FIU stadium manager Anthony Mozzicato, who oversaw many of the upgrades made to The Cage, has accepted a job with the Sporting Kansas City, and will run the team's new facility, set to open in June 2011. His exact title will be manager of operations for Sporting KC Stadium.
"I would like to thank FIU Athletic Director Pete Garcia and Senior Associate AD Julie Berg for giving me the opportunity to manage FIU Stadium over the last several years as Stadium Manager." Mozzicato said in a statement. "I am also very appreciative of the working relationship and friendship that I have gained with FIU Football Head Coach Mario Cristobal and I look forward to watching him continue to build FIU Football into a nationally recognized program. I will always be an FIU Golden Panther."
FIU has not yet named a successor, but it is believed the school will consider external candidates.
FIU stadium manager Anthony Mozzicato, who oversaw many of the upgrades made to The Cage, has accepted a job with the Sporting Kansas City, and will run the team's new facility, set to open in June 2011. His exact title will be manager of operations for Sporting KC Stadium.
In case you missed it, here's my takeout piece on the signficance of this year's football season -- and this Saturday's game, in particular -- on the growth of Florida International.
It's pretty exhaustive, but Of course, space isn't infinite in print. But it is here in the lands of 0s and 1s.
So here's a couple of interesting tidbits that were left out.
Athletic director Pete Garcia on a possible contract extension for Mario Cristobal: "I'm very happy with the job Mario has done. This is what I envisioned when I hired him."
President Mark Rosenberg on the same: "If my son was playing football again, I'd want him to play for Mario Cristobal. I've been really impressed with him."
Garcia on the plans to expand the stadium: "This past year, obviously, we opened up the field house, the weight room. We just finished a couple of months ago, the two new press areas. We’re going to keep adding. Every year, there’s something more to it. As far as more seats, as we get the demand, the demand will dictate how much we keep adding. The final plan is 45,000 with an upper tier. But the demand will dictate how fast we will go. A 45,000-seat stadium down here in South Florida for football is all anyone needs."
New Orleans Bowl Executive Director Billy Ferrante on FIU: “Well, they’re a team that we’ve had our eye on. They’re playing very consistently right now. They, along probably with four others that are still in the mix for the outright championship in the league are ones we’re keeping a close eye on right now.”
GoDaddy.com President Jerry Silverstein: "There are several pieces to the pie. We are very close with Pete Garcia down there and Dr. Rosenberg and we have spoken with they. We have spoken with Troy and Dr. Hopkins. We have spoken with different athletic programs. Sometimes it’s a relationship. Sometimes it’s star players. You’ve got No. 4 down there, Hilton, who’s a very exciting player who can help turn TV sets on. You are building that fan base, where people are traveling and doing better. There are a lot of pieces to the puzzle. Those remain to be worked out. We worked with conference office."
North Texas (1-5) started the season with three straight losses (@Clemson, Rice and @Army). The Mean Green's only win came at FAU last month, 21-17. The Mean Green have struggled with injuries, losing 11 starters to season ending injuries. The quarterback position has been especially hit hard, with the Mean Green down to fourth string quarterback Chase Baine. North Texas had relied on Riley Dodge at quarterback, but Dodge broke his wrist against Lafayette and will miss some time.
In North Texas' last game, the Mean Green were conservative with the pass calling, limiting Baine to 17 attempts. Baine completed nine passes for 77 yards, in a 24-19 loss at Arkansas State.The Mean Green have thrown six interceptions, most in the SBC.
Running back Lance Dunbar (left, Mike Groll, AP) has been the main driving force for North Texas, rushing for over a 100 yards five times this season. Dunbar is a 5 foot 9, 203 pound back, that can use speed or power to gain extra yards. Dunbar will be FIU's main concern on Saturday. If the Golden Panthers can stop Dunbar chances are they can win.
Against Arkansas State, Dunbar carried the ball 30 times for 104 yards and a touchdown.
The Mean Green have lost two consecutive Sun Belt games and are 1-2 in the SBC. The Mean Green will be looking to turn their season around against FIU on Saturday. The FIU defense will need to be able to stop the run if they hope to win.
Defensively, the Mean Green have a talented group that is ranked second in the SBC, behind FIU, in total defense and second in scoring defense. FIU will need to be careful on offense and protect the ball. North Texas had the ability to score on turnovers. Even though, the North Texas offense is hobbled at the moment, the team can still score. FIU will need to take them serious to win on the road.
Series: FIU leads the series 3-2.
Line: FIU -5
Weather: Sat. H83, L53, with a 7:30 kickoff the weather might be closer to the low.
Tomorrow - FIU scouting report, prediction
Live blog starts at 7:45 Saturday night. Tune in for MY UNFILTERED TAKE on the FIU-Rutgers contest. Feel free to post your thoughts in the comments.Rutgers scouting report
The Scarlet Knights ride into FIU Stadium as 17 1/2 point favorites over the Golden Panthers. Led by sophomore quarterback Tom Savage (left, Savage has to be one the best names for a college QB), the Scarlet Knights beat up Norfolk State 31-0 last week. Savage completed 10 of 19 passes for 148 yards and a touchdown. Savage started the game a bit shaky completing three of his first nine passes for 43 yards.
It is important to note that Norfolk State (a MEAC team) sacked Savage three times.
The Scarlet Knights' running game was anchored by junior running back Joe Martinek (right). Martinek finished last Thursday's contest rushing for 109 yards on 20 carries and a touchdown. Last season, Martinek was Rutgers' leading rusher with 967 yards on 206 carries and nine touchdowns. Martinek averaged 4.7 yards a carry. Against FIU, Martinek rushed for 126 yards on 23 carries.
WR Mohamed Sanu (left), a preseason All-Big East pick, is a multi-talented threat that has been used at different offensive position. Sanu caught three passes for 68 yards and a touchdown against Norfolk State. Sanu also rushed the ball six times out of Rutgers' version of the "wild cat." Last season, Sanu rushed for 346 yards on 62 carries and had five touchdowns.
Scouting report FIU
After waiting all fall camp, FIU fans will finally find out who the team's new starting quarterback will be. And guess what folks? Chances are both QBs will see considerable playing time against Rutgers. Adam Beasley has a story in Saturday's paper advancing the game, here.
Hey everyone, bright and earlier at FIU for the last day of fall camp and it was hot. The guys started at their usually 8 a.m. with some stretching. After individual drills, the team moved to 7 on 7s for a few plays.
7 on 7s
A few plays worth mentioning. LB Kenneth Dillard intercepted Wesley Carroll (left) on the line of scrimmage and rumbled forward for a gain. Carroll complete a few short passes. Carroll also had a long pass attempt, but was almost intercepted when he threw into double coverage.Scrimmage notes
I was allowed to watch the first 25 plays of the scrimmage or so plays before practice was closed to the media.
I watched two series, one with Carroll and one with Wayne Younger.
Carroll started the scrimmage working with the first-team offense. 1st play: T.Y. Hilton ran a sweep to the outside and picked up a few yards. 2nd play: Greg Ellingson faked out CB Jose Cheeseborough off the line of scrimmage and was wide-open down the sideline, but Carroll over threw what would have been an easy score. 3rd play: Carroll to Darriet Perry over the middle for about 8 yards,
Unlike Friday's scrimmage, where the defense started off in control, the offense seemed to be able to move the ball to start.
4th play: CB Emmanuel Souarin deflected Carroll's pass. 5th play: Darian Mallary runs for 4 yards and picks up a first down. 6th play: Carroll scrambles for six yards. 7th play: Punt.
Defensive starters on first play of first series. DL: Tourek Williams, Jerrico Lee, Joshua Forney, Jarvis Wilson. LB: Winston Fraser, Toronto smith. DB: Ash Parker, Anthony Gaitor, Jose Cheeseborough, Jonathan Cyprien, Emmanuel Souarun.
Younger takes over with the second-team offense. 1st play: Jeremiah Harden rushes for 2 yards. 2nd play: Younger completes to Harden for a first down. 3rd play: False start. 4th play: Harden rushes for 3 yards. 5th play: Younger to Jacob Younger for 3 yards.
At this point, facing a third and long, the offense seemed ready to punt the ball again. 6th play: Younger fires a strike to Wayne Times for a 10-yard pick up and a first down. 7th play: Younger scrambles for 8 yards. After two more short runs, the offense stalled. Younger was sacked on a bad snap and Joshua Forney batted a ball down on the line of scrimmage.
On fall camp
"It went really well. We had a bad injury with Kevin Van Kirk. But aside from that, we can heal. I think we are in pretty good shape. We are still three weeks out, so technically, we have another week of camp, we just have school. Overall our players know there is work to do and they are hungry to do it."
How has the defensive adjust to the new schemes?
"Real well, real well. They had a great night [Friday] night. They did a lot of things that made it confusing and difficult for the offense and capitalized with tip balls and what not and creating turnovers. [Saturday] the offense came out and kinda of counter punted but the defense came right back out again and counter punched them right back."
On evaluating potential starters
"Its all performance based, it really is. And of course you always tie in academics and doing the right thing off the field. But it truly is on film evaluation and part of it is practice because you do create the scenarios in practice that simulates a game and of course you tie in the scrimmage."
I'll post stats when I get them in a little while.
Response to comments
@FIU FPL We need your thoughts/impressions so far. While a play by play of scrimmage is nice...what did you think? Is Carrol better or is Younger IN YOUR OPINION? Is the offense the strength or is it the defense? HOW GOOD is OL Caylin? Do the defensive schemes IMPRESS YOU or NOT?
A. I like what I see from the defense, they are quick. But I'm going to hold off on what I think 100 percent till we get closer to that first game against Rutgers. On the QB situation, Carroll will most likely start but Younger will still see the field.
FIU will kickoff the annual Blue/Gold Spring Game on Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. and while most of you will be at work -- unless you get George Peterson to call your boss for you or if your boss is Michael Scott -- don't worry the GPP has got you covered.
The GPP will channel its best Al Michaels and deliver you a play-by-play LIVE BLOG from FIU Stadium beginning with a 2-minute pre-blog show at 3:28 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon.
To get you ready for the spring game whether you are planning on attending or will follow through cyberspace, here's what to look for:
Like last season, the continued development of the offensive and defensive lines will determine how successful FIU will be this coming season.
This spring it's pretty much been a draw when the two lines have gone at it. If anything the D-line might have a slight edge on the O-line right now. Of course, when looking at any position this spring you have to factor in the injured players not participating and the newly-signed Panthers that won't be on campus until July.
One key cog to the O-line that has missed this spring is Rupert Bryan recovering from a knee injury. He started non-contact drills late in the spring and is expected to be 100 percent come fall camp.
Tourek Williams and Andrew Mattox (right, thanks Alex J. Hernandez photo) have carried their strong freshmen seasons over into this spring. Keep an eye on No. 97 and No. 93 on Wednesday as well as James Jones, who has recovered nicely from his two surgeries.
If you're at FIU Stadium see who controls the line of scrimmage on Wednesday.
Outside of Brad Serini and Cedric Mack, there aren't any other seniors on the O-line. Same thing goes for the D-line outside of senior Thatcher Starling.
TIGHTENING THE OFFENSIVE STRENGTH
As we saw last season in limited duty (1-handed TD catch vs. ULM) before he broke his foot, DLP will be a big part of the O this season. However, the emergence this spring of CA and JF have given the Panthers another pair of offensive weapons.
CA, in particular, has had a terrific spring. The two tight ends appear ready to join what is FIU's strength -- receivers. And the receivers have gotten stronger. If you haven't been out to spring practice this season, take a look at the new muscles on Wayne Times and T.Y. Hilton (left, thanks AJH photo). Times stood out in the first scrimmage.
Another receiver who has had a good spring is Ariel Martinez. The walk-on from Coral Park started making some tough catches last fall.
YOUNG AND YOUNGER
Linebacker Pooh Bear Mars (right), defensive back Emmanuel Souarin and safety Terrance Taylor have had their moments this spring. Walk-on defensive back Jose Cheseborough has also made some plays.
I think the Panthers have really taken to new DC Geoff Collins and you'll see a new energy with the FIU defenders this season.
One area where the Panthers need more of the younger players to emerge is along the D-line to go along with Tourek and Mattox.
Quarterback Wayne Younger might be the Panther that has shown the most improvement this spring. Besides looking like he's taken to the weight room, WY has more zip on his passes and as usual can move with the ball in his hands. WY might be making the starting QB decision a lot tougher on MC and offensive coordinator Scott Satterfield later this August.
Pi Kappa Alpha and the FIU Football Team are organizing the Kendall Berry Memorial Flag Football Tournament.
The 7-on-7 tournament will be taking place at FIU Stadium at 9:00 AM on Sunday, April 11. Teams will consist of 7- 10 players each. Registration costs are $10 a player, with 100% of the proceeds going to support the remembrance of Kendall Berry through a memorial and banner at FIU Stadium, and possibly an FIU scholarship.
For more information you can contact: Francis Aguilar (Pi Kappa Alpha Fraternity Philanthropy Chairman) at (305) 542-8343 or email@example.com
Jsuarez88: Pete, can you help me undertstand why they wouldnt play this game on a fri-sun??? Why would they do it mid-week at 3pm??
PP: Because of the 30-day window each college team has to complete spring practice. Also about 28 players have classes or exams on Wednesday night so they had to move the game up to the afternoon.
There was football weather at FIU Stadium on Wednesday afternoon as FIU began spring practice. A windy and chilly day, of course nothing like the high of 45 degrees that awaits a thin-blooded native Miamian in Hot Springs, Arkansas on Friday.
Lots to get to from Wednesday's first practice. Thanks to Roy Viera for all of the photos from Wednesday's practice. Will try on Thursday to post larger photos than the ones currently on here. Having a little trouble with this blog's photo posting.
First thing I noticed on Wednesday was No. 1 playing defense. That's right, receiver Marquis Rolle has become safety Marquis Rolle. MC said the switch was made, because there are a ton of receivers on the team and the Panthers need help at safety this season. Rolle has never played safety before, but he's got the size and athleticism to play the position.
Speaking of safety, Ash Parker is back for one final season after tearing his knee in the last two season openers (2008 at Kansas and 2009 at Alabama). Ash will not participate in contact drills this spring -- only in non-contact stuff. Maybe playing the season opener at home is the charm for Ash.
Noticeably bigger from another off-season in the weight room: Wayne Times (not looking like a freshman anymore), T.Y. Hilton (above, right with a solid 175 pounds with muscles), Winston Fraser looking like a senior. Tourek Williams and Jonathan Jackson both up to 250.
New defensive line coach Cedric Calhoun was in FIU gear and coaching up the Panthers D-linemen. So was new linebackers coach Juan Navarro as he coached the LBs.
On the D-line, James Jones, who returned from knee and shoulder surgery, was full-go on Wednesday. He should definitely help the FIU pass rush this season, if his play at Kansas in 2008 was any indication. Jonathan Jackson is getting close to being 100%, but he will be limited in the spring as he prepares for fall camp in August.
The newest Panthers made a connection. As he went through his reads and no one was open, QB Wesley Carroll scrambled out of the pocket and found Jeremiah Harden, who cut across the middle for 7 yards. You can read more about these two in Thursday's MH.
Catches of the Day: Times making a 1-handed catch with his body going the other way on a deep pass down the middle. Receiver Ariel Martinez (left, thanks RV photo) going up, up, and away for a pass over the middle. Somebody find some playing time for this guy, every time I turn around he's catching everything thrown his way. Junior Mertile doesn't look like he missed a beat returning from last year's knee injury. JM made a couple of nice catches.
If you didn't know the chili was hot on defense, you certainly learned Wednesday afternoon. New DC Geoff Collins (right, thanks RV photo) is a walking Cuban coffee colada. New OC Scott Satterfield was not heard from Fort Lauderdale like GC, but he got his points across constantly instructing the FIU QBs. Last time FIU had an OC/QBs coach that played QB was James Coley -- now Florida State's OC. SS played QB at Appalachian State.
Wayne Younger (left, thanks RV photo) looks bigger and he must be, because there was some extra mustard on his fastball today. You sure you don't need another pitcher, Turtle?
New punter Josh Brisk sure gets some hang time on his punts and seems to have a strong leg. Is it Munera-like? Not sure yet have to see more punts.
Former FIU defensive back and Rudy Award Finalist - O'Darris D'Haiti is organizing a charity flag football tournament to benefit the relief effort in Haiti. The tournament is this Saturday, March 6 at FIU's North Campus.
If you are interested it is $10 per person and you need at least 5 people on your team. Or if you just want to watch it's $5 general admission. The tournament will take place in the rec fields behind the North Campus library by the basketball courts.
For more info: contact O'Darris (right, thanks Alex J. Hernandez photo) at firstname.lastname@example.org
Will have a LIVE HOOPS BLOG of Saturday's opening game of the Sun Belt Conference tourney between FIU and Denver. Tip-off time is scheduled for 9:45 p.m. (Eastern). Game probably won't start until about 10 or 10:15 p.m., because there are other games being played on the same court before FIU's game. Regardless, expect the LIVE BLOG to begin at 9:43 p.m.
NYCFIUFan: Hey Pete, since Fomenter has fallen off the face of the earth and I was in second place, can I get the opportunity to post?
PP: Go ahead. You are a double winner in the 3rd annual GPP Win A Blog. E-mail me your blog with whatever photos or art you want on it and I'll post it on here.
Gooch7: WHAT ARE THE TOP 10 MALES AND FEMALE ATHLETS IN FIU HISTORY? PETE: Maybe we can post up a survey to see what people truely know about FIU Athletic History!
PP: Go ahead and start posting. I have to do some research to get my list. We'll have a poll question on the top athlete later.
Spring is here. The best time of the year. Pitchers and catchers have already reported to their major league camps and the Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues will open shortly. The college baseball season is underway and, oh yeah, how about the first look at the 2010 Panthers football team.
Although most of the highly-regarded 2010 FIU signing class will not participate in spring football (except running back Jeremiah Harden and punter Josh Brisk), the 15 practices FIU has lined up, including the Spring Game, will be the first of many opportunites for some Panthers to start winning jobs.
There is plenty to look for during the 15 spring practices (which as of now are open to you). We will get to all of it throughout the spring here. [With the exception of this Friday through Sunday practices, because yours truly will be in Arkansas for the Sun Belt Basketball Tournament].
But as you get ready for the first practice on Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. at FIU Stadium, here are 5 areas to look for this spring.
BETWEEN THE LINES
The FIU lines needed some beef last season and from everything I've been told, the Panthers offensive and defensive linemen have had another strong off-season in the weight room. T.Y. Hilton has made substantial gains where he's up to 175 pounds.
Outside of Brad Serini and Cedric Mack, there are no other seniors on the offensive line. The O-line has a new boss in Alex Mirabal (right, thanks AJH photo), who coached the tight ends the past 3 seasons. Mirabal will bring a fire to coaching the linemen and besides the added muscle, maybe that's what this unit needs to perform better this season. Serini and Mack will have to help their fellow younger linemen if FIU plans on being an explosive offense this season. If the line can't block, the Panthers will have a tough time moving the ball this season. Dave Istanich and Rupert Bryan got some valuable playing time last season as freshmen. Both held their own against bigger opponents. Now it's time for some of the other young OL to get going before the big boys of the 2010 class arrive. Derrick Wimberly, Austin Tottle and Giancarlo Revilla among others will get a long look in the spring to see who will become regulars with Serini and Mack.
The D-Line will have just one senior in Thatcher Starling. So it will be imperative for the younger linemen on both sides to really emerge this season. Tourek Williams, Andrew Mattox, Josh Forney, Andre Pound, Kasey Smith need to take that next step. The expected returns to health of James Jones and Jonathan Jackson -- whether it's in spring or fall camp in August will also give the D-line a boost.
GET YOUR DEFENSE HOT
"Get Your Chili Hot"....FIU hopes translates into get your defense hot as well. New defensive coordinator Geoff Collins moves down the Turnpike from Orlando and arrives with an MC-like energy and enthusiasm to coach a defense that needs to improve.
Among the necessary ingredients to a better FIU D are: a suffocating run D, more consistent pressure on the QB and tighter coverage in the secondary. Everywhere GC has been the defenses have improved. Are the Panthers the next improved D on GC's resume? It all starts with the play of the D-line. Also some of FIU's young linebackers (Kenny Dillard, Pooh Bear Mars, Markeith Russell) should progress this season to fight for playing time alongside Aaron Davis and Little Canada. At safety, Terrance Taylor has all the tools to join Jonathan Cyprien as one of the best safety tandems in the conference.
The year long wait of sitting out due to NCAA transfer rules is over for QB Wesley Carroll (left) and Harden, who were teammates at St. Thomas Aquinas High. WC is like a kid in a candy or toy store with the weapons he has. JH is expected to be a difference maker with the ground game. Again, a lot of both players 2010 seasons will depend on the O-line's progress. Although, WC is not Wayne Younger with his feet, WC can move, throws real well on the run and has good touch on his passes. Harden looked like a man among boys while running the ball on the scout team in practice last season. With some help from his teammates, he can do the same in 2010.
JUST GIVE THEM THE DAMN BALL
T.Y. Hilton, Junior Mertile, Greg Ellingson, Wayne Times, Dudley LaPorte (right), Willis Wright in the fall -- yes, I would say Wesley Carroll can be one happy quarterback with the type of targets he has to throw to. And if everyone is healthy, you can expect Goodbye to see some single coverage, which he will no doubt exploit. DLP returning from a foot injury could have a monster season. Will be interesting to see how quickly the FIU receivers and their new QB get used to each other.
FIU has new kickers for the 2010 season. Jack Griffin is the leading candidate for the placekicking duties, although don't be surprised if MC brings in some competition this spring or in fall camp. Brisk has some huge shoes to fill with Carlos Munera graduated. CM made an art of punting last season and really set up the FIU D well in field position. These two positions will definitely have all eyes on them, because they will be just as important as the lines, especially late in games.
FIU hoops got some bad news today as starting senior forward J.C. Otero (right, thanks AJH photo) has a torn knee and is out for the Sun Belt Tournament. J.C. tore the knee late against Western Kentucky last Saturday. The Panthers will miss J.C.'s passing and shooting abilities in Hot Springs.
Will have a LIVE HOOPS BLOG of Saturday's opening game of the SBC tourney between FIU and Denver. Tip-off time is expected to be at 9:45 p.m. (Eastern). Game probably won't start until about 10 or 10:15 p.m., because there are other games being played on the same court before FIU's game. Regardless, expect the LIVE BLOG to begin at 9:43 p.m.
Score an E on the GPP, I placed a photo of Pablo Bermudez in the last blog when I meant to get one of Lammar Guy on there. The caption of the photo I received said Lammar Guy and the only visible number on the jersey is a "2" so I thought it was 42 (Guy) and instead it was "12" Bermudez.
A photo of Guy has replaced the Bermudez photo on the previous blog.
And to the reader making the asinine racial comments -- those have been deleted.
LonePanther: Hey Pete, still predicting a W for our opener against Rutgers this season?
PP: Can't tell you on March 2. Check back in late August for my season predictions. Was off last season, I had FIU at 6-6, but they went 3-9 so I'll have to put in some extra study time in the film session on the team before making the 2010 guesses.
Yes, FIU could easily be 0-4 to start the season, but what's not to say they knock off Rutgers and/or Maryland and begin 2-2 or 1-3. The Panthers could be much improved or might still need more development -- we won't know for sure until the season is underway. Injuries happen here and there and maybe this is the year the football injury gods do not frown upon FIU, unlike last season.
As far as the Sun Belt schedule, that's the conference FIU is in and that's the level of competition FIU is currently at. With lesser FIU teams the past few years, FIU has hung around with many of the SBC teams. If the Panthers are improved, then they should be able to beat any SBC team.
c-UM: PETE, what is your outlook on the "concessions" at the games? Can PG not cough up minimal money to bring in a serious pan con bistec guy? He should atleast try to reach out to the Gazituas (ex-player; owners of Sergio's) and see if they could help out with that.
PP: Outside of the chicken sandwich at the baseball stadium, the concessions need an overhaul. Not sure what it would cost to revamp the food at the FIU stadiums and arena. But send an e-mail or a phone call to the FIU athletic department with your ideas. Click here for all the info you need: FIU Athletics FIU reads this blog. Also have the Gazituas contact the FIU athletic department and see what happens.
Great ideas are floated around all the time, but if you good people don't take action -- like the FIU Alumni Association has with the Annual Panther Previews and tailgates -- then nothing will ever have the chance of being accomplished. Click on the link above to take action.
chrisfiu: Pete, what happened to the win-a-blog contest held in December? Was that blog ever posted? I don't recall reading it, maybe I missed it...
PP: Never heard back from Fomenter. So nothing was ever posted. I know 2nd place winner NYCFIUFan received the 2009 Sun Belt Football Yearbook via U.S. Mail.
Before we get to that, you can check out the Willis Wright interview right below this post.
Also, check back here on Wednesday morning for FIU signings on National Signing Day.
Early Wednesday morning, I will be visiting a few high schools where future Panthers will sign their letters of intent. As those letters roll in, will have the newest Panthers on here for you.
Just like T.Y. Hilton 3 years ago, Wright (left) will have his ceremony in the Miami Springs library on Wednesday morning and like T.Y. he will have an FIU and a West Virginia hat in front of him. When he picks one, you will know here.
The FIU Athletic Department also will have their own ticker of signings at fiusports.com. So check that out too.
MC will take to the podium at 12 noon in the President's suite at FIU Stadium to announce and comment on the entire class of new Panthers. You can also attend the NSD event at the Stadium Club at FIU Stadium on Wednesday evening at 6 p.m. where MC will talk about his newest players and new OC Scott Satterfield and new DC Geoff "GYCH" Collins will be introduced.
Let's finish the FIU Recruiting Prowl with a look at the Panthers receivers. By now you know there is 1 DAY UNTIL NATIONAL SIGNING DAY.
It all starts with Goodbye, but with another season under the belts of several other FIU receivers, opponents may think twice of double and triple teaming No. 4.
Junior Mertile (right, thanks Alex J. Hernandez photo) returns from injury this season and he only runs a 4.4 and has one of the better sets of hands in the Sun Belt. Wayne Times showed plenty of potential last season and is only going to get better.
Greg Ellingson and Ty Frierson will be seniors and provide the experience.
We'll get to the potential recruits that might sign tommorrow in a second, but a couple of freshmen from last season could make the position battles here pretty intriguing.
Rockey Vann is as fast as any Panther -- check that blocked punt last season. Jairus Williams and all 6-5 of his frame can be a weapon in the red zone.
As far as the caballos (horses) expected to possibly sign on Wed. and we call them horses, because of their size and speed are: newest FIU commit Javon Bell (6-1, 4.4 -- 40), Glenn Coleman (6-2) and Mitch Wozniak (6-4).
But what would be the creme de la creme of this class would be signing Willis Wright, 6-2 with size, speed and hands -- just my 3 cents.
$.03 for 2010: Quarterback Wesley Carroll will be like a kid in Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory with these receivers and the ones expected in. Let's see does WC throw to the fast ones, the tall ones, the ones with good hands. Oh hell, he couldn't go wrong to whoever he throws to in this bunch. Of course, and this is the BIG IF.....if WC has time to throw from his O-line's protection.
You say there are more weapons on the FIU offense? You are correct.
What we saw from tight end Dudley LaPorte (left) last season was a tantalizing glimpse of 2010. Remember, his only TD before breaking his foot. If you were watching it on ULM's web TV or you were at Malone Stadium in Monroe, La. then you saw DLP making a one-handed catch across his body in the corner of the end zone for 6. The only bad thing about the play was he broke his foot.
Jonathan Faucher had his moments in 2009, but the biggest surprise among the tight ends was quarterback-turned-TE Colt Anderson.
CA displayed lots of athleticism at his new position, even making a couple of one-handed catches. And at 6-4, he provides a good size target. Joey Harris returns to his original position after a stint on the D-line.
As of this post, FIU has no commits for tight end.
$.03 for 2010: Although the receivers might be the focus for opponents to stop in the spread offense, you can't overlook the tight end spot here, because of the players on the unit. DLP could have a monster season.
One of the players that will be most missed for the Panthers D and special teams in 2010 will be punter Carlos Munera. As consistent as they come, CM was usually on point putting the FIU D in good field position.
Former Duquesne punter Josh Brisk takes over the punting duties for FIU. Brisk was an All-Broward punter while at American Heritage.
Heading into spring practice, Jack Griffin (right, thanks AJH photo) will get first crack at the placekicking job with the graduation of Dustin Rivest. There is the distinct possibility that FIU brings in another kicker to compete with Griffin.: We've talked about how crucial the plays of the O & D Lines will be for FIU in 2010, but the kicker and the punter will also figure into the Panthers success. The hidden yardage Munera provided will be tough to replace. And with a lot of games in the Sun Belt being tightly contested, field goals might figure into several of the outcomes.
In our last poll question regarding who would win the No. 1 running back job for FIU, you good people believe it's Jeremiah Harden and by a mile. As of this post, 72.5% of you voted for JH. Poll is still open.
Our latest GPP Worldwide update gives us:
The GPP is now read in: 45 STATES: ALA, ARI, ARK, CA, COL, CT, DEL, FLA, GA, HI, IDAHO, IL, IND, IOWA, KAN, KY, LA, MASS, MD, MICH, MIN, MISS, MISSOURI, MON, NEB, NEV, NJ, NM, NY, NC, ND, OH, OK, ORE, PA, RI, SC, TEN, TEX, UTAH, VA, VER, WASH, WEST VA., WISC.
39 COUNTRIES: Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Costa Rica, Croatia, Czech Republic, Dominican Republic, France, Gabon, Germany, Ghana, Guatemala, Honduras, Hong Kong, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Lebanon, Mexico, Netherlands, Netherlands Antilles, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Panama, Peru, Scotland, Serbia, Spain, Sweden, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, U.S.A., Venezuela, Vietnam.
1 DISTRICT: Washington, D.C. and 1 TERRITORY: Puerto Rico.
The show begins at 7 a.m., but I don't have an exact time when the Dazzlers will be on. So tape it, if you can't see FIU's finest live.
The ladies will be performing from the Loews Miami Beach Hotel. There is a possibility that the Dazzlers could also be part of the Super Bowl halftime show. When I know more info, will pass it on to you.
In case you missed it, I posted earlier tonight the latest recruiting prowl preview on the running backs. It is below this post. On that post, you can vote on who you think will win the starting running back job for the Panthers this season.
The College Football All-Star Challenge is tommorrow [Monday] at 1 p.m. at FIU Stadium. Admission is free. Expected to participate are: quarterbacks Tony Pike (Cincinnati), Dan Lefevour (Central Michigan), Javon Snead (Ole Miss), wide receivers Jordan Shipley (Texas), Mardy Gilyard (Cincinnati), Dez Bryant (Oklahoma State), kickers Brett Swensen (Michigan State), Hunter Lawrence (Texas) and Josh Shene (Ole Miss) and a few other players. The Challenge will air on ESPN this Friday, Feb. 5 at 9 p.m.
I was going to go to the All-Star Challenge, but I will be busy with the Miami Heat and Willis Wright on Monday. No, Willis is not taking over for injured Heat forward Michael Beasley, those are just two different things I'll be working on Monday.
In previous years, the challenge has featured NFL stars such as Drew Brees, Donovan McNabb, Matt Ryan, Reggie Wayne, DeAngelo Williams and Edgerrin James. The event will be aired by ESPN on Friday, Feb. 5 at 9 p.m.
The event is free and open to the public.
UNO LESS TEAM IN SUN BELT
This is from a press release from the Sun Belt Conference this afternoon:
Budget cuts, the continuing recovery from Hurricane Katrina and the failure of a student referendum to increase student fees for athletics previously forced the university administration to establish plans to maintain a Division I athletic program with far more stringent financial constraints.
UNO was a founding member of the Sun Belt Conference in 1976 and later rejoined the league in 1991.
UNO originally suspended nine of its 15 intercollegiate sports in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
The Sun Belt Conference headquarters, which has been located in New Orleans since 1991, will remain in its downtown office as it still remains an approximate geographic center for the league's member institutions.
With the withdrawal of UNO, the Sun Belt Conference will be comprised of 12 member institutions of which nine play in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
For the three Sun Belt sports with divisional play (men's basketball, women's basketball and volleyball) teams will remain in their current divisions with each division now comprised of six institutions (East: Florida Atlantic, FIU, Middle Tennessee, South Alabama, Troy and Western Kentucky - West: UALR, Arkansas State, Denver, Louisiana, ULM and North Texas).
Sun Belt Conference men's and women's basketball teams will begin competing in 2010-2011 in a 16-game conference schedule with each team playing a home and away game against teams within their division. Additionally each team will play all members of the opposite division with three of those games being played at home and three on the road.
Sun Belt volleyball schedules will also feature a 16-game format, The league's volleyball championship will continue to be conducted in an eight team format.
The Sun Belt Conference Baseball Championship will continue under the same format with eight teams participating. The league schedule will also continue to feature 30 games for the 10 teams that will compete in the league beginning in 2011. Each team will play a home and away three-game series against their natural rival with the series' scheduled for the first and last week of the season. The natural rival designation for FIU is FAU.
Scheduling standards for football will remain unchanged with each team playing four home conference games and four road conference games. With the anticipated arrival of South Alabama for football in 2012, the conference will expand to 10 football institutions with teams continuing an 8-game conference schedule and one natural rival remaining on the schedule each year. (In other words the Shula Bowl will always be an annual game as it should be.)
NCAA transfer rules are still applicable for current UNO student-athletes and all Sun Belt Conference member institutions have been notified.
"The Sun Belt Conference will move on as a 12-member league and there are not any current plans for expansion or contraction," said Commissioner Wright Waters.