now, Thompson gave the Heisman pose to Arkansas and the other Power Five schools said to be in pursuit and declared his sort-of commitment to FIU Thursday, as detailed here by David Furones. As Thompson described it, it's more like he and FIU are talking than going steady. As we know, nobody's fully yours until somebody puts a ring on the finger or name on the LOI.

Norland defensive back Bryon Brown pledged FIU earlier in the day. Brown's not rated by any of the recruiting sites yet. 

 

 

July 28, 2015

FIU Gets a QB Pledge for '16

Junior quarterback Jacob Huesman led the Braden River High School offense to 37.1 points per game in a 10-0 regular season in 2014. Huesman, a pro-style quarterback, gave his verbal pledge to FIU for 2016 Tuesday.

He's rated at two stars by 247Sports.com and Rivals.com, not rated by Scout.com and ESPN.com.

 

July 22, 2015

Quick Hits From CUSA Media Day

FIU cornerback Richard Leonard's working on being faster. And eight Conference USA special teams coaches and offensive coordinators just lost their appetites. Or their lunches.

Leonard's fourth gear already exceeds most players' sixth. But he wants to boost his zoom to any return crease he reaches -- beep! beep! --  six points. All the players at media day talk about getting their team a conference title. There's a sense that runs a little deeper with guys like Leonard, a fifth-year senior, or Western Kentucky quarterback Brandon Doughty ("I know I'm not getting a seventh year."), who know this is it for their college careers and maybe their football careers period. That's your CUSA preseason Defensive and Offensive Player of the YEar, coincidentally.

FIU coach Ron Turner feels he's got 100 guys with a team first mentality. Two years ago, he definitely didn't believe that. He thought pockets of selfishness remained last year. That, more than being in the third year with mostly his recruits, makes him optimistic about what this year could be for FIU.

And, yes, he's happy about that $6,000 Cost of Attendance stipend (see last post) for what it allows FIU's athletes to do with the thin slices of life away from class/sport as well as for the possible recruiting advantage.

FAU (vs. FIU, Oct. 31)

Recruiting geeks love the last two classes brought in by FAU coach Charlie Partridge. We'll start finding out if that class can justify that love soon. Partridge said, "Right now, we've got 50 guys we've recruited over the last two years. You're going to see a good portion of them on the field." That's why I picked them under FIU in the East Division.

WESTERN KENTUCKY (at FIU Nov. 21)

By the way, you want to watch Conference USA coaches shiver, have them imagine Jeff Brohm as FAU's head coach with his offensive system, able to recruit South Florida and North Broward Prep's Doughty somehow still at FAU as his quarterback. Doughty threw for 4,830 yards, 49 touchdowns against only 10 interceptions and completed 67.9 percent of this passes. "I really want to expand my game and show I can do a variety of different things. I'm not just a pocket passer and a good system quarterback."

MARSHALL (vs. FIU Nov. 14)

Similar to Leonard and his speed, opposing defenses tended to find Marshall running truck Devon Johnson already big enough. Johnson left 1,767 yards of defenders in ice baths and training rooms last season and averaged 8.6 yards per carry.

Johnson said he's up five pounds to 245 and thinks he's both quicker and faster -- "I think I can break those long runs without getting caught on the 2-yard line."

No accident that the one game Johnson missed via injury turned into Marshall's only loss last year, the 67-66 overtime pinball game with Western Kentucky. He said missing that game bothers him to this day and "my main goal is to be healthy for my team."

LOUISIANA TECH (vs. FIU, Sept. 26)

One reason La Tech's the West Division favorite: quarterback Jeff Driskel, a one-and-done transfer from the University of Florida, to go with a tough defense and running back Kenneth Dixon. 

"I think I came into a really good situation," Driskel said. "The guys have always cared about each other, always been a close knit unit. I think I came in and didn't mess anything up. I came in, shut my mouth for a while and showed the guys I was there to work hard. I earned their respect. Everything's been often. No complaints."

Not having to surf the swarming media waves of SEC Media Days left Driskel loose enough to ask a veteran columnist to take a selfie with him (the columnist, an earthbound, AARP-eligible guy who has never taken a selfie in his life, declined).

"Coming out of high school, when you're being recruited heavily, you look at the stuff that has flash," Driskel said. "You look at the facilities, you look at how much money a school has, what they can provide for you. The second time around, when I announced I was going to transfer, I didn't look for that. I looked for, first of all, a place I could play because I've got only one year. I looked for a situation where I thought I could put up some big numbers. Cody Sokol did that last year (3,436 passing yards, 30 touchdowns) and there's a lot of guys coming back on offense. Also, I looked for a place full of good people -- a place where guys worked hard and enjoyed working hard together." 

CHARLOTTE (at FIU, Nov. 7)

Charlotte put up a 5-6 2014 record against a schedule of 11 FCS opponents. Now, they've got 11 FBS opponents on their 12-game schedule. A bit of a jump. Charlotte coach Brad Lambert said, "It'll be a jolt to them, I'm sure, in the beginning of the year. But we feel like we've prepared. It's not something that got dropped on us. We knew it." 

When I asked Lambert if he would've preferred an easing in to FBS, he said, "In the recruiting process, it's all about the brand that's behind your brand. Conference USA is a really realy good brand. So it enabled us to get in on some kids recruiting-wise the last two years that we might not have been able to get in on. We didn't have a team full of guys we'd recruited to an FCS team. Guys knew where we were and what we were doing."

OLD DOMINION (at FIU, Oct. 24)

Lambert says he expects Charlotte to be stronger on offense next year. I wonder how similar the collegiate East Coast 49ers will be to Old Dominion, shootout specialists during a 6-6, 4-4 in Conference USA, 2014 season. ODU put up 51 in regulation on Western Kentucky and lost 66-51. Quarterback Taylor Heinicke ran that offense the panache of a veteran joystick jockey playing Madden.

Redshirt freshman Shuler Bentley, a two-to-three-star recruit, now handles the Heinicke job.

"When we first started football, we had a brand new quarterback, Thomas DeMarco, and we played to his strengths and went 9-2 in his first year," Monarchs head coach Bobby Wilder said. "Taylor's first year, 2011, we changed the offense to fit around his strengths, we went 10-3 and the second round of the (FCS) playoffs. Shuler, the same thing, we're going to change the offense to fit his strengths.

"The good thing is we've got the conference rookie of the year back at running back (Ray Lawry). We return four starters in the o-line and we got an injured player back, Troy Butler, who was a starter for us two years ago. We've got eight wide receivers back who have started or played and been successful. So, there's a lot around Shuler. It's not as if he's stepping in and the cupboard is bare. He's stepping into a full cupboard."

 

 

July 18, 2015

Another FIU Football Pledge

Hunter Orem lined up in the slot as a wide receiver, in the shotgun as a quarterback and on defense as a free safety last year for Lakeland Lake Gibson. Which is why you can find him listed among the recruiting hawks as a "pro-style quarterback," "dual-threat quarterback" or "athlete."

Whatever he is or will be, the 6-2, 203-pound Orem declared his commitment to FIU Saturday via Twitter. Take a look.

He's not rated by 247Sports, ESPN.com or Rivals.com.

July 04, 2015

FIU Flips the Byrd

 

 

Jacksonville Ed White High cornerback Jadarius Byrd committed to Marshall...then decommitted. He committed to Oregon State...then flipped on Friday.

Now, it's FIU's turn to see if they can keep Byrd under the Richard Pryor number of commitments as Byrd has pledged himself to the Panthers via Twitter.

If he comes, it's a good get for FIU, according to the rankings. 247Sports.com and Scout.com both have Byrd at three stars and as FIU's highest rated recruit. Rivals.com puts him at two. He made the Florida Times-Union's All-First Coast First Team and was described as "a shutdown corner and special teams ace" with four interceptions, a defensive touchdown and four special teams touchdowns.

Check out his highlights here.

Happy Fourth of July

 

June 26, 2015

Football Past & Future

Former FIU safety Johnathan Cyprien's Cypsquad Celebrity Charity softball game, benefitting Cyprien's foundation that assists at-risk youth, will be 6 p.m. tonight at FIU Baseball Stadium.

The lineup includes former FIU football players Antwan Barnes, Anthony Gaitor and Tourek Williams; former FIU baseball hit streaker Garret Wittels; Dolphins safety Louis Delmas; Minnesota Vikings quarterback and Northwestern High graduate Teddy Bridgewater and a host of others. Tickets still available here.

Meanwhile, after FIU's camps, they've gotten a run of verbal commits for next season. 

South Dade running back Jawon Hamilton, 5-10, 185, not rated by any of the major recruiting sites

Tampa Bay Tech safety Isaiah Brown, 6-1, 185, three stars by 247Sports, not rated by other sites.

Lake Nona wide receiver Ulice Gillard, 6-1, 190, not rated by the major recruiting sites

Tampa Countryside guard/tackle Wyatt Panaccione, 6-5, 280, not rated by the major recruiting sites

MEN'S SOCCER

The 2015 schedule is out.

VOLLEYBALL

Same here.

 

June 12, 2015

...and Comings

Year Three, time to see. Time to see progress that can be spotted at a glance. Time to see recruiting significantly improve as relationships develop. Time to see a foundation for the future formed by a consistent way of doing things.

That's where both football coach Ron Turner and men's basketball coach Anthony Evans find themselves in 2015. Turner's recruiting class looks like an improvement over 2014, at least at the highest end, but we'll see when the pads start popping. Evans announced his third class last week, three freshmen and three junior college players.

I stopped by Evans' office to talk to him about what he expected from each of them.

Guard Donte McGill, 6-3, 185, Phoenixville (Pa) Mont Clare Academy, Goldey-Beacom College, Vincennes University -- "Coming from Vincennes, been in a winning program. I think he can help us offensively. Definitely losing Dennis, we tried to bring in some guys who could help us scoring-wise and I think he's one of them who can give us some points. Really good in transition, Nice mid-range game. Shot 38 percent from 3-point range."

Forward Elmo Stephens, 6-7, 200 (somebody feed this young man before they lose him through a shower drain), Auburndale High, Tallahassee Community College -- "Good player, really good three-point shooter. Definitely someone who can spread the floor. When 6-10 Adrian (Diaz) is being double-teamed, he'll be able to knock down shots and create his own shot. Another person we're looking to give us some offensive punch."

Forward Cam Smith, 6-7, 210, Tallahassee Leon, Tallahassee Community College -- "Really coming into his own. He blew out his knee coming out of high school. Sat out the year before, then played last year. He's got a ton of talent. Definitely someone I feel can come in and give us a contribution in points, rebounding, defensively, to go along with helping Adrian and Daviyon (Draper) and those guys out."

Now, to the freshmen. "Those guys, obviously, we want them to come along. I don't know how quicly that'll happen. All three will come in and contribute. We know they're freshmen and they will go through their ups and downs."

Forward Michael Douglas, 6-5, 190, Sachse (Tex) High School -- "More of a shooter, really athletic."

Forward Eric Turner, 6-5, 193, The Villages Charter High School -- "Averaged 24.0 points per game in 2013-14. He's a scorer. Can get to the basket, shoots the three. Very athletic. Was recruiting by some high major schools, so it was a great addition for us."

Guard Kimar Williams, 6-1, Philadelphia Constitution High -- "Philly Public League Player of the Year. He just brings that toughness. He played in a really good league."

I asked Evans how he got such a player out of the Philadelphia are to come to FIU. Evans smiled, "Relationships."

He explained Constitution High coach Rob Moore coached at Bodine High School when Pendarvis Williams (no relation to Kimar) went to play for Evans at Norfolk State. McGill's from Newark, Delaware, about 45 miles from Philly. 

Three of the six being from junior colleges prompted me to ask Evans if the percentages of junior college recruits to freshmen will drop from 50 percent.

"I think the thought with it is sustain, at this point and bring in guys who can help us with immediate needs," Evans said. "Obviously, we brought in three freshmen who we feel we can build on. That's what we like to do. When they're juniors, we should be able to bring in freshmen and continue. Junior college will always be an option. Not that it'll be a 50-50 thing. When there's a need, we will go out and recruit." 

Evans didn't say what follows on the record or indicate it privately. No one representing Evans said this. But, you don't have to be a a real-life Sheldon Cooper to do the math:

FIU's not a destination job for a young coach with a still-mobile family. Few so-called mid-major jobs are destination jobs. Most are springboard jobs -- you're on the board for a few years, then either get propelled upward to a head coaching job with a fatter budgeted program or or you splash back down into being an assistant.

All you need to get a positive bounce off the board one or two seasons of unexpected winning basketball. Your name gets hotter than a Warren Buffet stock tip. A job opens up, you're on it with the inside track. That's what happened when Richard Pitino left FIU in 2013 after one 18-15 season for a $1.2 million per year job at the University of Minnesota. That same year, Andy Enfield went from Florida Gulf Coast to USC (the one in LA) after two seasons as a college head coach and one trip to the Sweet Sixteen as a No. 15 seed.

So why not play heavily in JuCo land? Few places give the coach the benefit of time to build a program anyway. Might as well try to build a winner quickly, then hope an opportunity opens to do a George and Weezy.

FOOTBALL

Forgot to add late night...

Tampa Gaither High's Shane McGough, brother of FIU sophomore quarterback Alex McGough, announced his verbal commitment to FIU via social media. Shane plays on both the offensive and defensive lines, 6-2, 265, and is unrated by any of the recruiting sites we usually quote.

 

June 11, 2015

Going...

So, here's the final count for FIU in the Major League Baseball draft, at least, among those who've worn the blue and gold:

*Junior 1B/2B/SS Edwin Rios, sixth round, 192nd overall, Los Angeles Dodgers

*Junior righthanded pitcher Danny Dopico, 11th round, 322nd overall, Chicago White Sox

*Senior shortstop Julius Gaines, 33rd round, 995th overall, Seattle Mariners

*Junior righthanded pitcher Gianni Zayas, 35th round, 1,055th overall, Seattle Mariners (My mock draft had Zayas going 1,043rd. Can't imagine how he slipped...)

*Senior third baseman Josh Anderson, 38th round, 1,126th overall, Arizona Diamondbacks.

FOOTBALL

Punter/quarterback Luke Medlock came out of spring fourth at best on the quarterback depth chart behind sophomore Alex McGough, freshman Christian Alexander and redshirt freshman Bud Martin, who looks about 73 times better than he did a year ago. Former Homestead and Booker T. Washington quarterback Maurice Alexander expects to compete for a job, too, when he arrives in August.

Nobody who threw a pass for Fordham in 2014 remains on the 2015 roster. That's where Medlock landed as a transfer, the school announced Wednesday. Sam Medlock, a long-snapper, remains on the roster. Senior Jake Medlock, also a quarterback, transferred to Valdosta State for his senior year, 2014. 

May 07, 2015

MacLaren Golf...And Twins!

Jacksonville First Coast has an offensive guard who is 6-3, 285 with the last name Connell. Funny enough, they have a 6-3, 285-pound center with the same surname.

Two peas in a pod -- or, more accurately, one pea split in two -- guard/tackle Dallas Connell and identical twin center/defensive tackle Douglas Connell continue their close relationship by both committing to FIU, as announced Thursday via Twitter.

Of course, this reminded us of...

 

GOLF

Junior Meghan MacLaren needs a top three finish in the NCAA Regional out in Utah to advance to the NCAA Championship, May 22-27 over in Bradenton. After the first of three rounds, MacLaren sits fourth, 1-over 72, four shots back of leader Pauline Loulier of Cal. 

February 05, 2015

A few thoughts on 2015 Signing Day

Thoughts on National Signing Day:

The overemphasis on athletics in the black community is an overall chronic illness debilitating all of society. Yet the repetition of a message appropriate for all allows even people like me to enjoy the whole Signing Day production at Booker T. Washington High guilt free. The message: this is just a start, an opportunity. Don't just go to college, graduate from college, prepare for life and helping your community.

This wasn't just said once or twice. But over. And over. And over. To the point that if you don't get it, you were never going to get it.

Something else struck me that points up the hypocrisy in college-affiliated football at the FBS level. Coaches love to talk about the "character" of their signees who stayed with long ago commitments, but have no problem trying to get somebody else's long-committed player to flip.

What if National Signing Day got spread over two days, the first day for Group of 5 conferences and the second day for Power 5 schools? Just thinking about getting some of the attention-hogging behemoths out of the way so the schools with less of a football tradition can get more attention. Today's FIU afternoon Signing Day media session consisted of me, FIU Student Media, FIU News and one Channel 4 cameraman/reporter. 

Why can no CD or digital recording of The Temptations' "Ball of Confusion" duplicate the sound mixing of the 45 with the horns really blasting on the bridges? (I didn't say all the thoughts were about Signing Day...)

Now, to FIU's class...anybody who has read this space through any of the three Signing Days since I took over the lease knows I'll quote recruiting rankings, but that's it. If you want somebody to sing you gospel, go to Mahalia Jackson or James Cleveland, not Rivals.com. These are 17 and 18-year-olds. It's why the drafts in Major League Baseball and the NHL have a higher bust quotient than the NBA and NFL.

All day, media peers said to me, "FIU's really got a nice class coming together" and I agreed. When I saw some of the signees in action during the high school season, they made me look up their names. They lost Ocie Rose -- a flip two different people told me might happen, one of whom texted "Blame Miami. They took James King from FAU" -- but got Kenyatta Anderson, who is almost as highly rated. An even trade based on that.

FIU needed more vintage South Florida zoom on offense. Central's omnithreat Anthony Jones provides that better than anyone else out of Dade County in this class. Austin Maloney can move chains and the scoreboard. Olin Cushion reminds me a little of Richard Leonard, with a 3.7 engine instead of a 5.0 -- not the biggest cornerback, but one you'd just as soon avoid altogether. I can't judge how high school linemen can translate to college. I watched one game of Deion Eakins' and thought "Big, but what else?" for a quarter. Later, I found myself saying to the television, "Y'all need to run behind him more, he's moving something over there in the run game. And his pass rushers might as well just stand there after the snap because they look like Toyotas caught in a snow drift."

So, I don't understand the 97th conference rating and seventh rating by C-USA. I don't understand 108 and 8 ratings from Scout.com, except that they didn't give FIU credit for Anderson. Rivals.com annually possesses the most Panther love and ranked the class No. 88 and No. 8 in conference.

As South Park Johnnie Cochran said in laying out the Chewbacca Defense, "It does not make sense."

Nor does it matter. The players I heard the most staff excitement about in FIU's highest-rated recruiting class, 2012 -- just-get-him-the-ball Johnnie Durante, Signing Day linebacker flip Patrick Jean, defensive tackle Darrian Dyson -- have gone strike one, strike two, foul tip. Except for the defensive backs, the 2013 class would've gotten more respect if they'd been 16 Poindexters and a Sheldon. Yet one of those defensive backs never made it to campus while tight end Jonnu Smith's one of the best in the country at his job; guard Jordan Budwig is 24 of 24 on starts; and middle linebacker Treyvon Williams anchors FIU's best unit. 

So, check back in three years for a more accurate slotting.

Christian Alexander, quarterback, 6-3, 205, Lakeland Christian Varsity. Three/two stars by 247Sports.com, three stars by Scout.com, two stars by Rivals.com

Andrew Jones, wide receiver/running back, 6-0, 190, Central. Three stars by 247Sports, two stars by Rivals.com and Scout.com. Strong in this one the Hilton Force could be.

Fermin Silva, outside linebacker, 6-2, 225, Central. Three stars by 247Sports, three stars by Scout.com, two stars by Rivals.com. Anybody else think in a few years, FIU's linebackers could be the Marshall-Singletary-Mama's Boy Otis of Conference USA?

Neal Mars, offensive lineman, 6-3, 270, Orange Park Fleming Island. Two stars by 247 Sports and Rivals

Collin Olsen, running back, 6-1, 225, Port Orange Spruce Creek. Two stars by 247 Sports and Rivals.

Mark Hutchinson, wide receiver, Zephyrhills Wiregrass Ranch, 6-2, 205. Two stars by 247Sports and Rivals. A chain mover, similar to Ellingson.

Mac Carey, tight end, Tallahassee Leon, 6-1, 231, two stars by 247Sports and Rivals

Jestin Green, defensive back/wide receiver, St. Petersburg Admiral Farragut Academy 6-2, 180, two stars by 247Sports and Rivals

Milord Juste, defensive end, Palm Beach Gardens, 6-0, 240, two/three stars by 247Sports, two stars by Rivals

Julian Williams, WR, 6-0, 185, Georgia Military Prep, two stars by 247Sports and Rivals

Andrew Burgess, OL, 6-6, 300, Neptune Beach Fletcher, two stars by 247Sports and Rivals

Deion Eakins, OL, 6-3, 315, Jacksonville Trinity Christian, two stars by 247Sports and Rivals

Sage Lewis, LB, Monsignor Edward Paace High, 6-1, 210, two/three stars by 247Sports and two stars by Rivals

R.J. Harris, OL, Tallahassee North Florida Christian, 6-3, 260, three/two stars by 247Sports and two stars by Rivals

Emmanuel Lubin, CB, North Miami Beach, 6-1, 170, three stars by 247Sports and two stars by Rivals

Maurice Alexander, QB, Booker T Washington, 5-11, 170, two/three stars by 247Sports and two stars by Rivals. He makes good choices and I like his accuracy. I still need to watch a couple of Booker T. games I've got on the DVR.

 

Olin Cushion, DB, Central, 5-8, 160, two stars by 247Sports and Rivals. Watched Central a few times and apparently those opponents decided this was not the man to mess with because I didn't see much of him in pass coverage. Opponents threw at the other side of the field. He played bigger than his measurables in run support.

Terry Bennett, RB, Jacksonville Atlantic Coast, 6-0, 205, three stars by 247Sports, two stars by Rivals.

Austin Maloney, WR, Columbus, 5-11, 180, two stars by 247Sports and Rivals. I said it on the Herald video and I'll say it here -- if he came with darker skin, he'd have been at least a whole star rating higher. Strong, nice technique for a high school receiver with enough speed to beat you deep without you being asleep.

Kenyatta Anderson, CB, Gulfport Boca Ciega, 6-1, 170, rated two stars by 247Sports, three stars by Rivals, three stars by Scout.com 

Tyree Johnson, DB, Carol City, 5-9, 165, two stars by 247Sports and Rivals. Originally part of the 2014 class, gray-shirted last year. 

 

February 04, 2015

The 2015 FIU football National Signing Day Signees

 

 

All comments by me are from what I've seen of the player (and I haven't seen many -- neither have you) or read of the player. Ratings are presented without comment.

Neal Mars, offensive lineman, 6-3, 270, Orange Park Fleming Island, two stars by 247 Sports and Rivals

Collin Olsen, running back, 6-1, 225, Port Orange Spruce Creek, two stars by 247 Sports and Rivals.

Mark Hutchinson, wide receiver, Zephyrhills Wiregrass Ranch, 6-2, 205, two stars by 247Sports and Rivals. A chain mover, similar to Ellingson.

Mac Carey, tight end, Tallahassee Leon, 6-1, 231, two stars by 247Sports and Rivals

Jestin Green, defensive back/wide receiver, St. Petersburg Admiral Farragut Academy 6-2, 180, two stars by 247Sports and Rivals

Milord Juste, defensive end, Palm Beach Gardens, 6-0, 240, two/three stars by 247Sports, two stars by Rivals

Julian Williams, WR, 6-0, 185, Georgia Military Prep, two stars by 247Sports and Rivals

Andrew Burgess, OL, 6-6, 300, Neptune Beach Fletcher, two stars by 247Sports and Rivals

Deion Eakins, OL, 6-3, 315, Jacksonville Trinity Christian, two stars by 247Sports and Rivals

Sage Lewis, LB, Monsignor Edward Paace High, 6-1, 210, two/three stars by 247Sports and two stars by Rivals

R.J. Harris, OL, Tallahassee North Florida Christian, 6-3, 260, three/two stars by 247Sports and two stars by Rivals

Emmanuel Lubin, CB, North Miami Beach, 6-1, 170, three stars by 247Sports and two stars by Rivals

Maurice Alexander, QB, Booker T Washington, 5-11, 170, two/three stars by 247Sports and two stars by Rivals. He makes good choices and I like his accuracy. I still need to watch a couple of Booker T. games I've got on the DVR.

 

Olin Cushion, DB, Central, 5-8, 160, two stars by 247Sports and Rivals. Watched Central a few times and apparently those opponents decided this was not the man to mess with because I didn't see much of him in pass coverage. Opponents threw at the other side of the field. He played bigger than his measurables in run support.

Terry Bennett, RB, Jacksonville Atlantic Coast, 6-0, 205, three stars by 247Sports, two stars by Rivals.

Austin Maloney, WR, Columbus, 5-11, 180, two stars by 247Sports and Rivals. I said it on the Herald video and I'll say it here -- if he came with darker skin, he'd have been at least a whole star rating higher. Strong, nice technique for a high school receiver with enough speed to beat you deep without you being asleep.

Kenyatta Anderson, CB, Gulfport Boca Ciega, 6-1, 170, rated two stars by 247Sports, three stars by Rivals, three stars by Scout.com 

Tyree Johnson, DB, Carol City, 5-9, 165, two stars by 247Sports and Rivals. Originally part of the 2014 class, gray-shirted last year. 

 

February 01, 2015

Flip-Flop & A Flap

Friday, I asked Ron Turner what he wanted most in recruiting this season.

"Always offensive and defensive line, that's first and foremost," Turner replied. "That's what you want to do. Either in numbers to get your depth or to get better players."

Of this week's two flips of FIU linemen commits, offensive linemen Richerd Desir-Jones (Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas) to Florida and Richard Williams (Miramar Everglades) to FAU, only the Williams one surprised me. Jones' visit to Florida this weekend was common knowledge when Turner said this Friday while answering a question:

"We had some guys who were committed and 'I think I need to look at this school' and I said, 'Well, I'm looking elsewhere, too.' Because I want guys who want to be here and believe in what we're doing. The guys we've got do. A lot of guys in this class have a lot of other options or potential options. Not all were offered by other schools, but they've had interest and taken visits, a good chance they would've been offered. Some were offered by some pretty impressive schools. They stuck to what they wanted to do. That's a sign of character."

I thought of Desir-Jones. I also thought of Deion Eakins, a long-committed offensive guard out of Jacksonville Trinity Christian who's getting preferred walk-on whispers in his ear from Oregon. But I really thought of Desir-Jones. Did Turner expect to lose Desir-Jones so made George Constanza preemptive breakup noises?

 

The upshot is I'm looking at four offensive linemen so far in this class and two defensive linemen, both of whom might wind up on offensive line. (Fermin Silva will be an outside linebacker). Interesting how schools such as Florida and the Hurricanes have poached FIU commits in the last few weeks. 

One more thing -- Turner won't spend a scholarship on a punter or kicker coming in, but he said any new masters of the foot will have the chance to kick or punt their way onto scholarship.

Also, The Herald learned Saturday that wide receiver Fred Porter got the remainder of his scholarship for this year reinstated. So, he'll have the first semester of his graduate school paid without loans. Porter graduated in December, but was told he would no longer be on scholarship and wouldn't be back next season as a fifth-year senior.

 

January 29, 2015

FIU Flippin' Good

 

According to South Florida High School Sports, FIU just flipped Marshall linebacker commit Sage Lewis out of Monsignor Edward Pace High, the high school alma mater of current FIU running back Anthon Samuel. Lewis is rated at three stars by ESPN.com and 24/7sports.com's composite ratings, two stars by 24/7sports.com, Rivals.com and Scout.com.

 

January 28, 2015

Punting Stone

IMG Academy punter/kicker Stone Wilson announced his commitment to FIU via Twitter Wednesday. Wilson nailed all 22 extra point attempts last year. Kohl's Kicking Camps ranked Wilson No. 10 in the nation among punters in the 2015 class going into the season. Kornblue Kicking ranks him No. 5 among punters, No. 29 among kickers.

After the last two seasons of erratic (at best) punting and occasional offense, FIU should be checking into the next generation of Colquitts for punters. This slots right into a Panthers need. 

January 21, 2015

FIU Gets Lubin

North Miami Beach wide receiver/defensive back Emmanuel Lubin, Class of 2015, announced his verbal commitment to FIU via Twitter Wednesday. Lubin caught 32 passes for 278 yards at NMB, alma mater of FIU alumnus and current Jacksonville Jags safety Johnathan Cyprien.

Lubin's rated at two stars by Rivals.com, unrated by ESPN.com, 247Sports.com and Scout.com.

A DC Swap?; Universe Irony; Wet Bucks

These things happen sometimes. Somebody takes Job A, leaving Job B open. The person who most recently had Job A needs work and sees an opening at Job B. When it's all done, it looks like a good old fashioned Ken Stabler-for-Dan Pastorini trade.

Paul Chryst left the head coaching job at Pitt to go back to Wisconsin. First reports put Matt House, Pitt's defensive coordinator the last three years, in the U-Haul as Chryst moved back to Madison. But then Chryst decided to keep Badger incumbent Dave Aranda as defensive coordinator. Meanwhile, new Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi hired FIU's defensive coordinator Josh Conklin and linebackers coach Rob Haley.

So, now, House has no home and FIU doesn't have a defensive coordinator. Wonder if that match is being made.

House's defenses ranked 34th and 33rd nationally in 2013 and 2014, although it helped greatly in 2014 that Pitt's pounding carnivore style of offense ranked fifth in time of possession, shrinking possessions per game and holding down total defense numbers.

Just a thought...

MISS UNIVERSE

Reigning Miss Universe Gabriela Isler visited the FIU volleyball team Tuesday. Though she clearly fit in by height if not athleticism, does anybody see the irony in the symbol of the event costing FIU Athletics around $540,000 visiting one of the athletic department's most underfunded teams?

Michael Vasquez's Sunday Herald article quotes FIU AD Pete Garcia, in an interview at least a week past, as estimating the pageant will bring "close to $400,000" to FIU. A Friday release by FIU Athletics estimated $330,000.

SWIMMING & DIVING

Perusing e-mails from a records request, I saw that FIU Chief Financial Officer Kenneth Jessell contributed $4,000 in November to FIU's water women for "the acquisition of training equipment," according to Jessell's e-mail to several athletic department folks. That'll be matched by Athletics to give $8,000 to the swimmers for new training equipment.

If you were wondering -- I was, I figured you might be too -- Jessell's salary is $329,250, according to Florida Has a Right to Know. Still, that's not that's not chump change he's throwing in the pool.

 


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