June 29, 2014

June 25, 2014

Predictions for 2014 football

 

Yeah, OK, cliche. But "Eye of the Tiger" remains summer music to me. Also, this clip, the best line from the cartoon that was Rocky III, sums up the preseason magazines' projections for this year's football campaign.

Got to my semi-local Barnes & Noble Wednesday to collect the rest of the prognastications after getting Lindy's and Phil Steele earlier.

Athlon's: 2-10, 0-8 in Conference USA, so they're predicting wins in the first two games over FCS foes Wagner and Bethune-Cookman. Ranked 127th out of 128 nationally, ahead of only New Mexico State. In the unit rankings, puts FIU 13th out of 13 in C-USA at quarteraback and wideouts/tight ends, 12th in running bask and linebackers, 11th in offensive line, defensive line and secondary. Incongruently, considering the wide receiver/tight end rankings, sophomore tight end Jonnu Smith is their preseason First Team All-C-USA tight end.

The quote from an opposing assistant says "Their offense is pretty basic, a pro-style offense. They will huddle and do what Ron Turner did somewhere in the NFL."

Kind of what I said when I found out they were closing spring practices.

The Sporting News: 7th in Conference USA East. Nobody made TSN's preseason all-conference team, although they went with three wide receivers instead of two and a tight end.

USA Today: 1-11, 0-8 in Conference USA, so they must like FIU over the male half of Hart to Hart but under everybody else. 125th out of 128 nationally. Smith as the preseason all-conference tight end. They rank this year's recruiting class tied for eighth in C-USA, even with FAU.

It's hard for me to see FIU going winless in Conference USA or losing to Wagner. That's at least two wins right there. Bethune's predicted to win the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference again despite losing a kitchen table full of starters. Still, could be win No. 3. That would be progress.

 

June 24, 2014

On WR Mark Hutchinson

Wide receiver Mark Hutchinson, Class of 2015 out of Wesley Chapel Wiregrass Ranch High, announced Tuesday via Twitter that he's verbally committed to FIU. Last season, Hutchinson, 6-2, 200, caught seven passes for 113 yards.

He's unrated by 247sports.com, ESPN, Rivals.com and Scout.com.

 

June 22, 2014

3-star 2015 QB commits to FIU

Lakeland Christian's Christian Alexander completed 61.7 percent of his passes (127 of 206) in 2013 for 1,865 yards, 22 touchdowns and four interceptions. Alexander's 6-3, 210, the kind of size that speaks more of a pro-style quarterback FIU coach Ron Turner covets than the dual threat quarterbacks in vogue around college football.

So, count it as a plus for FIU that Alexander, rated at three stars by 247sports.com, Rivals.com and Scout.com, unrated by ESPN.com, announced his commitment to FIU Sunday via Twitter.

 

June 17, 2014

On QB Maurice Alexander

Did you do a double take that FIU got a quarterback commit out of Booker T. Washington, considering A) they barely took a look at national championship quarterback Treon Harris and B) the Booker T. and FIU staffs don't exactly hit the same Dunkin Donuts.

Maybe this will help explain: Maurice Alexander just transferred to Booker T. from Homstead High, where The Herald picked him Second Team 5A-Independent All-Dade. Last year, Alexander threw for 2,111 yards on 115 of 204 passing and ran for 90 yards on 63 carries (remember, sacks come off rushing totals in high school and college). He quarterbacked Booker T. to the championship of the Dolphins Academy 7-on-7 last weekend and will be leading them into the Nationals at Indianapolis.

Alexander's rated at two stars by 247sports.com, unrated by Rivals and Scout.com.

 

 

May 28, 2014

This 'n' That

Central defensive back Olin Cushion, a 2013 Second Team All-Dade selection as a junior, has committed to FIU for 2015. Cushion, 5-10, 175, had five interceptions for the state champion Rockets.

First college football preview mag out or, at least, the first one I saw: Lindy's. Lindy's ranked FIU 126th out of 128 FBS teams. In answer to the obvious question, The Terrible Two were New Mexico State and UMass. Then again, for the second consecutive year, Lindy's contained a blunder concerning FIU that whacks at its credibility. It missed FIU's 2011 bowl appearance under "Last Bowl."

If they're not already on the stands, Athlon's, Phil Steele, The Sporting News and USA Today should be out by the end of next week.

TRACK AND FIELD

Last week, FIU finally listed the head track abd cross country coach job on the NCAA's job search website. The department left the position vacant as a money-saving measure after Eric Campbell resigned in January.

 

 

February 05, 2014

People Gained & Lost on Signing Day

Busy day in FIU athletics: National Signing Day, Cindy Russo winning career game No. 700 tonight at Texas-San Antonio and David Beckham says he wants his MLS Miami franchise to play in a new stadium close to downtown (which means not FIU Stadium).

Taking the last part first, as they used to say on Twenty-One, FIU Stadium's main unsuitability is location. Everything else can be addressed. Offices can be built. A better field can be installed and maintained. The press box can be made into something that doesn't get laughed at by people from Troy or Arkansas State. It's even got the size MLS likes for its stadiums.

But it's still out there, far west enough to kiss the turnpike. That's too many minutes of honking, creative cursing, teeth-gnashing traffic for too many people for weeknight games. It's a factor that puts a ceiling on FIU basketball attendance. If you're in a position where your Get West routes are the Dolphin Expressway, State Road 112, east-west streets from Bird Road toi 36th Street or some combination of those three, you better love that sport like it's your mama to deal with that mess.

Interim site? Maybe. Permanent site? Nah.

Once again, there's another Signing Day coaching staff change as soon as FIU gets its class signed. Last year, it was defensive backs coach Jeff Popovich getting zapped. This time, it's defensive line coach Andre Patterson, apparently, headed for Minnesota and new coach Mike Zimmer's staff. Patterson and Zimmer worked together for three seasons in Dallas when Patterson was the defensive line coach and Zimmer was the defensive coordinator. Herrald writer & editor-retired-into-stringer Bill Van Smith, standing in for me at the FIU Signing Day Party, learned it wasn't a done deal yet.

On to recruiting. There weren't many surprises on Signing Day for FIU. They brought in offensive lineman Kai Absheer from Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas after Trayvon Williams opted for Georgia Southern over FIU. I like the size of the linemen. I would've liked to have seen one or two more guys who can get you the cheap points. You know, don't fill a kickoff return lane and see you after the touchdown dance.

In the whole process, they did lose some guys they really wanted, which happens every year to every school. I still say FAU made a strong statement getting who they got, especially locally, after throwing a staff together late as FIU did last year. Maybe it'll keep the Fieldhouse men jumping.

For what it's worth...Rivals.com ranks FIU tied for fourth in Conference USA with Louisiana Tech, Tulsa and Middle Tenessee State and tied for 83rd nationally. 247Sports.com, which ranks based on average rating of a player, ranks FIU 10th in Conference USA and 105th nationally. Scout.com has FIU 95th nationally and sixth in the conference, but that site also gives FIU credit for three-star Raheem Harvey (going to junior college) and running back Donavan Williams (decided to go closer to home, Sam Houston State).

The Recruiting Class of 2014 (with one scholarship left):

Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas offensive tackle Kai Absheer 6-5, 310. Not rated by ESPN.com, 247Sports.com, Rivals.com when the day started. Rivals had a two-star rating on him by day's end, as did Scout.com. I didn't see him play, but a 6-5 offensive tackle out of St. Thomas? That's a chance you have to take. If he doesn't have the feet, put him in dance class until he gets them. 

Plant City defensive end John Broome, 6-2, 225

Pembroke Pines Flanagan defensive back Mark Bruno, 5-10, 165

Hollywood Hills defensive lineman Josh Deuyour, 6-9, 305. Somebody's going on the field goal block team.

Jacksonville Raines running back Alex Gardner, 5-10, 185. Losing Williams hurts, but let's see what Gardner and sophomore Silas Spearman can do with an improved offensive line.

Hialeah defensive back Nick Gonzalez, 6-0, 180.

Frostproof wide receiver Jarviel Hart, 5-10, 160. 

Booker T. Washington offensive lineman Jordan Ingraham, 6-2, 315

Kingsland (Ga.) Camden County defensive end Anthony Johnson, 6-3, 235

Carol City defensive back Tyree Johnson, 5-8, 165

Oviedo Hagerty offensive lineman Breht Joly, 6-4, 305.

Tampa Sickles tight end/wide receiver Chett LeVay 6-3, 190.

Fort Lauderdale Dilllard quarterback Bud Martin, 6-3, 225. 

St. Petersburg Admiral Farragut Academy running back/wide receiver Napoleon Maxwell, 6-0, 190.

Tampa Gaither quarterback Alex McGeough, 6-3, 200. 

Neptune Beach Fletcher quarterback/punter Luke Medlock, 6-2, 200. Adds to the quarterback battle and I'll wager he's the best punter on the roster already. 

Orlando The First Academy offensive lineman Chris Miller, 6-4, 310

Delray Beach Atlantic wide receiver/defensive back Thomas Owens, 6-1, 180. Owens played quarterback at Atlantic. 

Tampa Bay Tech linebacker Fred Russ, 5-10, 235

Plantation American Heritage defensive tackle Justin Sibole, 6-4, 275. This one wasn't certain until today. Rated at three stars by ESPN, two stars by 247sports.com, Rivals.com and Scout.com.

Miami Springs cornerback Bobby Stinson, 5-11, 155

Hialeah Jermaine Sheriff. FIU says defensive back, but he played defensive end and linebacker in high school. 6-2, 225. I don't see him getting any smaller, so he'll be either an outside linebacker or an intimidatingly physical safety.

Northwestern defensive back Shemarke Spence, 5-9, 170.

Miami Springs cornerback Bobby Stinson, 5-11, 155, 175

Fort Lauderdale Dillard wide receiver Dennis Turner, 5-11, 180. FIU's highest rated recruit by 247Sports.com, ESPN.com and Scout.com, all of which have him at three stars. Rivals.com has him at two stars. A big play receiver who averaged over 20 yards per catch over his last two years of high school, catching passes from early enrollee Bud Martin.

Orlando Oak Ridge offensive tackle DaQuane Willkie, 6-4, 250. Considered one of the best offensive tackles in the middle of the state. He's only going to get bigger and longer. If he's got feet, he'll be impressive.

Homestead linebacker Anthony Wint, 6-0, 210. 

National Signing Day updates (look under Stevie)

I'm here in Los Angeles covering the Heat, the second time in three years I've been elsewhere on National Signing Day. Just as when I was at the Super Bowl during Signing Day two years ago, I'll provide updates on here on the blog as best I can and, at the end of the day, what analysis I can.

The classes that helped give this football program its brightest days didn't come very heralded. Meanwhile, there's not much left of the highest ranking class, 2012. FIU coach Ron Turner insisted during the fall they were getting their first choice recruits. Turner lost some of those young men. Down the line, that might be a big break for FIU considering the academic troubles of some of their highest ranked recruits over the years.

Anyway, I'll try to keep a running total here as best I can while doing the Heat-Clippers thing throughout the day. Updates under Stevie...

 

Signees having been announced by FIU, Tweeted their signing or messaged me:

Hialeah defensive back Nick Gonzalez, 6-0, 180. Gonzalez was unrated by any of the services until Rivals.com gave him a two-star rating after his FIU commit. He made some big plays as a wide receiver and if I remember that district correctly, that's not always easy with the speed on the defensive side of the ball.

Oviedo Hagerty offensive lineman Breht Joly, 6-4, 305.

Jacksonville Fletcher quarterback/punter Luke Medlock, 6-2, 200. Adds to the quarterback battle and I'll wager he's the best punter on the roster already. 

Hollywood Hills defensive lineman Josh Deuyour, 6-9, 305

Miami Springs cornerback Bobby Stinson, 5-11, 155

Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas offensive tackle Kai Absheer 6-5, 310

Jacksonville Raines running back Alex Gardner, 5-10, 185

Frostproof wide receiver Jarviel Hart, 5-10, 160

Pembroke Pines Flanagan defensive back Mark Bruno, 5-10, 165

Tampa Bay Tech linebacker Fred Russ, 5-10, 235

Plantation American Heritage defensive tackle Justin Sibole, 6-4, 275. This one wasn't certain until today. Rated at three stars by ESPN, two stars by 247sports.com, Rivals.com and Scout.com.

Northwestern defensive back Shemarke Spence, 5-9, 175

Tampa Sickles tight end/wide receiver Chett LeVay 6-3, 190

St. Petersburg Admiral Farragut Academy running back/wide receiver Napoleon Maxwell, 6-0, 190

Hialeah Jermaine Sheriff. FIU says defensive back, but he played defensive end and linebacker in high school. 6-2, 225. I don't see him getting any smaller, so that's either an outside linebacker or one lay-the-big-wood safety.

Plant City defensive end John Broome, 6-2, 225

Kingsland (Ga.) Camden County defensive end Anthony Johnson, 6-3, 235

Booker T. Washington offensive lineman Jordan Ingraham, 6-2, 315

Carol City defensive back Tyree Johnson, 5-8, 165

Homestead linebacker Anthony Wint, 6-0, 210

Orlando The First Academy offensive lineman Chris Miller, 6-4, 310

Delray Beach Atlantic wide receiver Thomas Owens, 6-1, 180

Orlando Oak Ridge offensive tackle DaQuane Willkie, 6-4, 250. One of the best offensive tackles in the middle of the state. He's only going to get bigger and longer. If he's got feet, he'll be impressive.

Fort Lauderdale Dillard wide receiver Dennis Turner, 5-11, 180. A big play receiver who averaged over 20 yards per catch over his last two years of high school, catching passes from early enrollee Bud Martin.

 

February 01, 2014

3-star RB chooses FIU

Jacksonville Raines running back Alex Gardner declared via Twitter earlier today that he's committed to FIU.

For what ratings are worth, Gardner would be the highest rated running back recruited to FIU out of high school. ESPN.com and 247sports.com have him at three stars while Scout.com and Rivals.com have him at two. 

January 27, 2014

Making A Move on Gardner; Coley again No. 1 scorer

The FIU coaching staffs Turners were up state Monday, trying to woo three-star running back Alex Gardner, a 5-10, 185-pound runner out of Jacksonville Raines, to FIU. Gardner was to visit FAU this weekend. Now, he'll visit FIU.

Gardner visited Wyoming last week. According to MaxPreps, he ran for 1,955 yards and 18 touchdowns his junior and senior years on 314 carries, 6.23 a pop. As far as catching the ball, his 29 receptions led to 359 yards and five touchdowns in that same two-year span.

 

 

WOMEN'S BASKETBALL

Senior guard Jerica Coley bumped past Baylor's Odyssey Sims in the national scoring race to retake the lead in the category she won last year.

Coley's 38-point effort Saturday against Alabama-Birmingham put her at 30.0 points per game. Meanwhile, Sims suffered a seven for 27 shooting night against Oklahoma State, scoring only 17 points and dropping her to 29.7. That was Sims third game in the last four of 20 or fewer points. Baylor won two of those three games, one of which saw Sims play only 28 minutes as Baylor routed Kansas State.

Seabury recommits?

As noted in the Comments section of the last post, I missed Saturday's Tweet from Orlando Timber Creek wide receiver Javonte Seabury that he's headed for FIU again.

Seabury decommitted after his official visit was cancelled just before it was supposed to happen. He told the Orlando Sentinel he did so because FIU stopped paying him enough attention. I heard FIU cut the visit in a concern about Seabury's academic standing.

If Seabury winds up coming to FIU, that puts more bullets in the big play gun FIU wants to fire more often than they did last year.

January 26, 2014

A LB from Homestead, a DB from Hialeah

 

After a morning and noon in the kitchen -- fluffy pancakes, then Cake Pops, then brunch -- a few more details on what I Tweeted out this morning. (You don't follow me on Twitter at https://twitter.com/DavidJNeal? Your bad).

And, yes, this is what I meant by standing your ground.

Homestead linebacker Anthony Wint had one interception, one fumble forced and one fumble recovered as a senior. He also had a widely reported offer from Syracuse at one time. Not sure that was still on the table. Wint's rated at two stars by 247sports.com and Scout.com, three stars by ESPN.com and unrated by Rivals.com.

Hialeah safety Nick Gonzalez picked off two passes his senior season, three in his last two years. Though Gonzalez didn't catch many passes as a wide receiver (seven), they tended to be big ones -- a 52-yarder against Miami Springs, two for 43 yards and two touchdowns against Hialeah Miami Lakes, a 37-yard touchdown against North Miami Beach.

Gonzalez isn't rated by 247sports.com, Rivals.com, Scout.com or ESPN.com.

http://www.hudl.com/athlete/2396506/highlights/52782375

 

 

Two up (basketballs), one down (pool)

Saturday night at The Branch, I wonder if anybody had a Joe Montana-John Candy moment. You know, looking off the court and seeing, "Hey, that's Ray Taylor over there!" or "Hey, check it out -- people actually in the cabanas!"

That contribution to a solid gathering helped give The Branch good life throughout FIU's 66-57 win. The court and the cabanas, as such things go, now just seem normal, although I still like the uniqueness of each. The only thing two things beach-like about Saturday night's game, in fact: the Spotlight Dance Academy preteens creepily twerking like they worked at Club Madonna (accompanied by little girls creepily made up like they worked for Iceberg Slim) at halftime and the way officials treated fifth-year senior forward Rakeem Buckles. The zebras imitated Miami Beach PD who wanted Buckles to move along during Urban Beach Weekend. To be fair, officiating helped neither team, but of Buckles' five fouls, I saw him commit two, maybe three.

FIU didn't give FAU's Pablo Bertone a chance to see much of anything in the first half. Bertone wound up with 19 points, right at his 18.1 per game average, but all of it came in the second half as FAU tried to come from 34-24 down at the half. The Give A Hoot, Don't Pollute guys never made it. In fact, after Tymell Murphy knocked down the game's first jumper less than 20 seconds into the contest, FIU never trailed or was tied.

Anyway, back to the defensive job on Bertone. 

“I thought they paid extra attention to him,” FIU coach Anthony Evans said. “There wasn’t a time when he caught the ball that someone wasn’t on him. We let No. 12 get a couple of clean looks early. But I don’t think Bertone got any clean looks whether Dennis (Mavin) was on him or Tymell.”

Evans usually doesn't crack anything close to a joke in the postgame conference, win or lose. Saturday, after Murphy finished answering a question about his double doubles, Evans said, "He almost had a triple double..."

"Eight turnovers...," Murphy groaned.

"If he had two more turnovers, it's a triple double," Evans said.

"I was just looking at that," Murphy said. "That's horrible. I've got to be better." 

When FIU needed offense, it was Murphy coming up with the tough move or rebound, Mavin using his quickness to break down the defense or sophomore forward Jerome Frink unafraid to take the shot. Defensively, Mavin and Murphy helped out down low well and Frink, again, always seeming to be there for a steal, block or rebound. 

As Murphy left the postgame press conference, I said to him, "You hear your girl got 38?"

Murphy threw out more complimentary words about senior guard Jerica Coley, of whom Murphy's the biggest on-campus fan. UAB couldn't keep Coley from the hole and they couldn't keep Tynia McKinzie off hte boards.

Coley got her 38 strangely -- hitting five of nine from three-point range, but only seven of 26 from inside the arc. Still, you know what Coley's going to give as far as points almost every night. The difference in FIU winning or losing Saturday, as so often, is the supporting cast's production. McKinzie put in 10 points to go with her 19 rebounds.

And that's the difference between the 63-52 win and team failure.

SWIMMING & DIVING

Having a dysfunctional facility clearly didn"t affect Florida Gulf Coast's ability.

Pool problems caused the diving for Saturday's dual meet to be hosted by FIU while Gulf Coast hosted the swimming. Senior Sabrina Beaupre swept both the diving events while senior Sonia Perez Arau won the 1000 freestyle in school record time (10:07.06, knocking 4.3 seconds off her own FIU record) and took the 500 free and 400 individual medley, too. FIU coach Randy Horner called it the best dua meet of any athlete h'es coached.

Unfortunately for FIU, Gulf Coast won everything else and the meet, 189.5-109.5. The first dual meet loss of the year for FIU, No. 12 in CollegeSwimming.com's mid-major rankings (Gulf Coast was No. 9), comes a week before they face FAU in the season-ending dual meet.

 

January 22, 2014

Enoicy, Maxwell pledge FIU

 

Delray Beach Atlantic wide receiver Adly Enoicy is 6-5 and was pursued at one time by Florida and USC among other schools. Enoicy's scheduled to visit Syracuse Jan. 31, but he committed to FIU Wednesday. ESPN.com has him at four stars, Rivals.com puts him at two stars, 247sports.com and Scout.com each have him at three stars.

St. Pete Admiral Farragut's Napoleon Maxwell ran the ball only 80 times, but for 953 yards his senior year, 11.9 yards a carry, and returned three kicks for touchdowns and caught 18 passes for 273 yards. He also had four interceptions as a safety. Maxwell have his verbal nod to FIU Monday with his official visit still to come. 247sports.com, Rivals.com and Scout.com all rate him at two stars. ESPN.com rates him at three stars.

 

January 21, 2014

Seabury decommits; FIU offers Huggins; Spring Game April 12

Orlando Timber Creek Wide receiver Javonte Seabury, whom each recruiting site had as FIU's highest rated recruit, announced via Twitter that he's decommitted from FIU. Seabury flipped to FIU from Florida State late last summer. He had an official visit scheduled for this past weekend, but it was cancelled. 

Meanwhile, FIU threw an offer at Coconut Creek Monarch cornerback Ronnie Hoggins, Class of 2015, rated at three stars by Rivals.com and 247sports.com.

SPRING GAME

Look at the headline. That's all we know for now.

January 20, 2014

Turner gets Turner

To answer the question asked on Twitter, yes, this is what I mean by standing your ground. Also, making use of local contacts.

The Herald's Manny Navarro reported that Fort Lauderdale Dillard coach Lorenzo Davis told him that Dillard wide receiver Dennis Turner, who decommitted from the University of Miami in December, committed Sunday to FIU. Already at FIU -- Turner's high school quarterback Bud Martin.

Turner, 5-11, 175, is rated at three stars by ESPN.com, 247sports.com and Scout.com and two stars by Rivals.com. 

Beef shopping

Making a bit of a comeback on the long MLK Day weekend, FIU went north to get some linemen, which aren't always plentiful down here.

According to Rivals.com, FIU has flipped Kingsland (Ga.) Camden County High offensive guard Trayvon Williams, who had been committed to Marshall. FIU also got a commitment from offensive lineman Daquane Wilkie out of Orlando Oak Ridge.

Williams, 6-3, 315, is rated at three stars by ESPN.com, 247sports.com, two stars by Rivals.com and unrated by Scout.com. Wilkie, 6-4, 250, is unrated by any of the recruiting services.

 

January 19, 2014

Stand Your Ground

Why this week's FAU recruiting bonanza, which included several players from Dade and Broward Counties including a couple of former FIU commits, could hurt FIU beyond 2014:

Before John Madden became a broadcaster, a video game and a cartoon, he was the youngest coach to win 100 NFL games and did so in 10 seasons of coaching Oakland. Whenever he was asked the key to being a great coach, Madden would usually start his response with, "First, have great players."

Former Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Drew Pearson had a merchandising company that wanted to do work with the pro sports leagues. That's a tough market to crack, double tough for minority-owned businesses in the 1980s. Through some opportunism, the company eventually got a deal with the NFL -- the low-end hat market. Pearson's company developed that perceived small market, developed that as the ground they owned and became members of an exclusive club of rightsholders that made $1 milllion in royalties for NFL Properties three consecutive years.

Being good starts with your players, even more so in college than the NFL. And when you're trying to build your company amidst larger, more established competitors, you have to grab some patch of space and declare it as yours on which you'll contruct your foundation of success.

Howard Schnellenberger's "State of Miami" philosophy that stocked those legendary University of Miami teams of the 1980s is well-stated. When SMU rose from ashes in the late 1970s and early 1980s, Ron Meyer decided they would own Dallas, Houston, the rest of East Texas and Western Louisiana. They were the smaller brands trying to break into a tight club, like Drew Pearson Enterprises.

If FIU's ever going to be more than what it is now in football, if it's ever going to be, say, where Central Florida is now (three 10-win seasons in the last four), the ground needs to be grabbed and held. It doesn't need to be Dade or Broward County's upper crust recruits nor is it realistic think it would be in the next few years. But, they need to establish themselves as a first line possibility for the next rung down and the rung after that.

Last fall, I talked to UCF's George O'Leary about the turnaround there.

“When I first got here, we needed players,” O’Leary said. “Our goal was to get hold of kids who were thinking of leaving the state. Once we accomplished that, we’re able to go after the same kids as (the Big Three). More so than not, we don’t get them. But we get some.”

That's what stalled some at FIU with the last coaching change. Some ground had been claimed in South Florida --T.Y. Hilton, Wesley Carroll, Johnathan Cyprien, Winston Fraser, etc. -- and in Louisiana, where Mario Cristobal developed a thin pipeline of defensive linemen. Just using that as an example, not wanting to rehash the firing or anything. It's done. Moving on, time for FIU to reestablish its ground under the current staff.

Except it's FAU doing the establishing in Dade and Broward while going after the same echelon of players as FIU. The Owls are doing it with a campus just far enough away to be not home yet close enough for quick visits, emergencies, family to make games; a debt-ridden but beautiful stadium; a campus that's nice and ever-growing, just like FIU's. They've got relationships locally. FIU's got some relationships and several acquaintances.

Meanwhile, what's FIU's ground? California quarterbacks?

Watching this recruiting week play out, somebody said to me it reminded him of Fillmore Slim's story in the documentary American Pimp. Other pimps took Fillmore's women from him hours after he set up in Los Angeles the first time. Fillmore went to the phone and called out seven more women, his first string. The LA pimps realized when they only got from Fillmore what he let them have. They gave him his respect and his space. The difference, the guy said to me, is that FIU's getting its first string taken.

I'm not saying FIU won't get any good players out of Dade or Broward in years to come if they don't get their act together now. Just out of talent overload, they'll get some. By the way, their top recruit this year, Orlando Timber Creek wide receiver Javonte Seabury, isn't going anywhere. I'm convinced the issue with his visit being cancelled this weekend was grades, not getting poached.

What I am saying is big changes often start with small, decisive moves. FAU is making them. FIU needs to make some that lets folks know that, on some small level, this is FIU's area.

Commits, Coley & Shankweiler Shootout

Junior college running back Donavan Williams announced his commitment to FIU via Twitter. Williams brings 225 pounds at 6-1, an inch taller and 10 pounds heavier than sophomore Lamarq Caldwell. the biggest back on FIU's roster, with much more giddyup. 

http://www.hudl.com/athlete/565932/highlights/78710375

Williams, an 2013 National Junior Colllege Athletic Association Honorable Mention All-America for ASA College, ran for 1,024 yards and 12 touchdowns on 145 carries, 7.1 yards per carry. Perhaps even more impressive: one fumble. Williams came out of Belton (Tx.) High School after running for over 1,300 yards as a senior, but came out without a test score. He went to Blinn Junior College, where he played three games and ran for 117 yards, 3.7 yards per carry.

 

I hear FIU coach Ron Turner wants to pull a quarterback from the junior college pool. That's not terribly surprising. Turner's got junior E.J. Hilliard plus two early-enrolled freshmen quarterbacks and, according to one source, is telling potential quarterback recruits that all the above doesn't equal one starter.

Add a Williams, subtract a Bussey. FAU's been on Hialeah running back Henry Bussey, a roadrunner who averaged over 10 yards per carry in the regular season this year. Bussey Tweeted in the wee hours while on his FAU visit, "I know where I will be going to college for the next 3-4 years" and confirmed Sunday morning he's now heaeded for FAU. The Owls also got Coral Gables running back Gregory Howell.

Tonight, visiting FIU recruits were taken to Texas de Brazil on South Beach. Thank goodness Club Madonna is on a forced hiatus. It seems that place has trouble carding anyone. Of course, this year, it seems the hosts did the smart thing: took the visiting young men to an FIU party.

If you're going to be a college student, you better learn to be a bargain shopper.

WOMEN'S BASKETBALL

Tulsa's Donald W. Reynolds Center opened in December 1998. In the 15 years plus one month since, nobody of either gender has scored more points in game there than the 43 FIU senior guard Jerica Coley put up Saturday afternoon in FIU's 78-73 loss to Tulsa.

The efficiency of Coley's performance sets it apart from many of her high scoring efforts: 17 of 31 (54.8 percent) from the field, seven of seven from the line with 10 rebounds, three assists, two blocks, two steals and only one turnover. She averaged 6.25 rebounds per game and 2.8 turnovers per game before Saturday. She came into the game shooting 42.8 percent from the field and shot 50.0 from the field in only three previous games -- Wednesday's win against Florida Atlantic, the 47-point game against Wake Forest and on Nov. 29 against Valparaiso.

As the only consistent scorer, Coley's often double teamed and often winds up with the ball late in the shot clock. Then, she's got to force up a shot the same way she does on too many possessions during those games the rest of the Panthers can't hit the broad side of a Klump.

If you want to know whether or not FIU won, don't look at Coley's shooting or scoring. Look at guard Taylor Shade, forward Brianna Wright and center Tynia McKenzie. Saturday, they went a combined three for 20 from the field for 10 points. McKenzie pulled down seven offensive rebounds and scored only two points.

MEN'S BASKETBALL

What a weird, exciting game Saturday at The Branch, the Shankweiler Shootout by FIU 66-62 against East Carolina.

Whereas Thursday's officials acted like calling a guy for traveling sentenced him to 10 years at hard labor, Saturday's officials called that and anything that looked like it might involve contact, like a pair of Bob Jones University chaperones. Both teams got in the double bonus in the first half, which would've had those playing the Over buying drinks by halftime if either team could shoot free throws as well as New Castle High.

Both East Carolina point guards got into early foul trouble. Soon after, FIU began trapping just after half court, forced some turnovers and got the kind of easy baskets they didn't get Thursday against Old Dominion. But FIU coach Anthony Evans said it wasn't the Pirates personnel situation that brought the pressure from the Panthers. Evans said FIU's lack of depth doesn't allow for game-long pressuring so they do it in spurts. It was just time for a spurt.

Also, FIU's lack of depth seemed to come up in the second half when providing help on defense. The Panthers were a step slow on many possessions. Layups and short flips resulted for East Carolina. Fatigue? Maybe. On the other hand, when the Pirates missed, the Panthers crashed the boards with authority (or as much authority as this officiating crew allowed). That's effort they summoned.

FIU's poor free throw shooting almost caught them again. Their defense, lot of determination and a ridiculously panicky final possession for East Carolina got them to the finish line. Good for them.

Next up: FAU. Heh-heh-heh.

 

 

January 18, 2014

Coley among Wooden Award Final 20; recruiting stuff

Martinsville, Indiana's John Wooden eschewed the superior basketball school about 20 minutes away in Bloomington and went on to become an All-America at Purdue and, some years later, a pretty fair hoops coach at UCLA. The Wooden Award recognizes the best college player of each gender who also is moving toward a degree at a 2.0 GPA or better clip.

No surprise then that FIU senior guard Jerica Coley has made the midseason final 20 list for the women's Wooden Award. The FIU women face Tulsa Saturday.

RECRUITING

Texas-San Antonio snagged a commitment out of two-star Orange Park Oakleaf linebacker Justin Todd, who had been committed to FIU.

FIU is making a run at Dillard wide receiver Dennis Turner, a former UM commit. Of assistance in that pursuit should be Dillard quarterback Bud Martin, who has enrolled early.

One commenter mentioned Marquese Dudley-Gordon, a three-star defensive back from Cypress Bay who spurned several more prominent schools to commit to FAU. One school not playing France Joli and singing "Come to Me" to Dudley-Gordon was FIU, but I think that had more to do with frigid feelings on the other end. Remember last year, when FIU yanked the offer of Cypress Bay defensive lineman Jason Rae during the two weeks of Luke Butkus and about a week before Signing Day? Rae was stunned. Some folks were left angry and hurt. Rae wound up at Central Florida, where his older brother played.

Javonte Seabury's cancelled visit could be just screwed up paperwork in Compliance, which still isn't fully staffed. Or, there could be a problem with his grades. You do have to wonder when Seabury, rated at three to four stars and a former Florida State commit, isn't getting dive bombed with offers. That can mean something's up (or not up enough) in the grade department. I hope whatever the problem is, it gets cleared up.


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