Booker T. Washington offensive lineman Jordan Ingraham has committed to FIU. Ingraham, 6-2, 315, is rated at two stars by Rivals.com and is unrated by 247sports.com, Scout.com and ESPN.com.
Sheesh, come back from pseudo-vacation and the news showers down...
That men's soccer goalie Robin Spiegel, last year's Conference USA All-Freshman goalie after starting every game for FIU, was even available to do some kicking for the football team after Tuesday's practice might say more about his status with his first sport. After all, men's soccer is on a road trip now, which means a Spiegel healthy enough to kick for FIU coach Ron Turner was left home.
Turner said neither Spiegel or the FIU student who kicked with him, would join the team this year but might in the spring. Longtime FIU folks will recall that Karl Kremser, who built the FIU soccer program into a national power, also was a German native who did football placekicking.
As for this year, Turner said he wasn't happy that FIU was the only team in Conference USA without a touchback on kickoffs but he did have confidence in freshman Austin Taylor on field goals. FIU averages 52.6 yards of length per kickoff, exactly five yards fewer than opponents and 32.4 yards net kicking average, 7.9 yards less than opponents.
Turner said FIU's punting frustrated him more than the kicking because that's killing FIU in field position. Redshirt freshman Chris Ayers averages 35.0 yards per punt with one punt over 50 yards. FIU's 12th in net punting among the 14 C-USA schools and 14th in gross punting.
Also, about that scoreboard going Superdome lights late in Saturday's game, FIU assistant athletic director for facilities and operations Wes Hardin e-mailed me, "the transmitter that wirelessly sends signal from the controller to the board malfunctioned on Saturday night. It was unrelated to the issues we experienced during the UCF game and is something that we have been able to remedy."
FIU athletic director Pete Garcia said $150,000 to $200,000 of new equipment is coming for the four-year-old scoreboard.
Redshirt sophomore wide receiver Fred Porter is now on scholarship.
The new bowl at Marlins Park will be the Miami Beach Bowl.
As I did with the preseason Q&A sitdown with Ron Turner, here's some of what didn't make the paper.
A couple of things I found interesting: his "there were a few things I didn't know" points to his surprise at the way things are done at FIU. Sometimes, the school works like a regular Division I athletic department. Other times, it's like Daffy Duck playing Duck Dodgers or The Scarlet Pumpernickel -- knowing how to don the trappings of what they want to be, but not knowing how to actually be it.
And to the question of how recruiting South Florida was going, he talked about getting to know the South Florida coaches after the season. Maybe I'm ignorant to all a head coach has on his plate from January through June, but that would've been something I would've been doing five seconds into the job.
Anyway, here's some of what made the paper mixed in with some of what did.
Q: When you looked at the roster in the spring and summer did you foresee the first four games going the way they have?
A: “No. I knew we were going to be very young, I knew we were going to be very raw, I knew it was going to take a while to get everything to jell. But I didn’t foresee that some of the guys who aren’t with us wouldn’t be with us. How much of a difference that would make, I don’t know. If they’re not going to win off the field and do what they’re supposed to do, you can’t count on them on the field.
If guys aren’t going to class, not doing what they’re supposed to do, get suspended for disciplinary reasons, they’re not going to help us win on the field because come the fourth quarter, end of the game, they’re going to let you down. I’m a very firm believer in that. In the first meeting, I told them
that, “Guys there’s no such thing as being on a winner on the field only. You’re a winner in everything you do. You treat people the right way, you do the right things, you go to class, you’re accountable to everybody. When you do that off the ifeld, you have a chance to win on the field.""
"If you have two or three guys who aren’t doing it off the field, maybe they get absorbed in with the rest of the guys. Those guys can carry them and you can win. You’ve got 20 or 30 guys doing that. You have zero chance of winning. We’re probably better off they’re not out there with us, to be honest with you because all they would do is let us down, even though they’re talented. But it takes more than talent to be a great player and to be a winner. Everyone has some of that on the team. We had way too much. And that’s what we’re getting corrected. By changing the culture and recruiting different type of kids…who are still good football players.
"I’ve got to force myself to not spend so much time on the ones not doing what we want them to do, get them out of here and focus on the guys who are…look at 8, 99, 22, 55, 39 and, yes, I do know their names – and 32 and 21, defensively and 46. 98 has stepped in and backing up at both positions, guys playing their hearts out. Playing well, playing good football in a lot of cases. Then, you look on
offense, 50 and 59, who haven’t played much football, but are trying to step in and be the leaders. They’re doing a great job. 66, formerly known as 65, is playing left guard as a true freshman. Should not be playing, but he’s playing, giving us all he’s got. 87…80 – 80 was right on the edge of being one of those guys who wasn’t going to be here. And he has bought in 100 percent and he’s been playing well the last couplf of games. You look at 17 playing his heart out. We’ve got a lot of guys doing that – 36, 12 and 13…a lot of guys I really love on this team who are great kids, doing everything we ask them to do. Are they perfect? No. I’m not perfect, nobody is. But they’re doing what we ask
them to do. They’re 100 percent buying in. That’s why I’m excited to be here. That’s why I’m excited about the future.
"Everyone wants to write about the negatives – 72-0 and all that. I guess I can’t blame them. I get calls on it, too. But I know what we’re building and I know where we’re going. I know we’ve got a lot of kids on here that can get us there and a lot of kids coming in who can get us there. Is it frustrating at times? Absolutely. Nobody likes to get their heads bashed in 72-0. I was at Illinois, we played Ohio State, at home, at our place (in 1998). I don’t know exactly what the score was, it was (41-0), two minutes to go. They’ve got the ball on the 40-yard line, throwing into the end zone – incomplete -- trying to get more because they’re No. 1 in the country, I believe, and they wanted to keep it.
The next year, we went in there and beat their ass (46-20), the biggest defeat they’ve had in (Ohio Stadium) I believe, it still stands…We went in with the same kids and some new ones. We get the ball with two and a half minutes to go with a (46-20) lead at the 40-ayrd-line, same exact scenario they had. We ran the ball, then we took a knee. Guys on the sideline were like “Throw it! Throw it! like last year!” I said, “no. We run this program with class and character. We came I here to win the game. We’ll win the game, take a knee and get off their field.”
"The point I’m making is it can turn around. There’s a process. We’re going through a process now that nobody likes. It’s not fun. A lot of fans will give up on us. I understand that and that’s fine. As long as the guys in the locker room don’t, as long as the coaches don’t, we’ll survive. You saw part of practice today, they’re screaming, yelling, they’re into it, enthusiastic. Every practice we had during the bye week was like that. We have a lot of good kids. Because of that, it’s going to turn. It’s going to turn. I’m excited about that. I love these kids, most of them. I’m going to try to be here to help all of them, even if they’re not doing what we want them to do. I’ll help them get somewhere else.”
How do you see recruiting in South Florida going? (247Sports.com ranks FIU’s list of 19 verbal commitments for 2014 as fourth in Conference USA, 84th overall with eight commitments coming from Miami-Dade or Broward players.)
RT: “We’ve got four guys who recruit nothing but South Florida. And we’ve got guys who spot recruit, they help and see different guys by position. We’re obviously committed to this area. We’re going to recruit this area extremely hard. It’s critical for us. After the season and in the months after that, really getting a good relationship and getting to know the coaches (in South Florida). The coaches recruiting this area are doing a great job. They’re establishing very good relationships. I think the coaches can see when we come in there and talk about our vision and what our goals are, we’re doing it the right way.
“I’ve gotten a lot of calls and texts from local coaches saying, ‘Hang in there, we believe in you. We know you’re doing it the right way.’”
Are you worried about losing what fan/booster/alumni support FIU has?
“You worry about it. It is a concern. But I also know that they’ll come back when we make them very proud of this program on the field. Obviously, that’s where it jumps out at them first. But, off the field, with our graduation rate and what we’re doing in the community, they’ll come back. Obviously, you’d like them to stay with us, but I understand they’re not. That’s the nature of the business. I was
in Chicago – one quarter, you’re the greatest thing ever, the next quarter, you stink and they want to run you out of town. Not by games, quarters. And they’re great fans, Chicago fans. Because it’s so important to them, that’s why they feel that way.
"When you go through what we’re going through, there’s a lot of people who are going to bail out on us. But I think they’ll keep an eye on us and they’ll come back when they realize what we’re building. When they do, it’ll be even more special.”
The soccers both won over the weekend, the men 4-3 at Florida Gulf Coast, the women 2-0 at home against Cleveland State. Volleyball had a paper-rock-scissors FIU Classic, beating Houston Baptist, which routed Alabama, which routed FIU, which rolled North Carolina-Wilmington.
The football team got a verbal commit Friday from Oviedo Hagerty offensive tackle Breht Joly, 6-4, 320 pounds. He's unrated by 247sports.com, ESPN.com, Scout.com. Rivals.com puts him at two stars.
The depth chart for this Saturday's game contains few surprises on the FIU side. Mitch Wozniak is listed as the starting strong safety over Demarkus Perkins. After Friday's loss, FIU coach Ron Turner said he thought sophomore outside linebacker Davison Colimon would be back soon and Colimon's still listed atop one of the outside spots. Of course, that's where Colimon sat last week before Derrick Jones Jr. played in his place before both teams went to the understudies.
Two years ago, it caught the eye of both me and The Courier-Journal that the line on Louisville-FIU moved six points south over the course of the week. That's a massive move. Today, the first line on FIU vs. Bethune-Cookman started FIU as a three-point favorite, then it swung 180 degrees within five hours to Bethune by three.
An FBS team is a home underdog to an FCS team...huh.
First, there's football. Sophomore defensive end Michael Wakefield got an honorable mention from the College Football Performance Awards folks for having seven tackles, three for a loss, a sack and a fumble recovery in FIU's 43-10 loss to Maryland Saturday.
The opening spread on Friday's home opener with Central Florida put FIU as a 23-point underdog. Hours later, that number already had moved up to 24 1/2 points.
Sunday night's verbal commitment from Orlando Timber Creek WR Javonte Seabury pushed FIU up to 77th nationally and third Conference USA in 247sports.com's national rankings of the 2014 class. The ranking is based on verbal commitments, of course, so could be quickly irrelevant in one direction or another come Signing Day.
Then, we move to the pitch where both soccers split. At home, the women beat Stetson 2-0 on Friday, then took a 4-0 drilling from Florida on Sunday. Out in Southern California (everybody say "ahhhhhhhh"), the men opened their season with a 2-1 loss at Loyola Marymount on Friday and beat San Diego State 5-3 on Sunday.
Friday, the men are up at Central Florida and the women host Florida Gulf Coast at 5 p.m., a convenient athletic tailgate before the football game.
Friday afternoon, men's coach Kenny Arena said, "(The staff has) been a little more hands on early this year. Going on the road is great for chemistry, but, ideally, we wouldn't want that many road games early in the season."
Volleyball opened the season 1-2 at the Gamecock Invitational. Redshirt junior Ksenia Sukhareva got named to the all-tournament team. This weekend, amidst the flurry of activity at Camp Mitch, the FIU Classic starts Friday morning at The Branch.
Killian defensive end Anthony Brown, 6-4, 230 pounds and formerly of Archbishop Carroll High, has given a verbal commitment to FIU. Brown's not rated by ESPN.com, Scout.com, 247sports.com or Rivals.com.
OK, got my colada, which I really needed during the first half of Wednesday morning's practice, and an iced tea, so here's a recap of the morning.
The team was back in FIU Stadium. First to do the happy dance about that should've been the kickers, who were kicking line drives barely clearing the line, never mind the crossbar during Tuesday's Tamiami Park practice. Back on the fake grass, Sergio Sroka went three for three again in field goal drills, hitting from 33, 37 and 43. He was wide right from 43 in two-minute drills at the end of practice.
Other than that, well...Randy Harvey blocked a 47-yard attempt from Cody Hodgens. Hodgens hit from 33. Karson Dietrich had a 37-yard field goal blocked, then hit from 43.
Let it be said, also, that sometimes, long snappers Brandon Taylor and Sam Medlock get it back there just fine, and sometimes, they look like they're tossing infield practice at Marlins Park. With a new offensive line, FIU could have trouble in the red zone. That means field goal attempts for some three-point solace. Any comfort with a field goal attempt begins with the snap. "Smooth almost all the time" doesn't get it done, much less "sometimes."
Some personnel deployment noticed during drills: running back Jakhari Gore's in pads, but doesn't get any reps in 11-on-11, 7-on-7 or, today, the quarterback-running back screen-flat pass drills. That's not how you practice with somebody you plan to use 17 days from now. Bowling Green transfer Anthon Samuel's involved in drills. Generally, however, the top four running backs based on first and second team reps are sophomore Lamarq Caldwell, redshirt sophomore Shane Coleman, freshman Alfonso Randolph and freshman Silas Spearman.
University of Miami transfer Cory White got some first team reps as did freshman tight end Jonnu Smith. Freshmen linebacker Treyvon Williams and cornerback Brad Hyman-Muhammad (the subject of the next Herald story) ran with the second team during 11-on-11 drills late in practice. Afterwards, FIU coach Ron Turner said it wasn't just throwing the puppies some bones -- they've earned it through play in practice and have drawn notice from the coaches. Hyman-Muhammad picked off an underthrown Jake Medlock bomb to Glenn Coleman and got burned on a Medlock-to-Lowder 30something-yard toss to the corner.
Best play of the day: in run game drills, senior defnesive tackle Isame Faciane buffaloed past center Donald Senat with such power and speed, Senat seemed helplessly swept in Faciane's wake. As Faciane shed Senat, he banged into running back Shane Coleman and the collision dropped Coleman for a loss of about 5.
Speaking of which, there was live tackling today for the first time in camp.
During some of the 11-on-11 and 7-on-7 drills, I started timing the releases for Medlock and sophomore E.J. Hilliard. Hilliard's were closer to what the West Coast offense demands when the ball was between the 20s, even getting off a deep completion to fifth-year senior wide receiver Jairus Williams in 3.3 seconds.
From inside the 15 yard line, however, Medlock took too long only on his first pass, an overthrow in the end zone that took 3.7 seconds. After that, he was low to DeAndre Jasper in 2.0 and hit Jonnu Smith in 2.0 and 2.4 for touchdowns. Hilliard had a checkdown to Silas Spearman in 2.5 seconds, an incomplete fade in 1.7 seconds, didn't get rid of the ball in 4.5 seconds before scrambling (sack if it wasn't 7-on-7), incomplete in 3.5 seconds (another sack) then connected with Zach Schaubhut in the back of the end zone in 2.2 seconds.
Some of this is on the receivers, who aren't always getting open quickly enough. During one stretch of plays with Hilliard, the second team receivers couldn't get open on the third team secondary. One of the most undervalued skills of a quarterback is knowing when to throw the ball away. Though Medlock and Hilliard both know how to run, knowing when to fire into the fifth row also will come in handy this year.
Third down situations and two-minute drills got work Monday. Again, the defense got the better of it, despite having only 10 men on the field for about three consecutive plays during third down drills.
In the two minute drills, the first string defense got a three-and-out on the offense on the first possession, then stopped the offense on downs when redshirt junior Jake Medlock underthrew a 5-yard slant to T.J. Lowder on fourth and 8. The offensive line had a problem blocking Greg Hickman and Isame Faciane and the receivers had trouble getting open. In the Twos vs. Twos, sophompre E.J. Hilliard got the second string offense to the defense's 30 and Serge Sroka nailed a 47-yard field goal.
Sroka also hit from 32 and 37 earlier. Freshman Karson Dietrich was wide right from 42, rang the left upright from 47. Freshman Cody Hodgens hit from 33 and was wide left from 37 off the right hash mark. Freshman Austin Taylor hit from 43 and was wide right from 47 in the middle of the field.
Fifth-year senior Rocky Vann got behind the defense in 11-on-11 and 7-on-7 drills to catch three bombs from Hilliard and freshman Israel Paopao. Paopao's clearly the No. 3 quarterback. His throws have hummingbird zip. Freshman Travis Wright's passes remind me of the E runner rating in Statis Pro Baseball: Slow. Painfully slow. Almost never gets there. (Among the 1979 season players in my college pal's set, I think only Pittsburgh's Willie Stargell had that rating). He's got time to improve that, but it's a tad disappointing based on his consensus rating and statistics.
All the quarterbacks, from Medlock to Wright, need to work on firing more quickly. Short to medium routes with short drops form the nucleus of the West Coast Offense.
"Our five step drop stuff, we try for two, three (seconds) and under," FIU coach Ron Turner said. "Some things if we go play action, seven-step drop and trying to get downfield, the low threes. That's the hardest thing for a young quarterback or a quarterback in a new system to do is get the ball out of their hands. We're constantly saying "get it out, get it out, throw it, throw it.'
"It's improving. It's not anywhere close to where we need it to be."
Transfer running back Anthon Samuel took second team reps in the two-minute drill. Perhaps FIU wants to be sure Samuel gets adequate work in case the NCAA grants his transfer waiver. Freshman running back Silas Spearman also got second team work. Behind sophomore Lemarq Caldwell, who again showed Monday he needs to work on holding onto the ball, it looks like the pecking order is redshirt sophomore Shane Coleman; freshman Alfonso Randolph; and Spearman. An eligible Samuel goes to No. 1 on the charts like he was sung by Jay-Z.
Those catching punts in punt return work: senior Glenn Coleman, junior Richard Leonard, sophomoore DeAndre Jasper, senior Sam Miller.
Turner said Vero Beach freshman offensive lineman Chris Flaig had "a health issue" and might not join the team until classes started. Or, possibly, until next semester.
Tuesday's practice began before South Florida's chewy heat enveloped all in its sweaty aunt embrace. By the time practice ended, some guys looked like they just kissed Aunt Bunny.
The punters and kickers did their thing. Despite a terrible shank that bounced into the south stands, I'd give the Tuesday edge to sophomore Chris Ayers over freshman Karson Dietrich in punting. Among the kickers, freshman Austin Taylor hit three consecutive, the last two from 36 yards off the right hash mark and 42 yards off the left hash. Freshman Cody Hodgens missed from 26 and 36, but hit from 30 and 42.
Defensively, the defensive line and junior cornerback Richard Leonard again starred, although he and fellow returning starter Sam Miller tended to get run with the second team defense while sophomore Jeremiah McKinnon and redshirt junior Sam Gervais ran with the first team. McKinnon had an interception in team drills.
Santa Rosa Junior College transfer cornerback Randy Harvey joined the team, officially, Tuesday. Havey had three interceptions and 46 tackles in 10 games last season.
Redshirt sophomore wide receiver Clinton Taylor got behind the defense a few times Tuesday. Head coach Ron Turner said, "I think he's starting to understand the offense. He's playing it differently than he did in the spring. He's playing it much more relaxed. He's playing with confidence. The players did a good job in the player-led workouts (this summer)."
Turner said about DeAndre Jasper working with both the wide receivers and running backs, "We just want to have him ready as an emergency type guy in the running back position and focus on the slot receiver position. We'll see where he fits."
Here's the first team defense as it lined up Tuesday: defensive ends junior Paul Crawford and junior Giovani Francois; defensive tackles senior Isame Faciane and senior Greg Hickman; linebackers fifth-year senior Markeith Russell, redshirt sophomore Luis Rosado and sophomore Davison Colimon; safeties redshirt junior Justin Halley and fifth year senior Antwoine Bell.
Being from the steamy New Orleans-area defensive tackles, 310-pound sophomore Darrian Dyson and 270-pound Marques Cheeks, from getting baked (and not in the Winston Fraser way). Dyson barfed after a stint in team drills. He looked pretty ponderous Monday. Cheeks was crawling on the turf as a coach told a training staffer to get him off the ground because the fake turf is extremely hot.
Offensive line coach Steve Shankweiler climbed all over redshirt freshman offensive tackle Edens Sineace near the end of practice as Sineace hobbled over to a bench favoring his right leg. It sounded as if Shankweiler's patience with Sineace already is shorter than an Internet commercial.
Oakland Raiders scout Zack Crockett spent some time after practice with defensive line coach Andre Patterson. I'm betting they were talking about Faciane, who could be in the NFL after this season if he's not on Food Network. That's not a joke about his eating. He's apparently a good cook and has culinary artist aspirations.
The football team practiced for two and a half hours Monday morning. They actually have enough players to do it, unlike the spring.
For what it's worth...sophomore Lemarq Caldwell took the running back spot with the first team through team drills and when they ran plays against air. Redshirt sophomore Shane Coleman also got some work with the ones. With Donald Senat at summer graduation, the first string offensive line went, left to right, redshirt sophomore Aaron Nielsen; redshirt junior Delmar Taylor; redshirt junior Michael Montero; redshirt junior Jordan White; and redshirt junior David Delsoin.
The second unit offensive line went, left to right, redshirt freshman Dieugot Joseph, converted from defensive line in the spring; junior Byron Pinkston, a junior college transfer from Dean College; freshman Danny Nunez from Dade Christian; redshirt freshmen Trenton Saunders and Edens Sineace.
Junior cornerback Richard Leonard picked off redshirt junior Jake Medlock twice, once in team drills, once in 7-on-7s, both times for what would've been house calls. Medlock blamed his own mental errors, but said Leonard's speed and football intelligence makes him tough to throw against. Leonard said he actually learned how to watch film during this offseason.
Medlock recovered to fire a deep strike to Rocky Vann behind Sam Gervais. Among the freshmen receivers, Shug Oyegunle, a small (5-9) package of explosives from Tampa Gaither probably had the best day. Losing a big, fast talent like Willis Wright hurts FIU -- go back and look at that touchdown against FAU last year to see why -- but there's some serious speed on this roster, guys who placed well in sprints at the state track meet or averaged over 20.0 yards per catch. Speed isn't the end all or be all of receiving, returning or being a defensive back. Doesn't hurt.
Freshman Sam Medlock is trying to make the roster as a long snapper. Redshirt sophomore Brandon Taylor is back in that role. Redshirt freshman Chris Ayers and freshman Karson Dietrich did the punting Monday. Dietrich and Sergio Sroka handled most of the kicking.
A few freshmen got You Ain't Playing Sunnydale High Anymore moments Monday.
The first pass in drills from Israel Paopao, a deep out to the right, got intercepted and taken the distance by redshirt freshman Deonte Wilson.
Cornerback Vontarius West wound up two steps in arrears as redshirt sophomore T.J. Lowder blew by him up the right sideline. To be fair, redshirt junior Justin Halley dropped by a little late with the help.
One freshman linebacker didn't get on the field for his rep, earning him an upbraiding from one assistant coach that included, "See if you get another rep today! I don't want to have to fight your --- to play!" He listened well enough to get on the field several snaps later when directed.
Among the new names dotting the roster is the wonderfully named Wonderful Monds II, a defensive back transfer from the University of Buffalo. His father, Wonderful Monds, knocked around baseball's minor leagues for a while. Both are from Fort Pierce.
An overload at wide receiver puts Brad Hyman-Muhammad, a Class 2A All-State wide receiver last season (20.1 yards per catch) for Riverview Admiral Farragut, at cornerback. That's where they tried to switch wide receiver DeAndre Jasper in the spring.
Among the Signing Day signees, Vero Beach offensive lineman Chris Flaig, Bradenton Manatee defensive back Willie Smith and Norland defensive tackle Akheem Barton were absent. Smith and Barton won't be joining the team. Flaig apparently will be eventually.
Some more transfers might be coming soon, including a running back last at an SEC school. Of course, that description fit Jakhari Gore, too.
Tennessee Titans scout Mike Yowarsky attended practice.
Among the absences on the first day of football training camp was center Donald Senat, who was marching in the summer graduation ceremony. Congratulations to Senat.
Unfortunately for FIU, others have not taken care of all their necessary business. Senior wide receiver Willis Wright, expected to be a starter after FIU finally got him the ball the second half of last season (and he hung on to it) and arguably the offense's most talented player; redshirt sophomore Jakhari Gore, the running back transfer from LSU; and redshirt freshman Adrian Jenkins, the wide receiver-turned-safety-this-spring will not join the team for fall camp until at least the first day of classes.
That's Aug. 26, meaning they'll be too far behind physically and mentally, especially with a new offense, to play in the first few games.
Redshirt freshman safety Jordan Davis rode the bike with a walking boot on his left foot. Offensive tackle Yousif Khory missed practice with an injury. All others on the roster were present.
For 26 years, summer didn't necessarily mean the start of camp, but training camp (Panthers, Dolphins, now FIU) definitely meant the end of summer. Let the rest of the world believe summer stretches to Sept. 21. To me, it ends Monday at 9:15.
Here's a few questions that'll start to be answered over the next three weeks:
Which gambles pay off? FIU rolled the dice on freshman quarterback Israel Paopao (grades), running back Silas Spearman (grades), running back Eric Moate (injury) among others. If they get a parlay of hits, this season might not resemble a Detroit neighborhood while also setting the table for future feasting.
How well did new head coach Ron Turner recover in recruiting? With recruiting halted after the firing of the previous coaching staff and Turner just returning to college football, FIU's recruiting class got ranked in the triple digits by everybody who does such things. They lost Bradenton Manatee defensive back Willie Smith, generally ranked among their five best 2013 recruits (for what all those rankings are worth). But FIU picked up some late signees over the next two months as well as some junior college transfers that might have improved that class somewhat. They'll have enough guys running around out there to do a team show of The Warriors.
Who'll be backup quarterback? Jake Medlock's injury past and the offensive line concerns say Medlock could be calling "MEDIC" by the time the first conference game rolls around. So, is E.J. Hilliard an option that gives FIU a chance to win as opposed to last year when Hilliard got undone by his own inexperience and some strange coaching strategic decisions? Or is Travis Wright or Paopao a better option?
Also, how much have the quarterbacks internalized the offensive system? You could almost see Medlock and Hilliard thinking in the spring scrimmages. First one to fully grasp the systeam might be the first guy taking snaps at College Park, Maryland, Aug. 31.
How many freshmen offensive linemen? They've got a few in the class. If you're going to be short on experience and mature bulk, how much do you start building it now?
Linebackers. A learning year for a group no longer headed by an entitled pothead (If we're to believe the e-book. And Central Booking).
Who'll replace running back Kedrick Rhodes or kicker Jack Griffin? FIU's got several players who think they can make up for Rhodes' production all by themselves. Doubt it, but it'll be fun watching them try. Between showing maturity and mental toughness, kicking battles always are the least predictable of a football training camp.
By the way, for all the national jokes about FIU coach Ron Turner's age and familiarity to the modern college athlete's world, Turner's on Instagram as "FIUCoachRT."
The Toledo Blade's John Wagner scribed a story confirming Bowling Green running back Anthon Samuel, a two-star 2011 recruit who Instagrammed two weeks ago that he was transferring to FIU, will be coming back to Miami. The Miami Pace High graduate ran for 998 yards on 202 carries for Bowling Green last year, and has a wife and child in Opa-Locka. He hopes to get a hardship waiver from the NCAA so he can play this year.
While FIU would love that, especially after jettisoning Kedrick Rhodes, I doubt Samuel gets said waiver. It's the same situation under which FIU tried to get a hardship waiver for wide receiver James Louis two years ago when he transferred from Ohio State to FIU with a child in Delray Beach. The NCAA said "Nah." The only difference is Louis wasn't established on the roster the way Samuel was at Bowling Green, so the NCAA could interpret the transfer as Louis just wanting to go someplace where he could play (if they ignored that he had, you know, a child he might want to be able to see with a one-hour drive).
It's not about whether or not the waiver makes sense. NCAA enforcement maintains a sometime relationship with common sense. It's about juice. FIU doesn't have any more friends in the Four Letter Organization than it did then, although Bowling Green doesn't have as many friends there as Ohio State does.
That said, if the West Washington Not-So-Wise Men grant the waiver, Jakhari Gore and freshman Silas Spearman both are eligible, that gives FIU a strong group of running backs for this season.
Kedrick Rhodes, slated to be FIU's starting running back for the third consecutive season, has been dismissed from the team "due to a violation of team policy," according to an athletic department release.
Rhodes violation of team policy occurred late Saturday night/Sunday morning, when he was arrested and booked on charges of discharging a weapon on school property, a second-degree felony, and three misdemeanors including discharging a firearm while under the influence
This means quarterback Jake Medlock will be the team's leading returning rusher (236 yards) with sparingly-used running back Shane Coleman second.
Rhodes ran for 714 yards last year and had 237 receiving yards in nine games despite spending most of the season with two injured ankles. Only wide receiver Wiillis Wright caught more passes or had more receiving yards last season among returning players than Rhodes did.
THAT GUY'S GOING AND THESE GUYS ARE COMING...
Tight end/wide receiver Chett LeVay from Tampa Sickles High, 6-3, 195, has committed to FIU, he announced via Twitter.
Also committing Monday was offensive tackle Chris Miller out of Orlando First Academy. The Orlando Sentinel, which first reported Miller's commitment, ranks him as the No. 51 player in their area.
Tickets for each of the six home games went on sale today at http://www.fiusports.com. Here's a breakdown of them.
Sept. 6, 8 p.m. -- Central Florida. UCF travels well...in-state.
Sept. 14, 6 p.m. -- Bethune-Cookman. This might be the only game FIU will enter as a favorite.
Oct. 12 -- Alabama-Birmingham. Homecoming.
Oct. 26 -- Louisiana Tech.
Nov. 2 -- East Carolina.
Nov. 23 -- Marshall. Beef O'Brady's Bowl rematch and an underrated game for recruiting.
Sharon Palma, who spent the 2013 season as an assistant at Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis (IUPUI), has been hired as an assistant at FIU. Palma pitched at Wright State from 2008-10.
We reported here in late May that defensive lineman Fadol Brown would be transferring. Friday, after a tour of schools that included the University of Miami and Alabama, Brown announced he'd be heading for Ole Miss and changed his Twitter icon to the shot of him in an Ole Miss jersey.
Brown could've been a defensive line anchor for FIU for the next three seasons. His starred in the spring scrimmage, although we all know some players are like clocks -- move forward in the spring, revert back in the fall. Still, this completes another hit to FIU going into a rebuilding season.
Lake Worth Park Vista High linebacker Renard Cheren committed to FIU Saturday, according to Palm Beach County sources. Cheren, 6-2, 200, isn't rated by Scout.com, ESPN.com, Rivals or 247sports.com.
Cheren's played defensive back at Park Vista, but the best of FIU's 2013 recruiting class plays in the back of the defense. So it makes sense if they move Cheren elsewhere.
Cheren's the editor on the Park Vista football highlight videos on the team's YouTube sign-on, yet there really isn't one of him. That's a kid with some humility.
Baker County wide receiver Mike Boone gave a verbal commitment to FIU Saturday, according to his Twitter feed. With Baker's offense based around 2,000-yard rusher Falon Lee, Boone had room for some big play scores.
In addition to football, Boone does the triple jump and finished fifth in the Class 2A State Championships in the triple.