February 27, 2015

Swim & Dive Lauded for Water & Land Achievements; Gore to Marian

FIU's Conference USA championship win last week prompted a shuffling of the CollegeSwimming.com national mid-major rankings. FIU's now No. 4 among mid-majors.

Behind them in the rankings as they were in the pool are Florida Gulf Coast at No. 5; Conference USA's second place team, Rice, dropped from No. 5 to No. 8, incongruously one spot behind the conference's third place team, Western Kentucky.

FIU's team grade point average of 3.17 put it on the College Swimming Coaches Association of America's list of Scholar All-America teams, comprised of teams with a 3.0 GPA. Earlier this week, butterflier Valerie Inghels made the C-USA All-Academic team.

 

FOOTBALL PAST

FIU life didn't go well for Jakhari Gore. While sitting out the 2012 season as a transfer from LSU, the former Columbus High running back star crashed academically in 2012-13. He got arrested on a charges of robbery and false imprisonment in late August 2013. FIU coach Ron Turner jettisoned Gore, who entered a not guilty plea before the charges were dropped.

But Gore's apparently gotten things together. He Tweeted at me today that "God is Good and blessed me with another chance Marian University!"

The school on what's called "the near northwest side" of Indianapolis started football in 2007 and plays at the NAIA level. Good for him.

New Football Spring Practice Schedule & a Caveat for Athletes

The spring football practice schedule got modified. This matters to those who wish to take advantage of this year's practices being open to the public instead of conducted under a giant Cone of Silence.

FIU reminds everybody attending that photos, video or live reporting is a no-no inside La Cage (because, hey, it's not like there's two years of FIU film and nine years of Chicago Bears film to clue you in on what FIU's going to do offensively).

Anyway, here's the schedule:

Mar. 19, 21, 24, 28, 31, Apr. 2, 6, 7, 9, 13, 14, 16: 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.

Mar. 26: 10 a.m.

Apr. 3: 7 p.m.

Apr. 17: Spring Game, 7 p.m.

WORDS OF CAUTION

Repeat of a message to current and future student-athletes: you are representing your school, your family and yourself in your communication that's going out to your followers (and, perhaps, their followers). And while your current coach might not care, future employers could have limited appreciation for words and photos demonstrating sexist or racist attitudes. And your commentary on, say, oral sex, while entertaining to some, could be construed as showing yourself deficient in discretion (or good sense).

By the way, I'm cool with being blocked (I know FIU requested it of some teams). It doesn't change the above one bit. Nor does it change how I cover you or your sport. 

 

February 24, 2015

C-USA Indoor Track Starts Wednesday, Golf Wins & Other Stuff

We know at least one FIU winter sports team will head for the Conference USA championship gathering in Birmingham.

Women's basketball? Nope. Men's basketball? Probably. The indoor track team's already in Birmingham for its conference meet, which runs Wednesday and Thursday.

FIU brings the most muscle in the field events, such as the women's weight throw, where junior Raquarra Ishmar has the top seed throw at 19.01 meters and junior Miriam Pierre ranks second at 18.26. Ishmar's also got the No. 2 seed throw, 15.35 meters, in the shot put. Junior Phillicia Fluellen's 6.13 meter long jump has her as the top seed. Tikiera Relaford, third in the high jump last year, should be in the mix again this year.

Junior Luka Mustafic holds the top seed in the men's shot put, 18.01 meters. In the long jump, junior Marcus Ghent should contend for second or third. 

GOLF

A rained out final round left FIU as the winners of the Amelia Island Collegiate event. Junior Meghan MacLaren's 11-under 133 got her medalist honors.

SWIMMING & DIVING

FIU's new butterfly queen, Valerie Inghels, has a 3.92 grade point average as a communications arts major in addition to her Conference USA third in the 200 butterfly, fifth in the 100 fly and place on the second place 400 medley relay, all via school records. Which is how Inghels is on the Conference USA All-Academic swimming team.

SOFTBALL

The Sunday, Mar. 8 home game against Marshall will be televised nationally on Fox Sports.

FOOTBALL

FIU announced what The Herald reported first last week: Tim Harris Jr. will coach the running backs this year.

Harris Jr., son of "Ice" Harris, served as Booker T. Washington High's offensive coordinator for several years before taking over the head coaching job last year when his father went to Coral Gables to be the Hurricanes' running backs coach.

 

 

 

 

February 19, 2015

Tim Harris Jr. To Join FIU Football Staff

FIU's found more than a suitable replacement for Kerry Dixon II, running backs coach and main recruiter in Miami-Dade's inner city.

As first learned by Manny Navarro, who wrote this story) and confirmed separately by me, FIU's new running backs coach will be Tim Harris, Jr., head coach of Booker T. Washington High's powerhouse last season.

Harris succeeded his father, Tim "Ice" Harris, as Booker T.'s head coach when the father took the running backs coach job with the Hurricanes. Dixon greatly helped improve FIU's recruiting in Miami-Dade. Harris comes with deeper roots, even more respect from parents and fellow coaches; and a strong reputation among Miami-Dade's players from working with them over the years.

However long Harris is at FIU, he'll be a huge boon to the Panthers stature, locally and nationally. All due respect to the staff of FIU's two bowl teams, this could turn out to be the most important assistant coach hire in the program's history.

Moss' Stone Rolls Uphill; Getting Hot In the Cold

Before we get to this morning's prelims from the heated cement pond in Knoxville, let's get to Ron Turner moving chips around on the football coaching staff as announced earlier today.

(See the later blog post for the day's major football coaching staff hire.)

Former FIU player Greg Moss moves from defensive quality control to coaching the cornerbacks. Kort Shankweiler, who handled the tight ends, moves to quarterbacks and wide receivers, continuing the second generation tradition at the job held by Cam Turner. Jason Brooks moves from defensive backs coach to tight ends.

All this leaves two assistant jobs open. For now.

SWIMMING & DIVING

This morning in Knoxville, thermometers stopped at 1 degree. Fahrenheit, not Celsius. As local ponds froze for the first time since maybe glacier days, things got hot at the Conference USA Swimming & Diving Championships Thursday morning prelims, where FIU let Western Kentucky and Rice know things just got real.

Freshman Letizia Bertelli broke Klara Andersson's school record in the 50 freestyle with a 22.90 that led a 1-2-5 Panther romp into tonight's final. The sophomore Jennys, Alfani and Deist, also got under Andersson's 23.24 mark by swimming 23.00 and 23.14 respectively. 

FIU also put three in the final for the 200 IM. Senior Johanna Gustafsdottir won this event as a freshman in the Sun Belt and a junior in Conference USA. No Scooby Snacks for guessing who had the best prelim time, 1:58.49, by almost two seconds. Freshman Silvia Scalia's 2:00.38, third fastest, beat her previous best by almost two seconds and junior Karin Tomeckova's 2:02.11 was seventh.

Western will dominate tonight's first final, the 500 free, with four of the eight finalists. FIU's lone finalist will be freshman Kyna Pereira, who swam 4:49.84. 

The 3-meter diving prelims finished with FIU sophomore Lily Kaufmann in second, Abbey Spaulding in 10th and Natalia and Laura Coronado in 13th and 14th. The diving events should be a pile of good Community Chest cards for FIU as the Panthers have a clearly superior group to Western and Rice dives like NFL television revenues (they don't).

Tonight closes with the 200 free relay. FIU's seeded third. Don't be surprised if they end the night better than that -- in the relay and the team points.

 

February 18, 2015

Spring Things

The baseball team's stopping at Stetson for a game today as they bus all the way up to the Carolinas for the Caravelle Resorts Baseball at the Beach tournament hosted by Coastal Carolina in Conway, South Carolina. 

According to FIU, Friday's doubleheader against Georgia Tech and Coastal Carolina has been postponed because they're expecting the kind of weather that inspired James Naismith to invent the indoor game of basketball. FIU will practice in Jacksonville on Thursday, then in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina on Friday. The Panthers will play a doubleheader on Saturday and, possibly, one on Sunday. Opponents still to be decided.

Then, they'll bus home. Yes, bus, just like they're getting there. It saves money over traveling via plane, which would get the players -- student-athletes, remember? -- home sooner and fresher for classes.

Now, some people might say the baseball program not being budgeted enough money to fly to this tournament brings up the issues of Athletics' fund-raising and where Athletics is spending the money they have.

For some reason, this clip from St. Louis Blues seemed appropriate. And not because it's hockey season or Black History Month.

 

FOOTBALL

The spring practice schedule came out today.

Practice 9-11:30 a.m. on Mar. 23, 24, 26, 30, 31; Apr. 2, 6, 7, 9, 13, 14, 16.

Practice 7 p.m. on Apr. 3

Spring Game 7 p.m. on Apr. 17.

February 17, 2015

Getting Dressed

You can skip this unless you're an athletics business wonk. Or just curious.

A few things about the deal with adidas, announced by FIU in January as a five-year deal worth around $2.6 million:

*FIU gets adidas footwear, clothes, equipment and accessories, but not for free. They get sort of a Costco deal on stuff -- shoes at 45 percent off retail price; clothes, equipment and accessories 50 percent off retail for everyone but baseball/softball, which gets only 37.5 percent off The Price is Right price. But baseball/softball gets theirs elsewhere, as you’ll soon see.  FIU must spend at least $300,000 each year, which is air hockey money for a properly-funded Division I athletic program.

*If FIU does spend $300,000 each year, it gets an additional $260,000 retail value of adidas product (stuff) in 2015-16, 2016-17, 2017-18, $285,000 in 2018-19 and $310,000 in 2019-2020.

*For the football team using adidas footballs in practices and games, FIU gets $10,000 retail value of product each year.

*Under “Athletic Department Fund Raising”, adidas gives FIU $15,000 of retail product value each year.

*There’s various bonuses for team achievement and Coach of the Year. The largest realistically attainable one is $20,000 retail value product for a football team bowl appearance.

*Baseball gets the most extra stuff. Softball will get the same stuff in “an amount to be agreed upon when Adidas introduced these hardgoods” according to the contract. (Yes, I think it should be “introduces” but I’m quoting directly from the contract, so…)

Each year, FIU Baseball gets:

Up to 48 wood bats, up to 42 non-wood bats, 6 aluminum fungo bats, up to 36 fielder’s gloves, up to 40 wheeled locker equipment bags, up to 40 individual duffel bags, 6 coach’s briefcases, 5 wheeled catcher bags (two to be used for equipment), up to 96 pairs of batting gloves (replaced by wear and tear), up to 96 pairs of wristbands, up to 25 batting helmets, up to 6 sets of catching gear.

432 fitted baseball hats

$34,000 retail value of free product.

$4,000 retail value of free product for the head coach

The only other individual in the athletic department who gets free product is the athletic director, who gets $10,000 retail value of free product each year.

  

February 10, 2015

Coaching Changes

As I Tweeted about an hour ago while sitting in Boat Show drawbridge traffic, FIU running backs coach Kerry Dixon II is moving on up to Gainesville as the University of Florida's new wide receivers coach.

Dixon was FIU's best recruiter in the 305, which he also worked while on FAU's staff. I don't think Dixon's solely responsible for the vastly improved relationships with Dade's inner city schools, but he definitely played a significant role.

Defensive line coach Randy Melvin is reported to be the favorite for the open defensive line coach job over in Coral Gables. The connection: Melvin was on Hurricanes coach Al Golden's 2009 staff at Temple.

The 2012 Tampa Bay staff included Melvin and FIU head coach Ron Turner. That's the connection Turner tapped when the NFL door reopened with the Vikings for 2013 defensive line coach Andrae Patterson. The front seven, particularly the defensive line, topped the worry list going into 2014. Aside from power backs such as Pitt's James Conner and Marshall's Devon Johnson, the defensive line held up far better than expected against the run and got after quarterbacks.

So, Turner could be looking at replacing a defensive line coach as well as a running backs coach, a quarterbacks and wide receivers coach (Cam Turner's going to Carolina as assistant wide receivers coach). Turner himself could take over the quarterbacks, although that might put a lot on his plate in addition to being offensive coordinator and head coach.

ADMINISTRATION

President Mark Rosenberg cancelled a Monday meeting with a group that included Alumni Association president Frank Pena. I'm not sure if the meeting concerned Athletics or the many other things about which the Alumni Association heads and President Rosenberg speak.

Either way, Pena's open request for change at the top of Athletics surely would've been on the conversational playlist.

  

February 08, 2015

Some things about Saturday

Weirdness abounded Saturday night on Replacement Lime Court at FIU Arena.

The game briefly stopped while a little girl crawled under one of the new cabanas to retrieve a ball knocked under there. For the first time in all the basketball games I've covered courtside (my first was 1987), my computer got smacked by a ball. Poor job by me -- I saw the ball coming, but wanted to finish the thought I was writing -- but good show by the Dell, which never stopped working. The iPad with the in-game stats got knocked two screens silly.

On the court, instead of FIU turned scrambly by a press, UTEP looked overwhelmed when FIU raised its defensive energy in the second half. Instead of FIU looking like eight Shaquille O'Neals at the free throw line, the Panthers dropped in 15 of 19, an excellent 78.9 percent. Meanwhile, three times in the second half, UTEP players missed both free throws and the Miners finished 18 of 32, a near-comedic 56.3 percent.

After the game, FIU senior guard Dennis Mavin said, "It's frustrating because you want to win, but at the same time, it just shows we can play with anybody in this league and we're a tough team like anybody else."

Daviyon Draper, who had 21 points, seconded that with "We can play with anybody in this league, just some of the small things need to be cleaned up. We can definitely see improvement from the beginning of the season to now."

Mavin explained his hopping, well-defended, off-balance three-pointer at the horn off an inbounds play that began with 2.4 seconds left.

"The play wasn't even for me," he said. "I was supposed to come up, all the attention was going to be on me and it was going to be a flare screen for Kris (Gulley). But somehow it messed up. It wasn't the look was supposed to get because I wasn't supposed to get the ball."

Also, Conference USA's leading scorer in conference games left the game in the first half after taking a tumble to the floor. UTEP got a foul on the five-on-four power play as Mavin writhed.

"I just got tripped up and fell on my (left) hand," he said. "My hand's been bothering me for two weeks now."

I'm really sorry I missed the halftime acknowledgement at one of this week's home basketball games of the swimming & diving team's undefeated dual meet season, the first in FIU history. You know, when the team was brought out on the court, drizzled with applause and wished luck at the Conference USA meet. I know Athletics wanted to do this for them because the next really good event crowd probably will be the next men's basketball home games, by which time the water women will be starting the water fight with Rice and Western Kentucky at the conference meet in Knoxville.

Wait, that didn't happen? Oh...

FOOTBALL

The statheads at ESPN came out with their first FPI power ranking for 2015, based on offense, defense and special teams efficiency, returning starters and (most subjective of all) recruiting rank.

FIU's 87th and fifth in Conference USA behind Marshall, Western Kentucky, Louisiana Tech and Middle Tennessee State.

 

February 05, 2015

A few thoughts on 2015 Signing Day

Thoughts on National Signing Day:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

February 04, 2015

The 2015 FIU football National Signing Day Signees

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

February 02, 2015

The 2015 Football Schedule

Five home games, seven road games, no bye weeks. The athletics department bean counters ought to be happy, however -- of the seven road games, the Panthers can get on the bus, Gus, for two.

The demise of Alabama-Birmingham leaves Conference USA with another 13-team football season.

Sept. 5 -- at Central Florida. FIU did UCF a solid by agreeing to move this game from 2014 to 2015, giving the Knights a bye week after their overseas game with Penn State. Good measuring stick right out of the gate.

Sept. 12 -- at Indiana. Let's make this clear: I grew up in Indianapolis caring almost as much about IU football as IU basketball (it's against state law to care equally as much). My four years in Bloomington described the kind of college experience many people hope to have. They included covering the two best seasons of IU football in my cognizant lifetime.

And I will laugh from Kilroy's all the way back to the 305 if FIU takes down Indiana. It would be a win against a Big Ten school, mediocre as the Hoosiers football tradition is, but also Indiana thinks it bought a win. IU paid to get out of a game with South Florida to enter into a home-and-home with FIU that nets $800,000 to the Panthers.

Sept. 19 -- North Carolina Central. This year's FCS supplement for bulking up wins and statistics.

Sept. 26 -- at Louisiana Tech. FIU brings back its defense. West Division champion Louisiana Tech brings back running back Kenneth Dixon (1,299 rushing yards, 5.1 per carry). I'm tingly already.

Oct. 3 -- at UMass. You've got to come home with the bacon (or chowdah) from this game.

Oct. 10 -- UTEP. If Bill Clark wasn't Conference USA Coach of the Year for what he did at UAB (RIP for now), then it's Sean Kugler for turning UTEP from stink bomb to bowl team.

Oct. 17 -- at Middle Tennessee State. My preliminary pick for the East Division.

Oct. 24 -- Old Dominion. Now, it's ODU coming to FIU with an inexperienced quarterback after four years of Taylor Heinicke.

Oct. 31 -- at FAU. On Halloween. With both teams still entertaining bowl hopes.

Nov. 7 -- Charlotte. FIU gets a home cupcake on the same weekend the women's soccer team hosts the Conference USA tournament. 

Nov. 14 -- at Marshall. Let's see if they go from Thundering Herd to annoying Green Hornets without Cato.

Nov. 21 -- Western Kentucky. Remember the Sun Belt version of the Hilltoppers? Defense, severely limited quarterback while running a running back up the statistic charts and into the ground. Yeah, now they're Air Brohm with Drew Doughty. Unless the Over/Under exceeds 70, jump on the high side to get your Christmas and Hanukkah gift money.

February 01, 2015

Flip-Flop & A Flap

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

January 29, 2015

FIU Flippin' Good

 

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

 

January 28, 2015

Punting Stone

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

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

January 23, 2015

DC Swap Complete; Senior Swimmers' Sayonara

UPCOMING HOME GAMES/MATCHES

Swimming & Diving, vs. Florida Gulf Coast, Saturday, 11 a.m. (Senior Day)

Tennis, vs. Liberty, Sunday, noon

Women's Basketball, vs. Old Dominion, Thursday, 6 p.m.

FIU just announced what we hypothesized here two days ago (see the post linked to below) -- the replacement for departed defensive coordinator Josh Conklin, now at Pitt, is Pitt's last pre-Conklin DC, Matt House.

House had been Pitt's defensive coordinator for three years under Paul Chryst. Chryst didn't take House with him when he took the head coaching job at Wisconsin, leaving House available for FIU.

This reminds me of the Dolphins cutting center Samson Satele and signing Oakland Raiders center Jake Grove as a free agent in 2009. After their first season with the Dolphins, the Bill Parcells-Jeff Ireland-Tony Sparano ruling tribunal felt they needed a nastier, stronger center. Satele wound up signing with Oakland.

Epilogue: Grove started 10 games with the Dolphins in 2009, got injured during the season and never played in the NFL again. Satele's bounced around the league and back to the Dolphins this season.

SWIMMING & DIVING

Here's the who  being honored on Saturday's Senior Day for FIU's water women: Klara Andersson, Nadia Farrugia, Johanna Gustafsdottir, Jean Madison and Courtney Vander Schaaf.

Here's the what of the who being honored on Saturday's Senior Day for FIU's water women:

Six individual school records, five relay school records, eight individual conference titles and three relay conference titles.

Much of that comes from Gustafsdottir, arguably the best swimmer in FIU program history. But Andersson's FIU's speed queen. Her 23.24 at the 2013 Sun Belt Conference meet remains the school record in the 50 freestyle.

A year earlier, Gustafsdottir began rewriting the FIU record book over her freshmen and sophomore years so quickly, it seemed done by an instant search-and-replace command. Between the 2012 Sun Belt meet, in which she won three individual events and Swimmer of the Year, and the 2012 Mizzou Invite that fall, Gustafsdottir knocked down five individual records and was part of four school record relay teams.

She's lowered all those marks since then, of course. And, though freshman Silvia Scalia eclipsed Gustafsdottir's 100 backstroke record earlier this year, she added the 200 breastroke to her individual Best of FIU list: 100 free 50.01), 200 free (1:46.90), 200 back (1:54.40), 200 breast (2:14.20) and 200 individual medley (1:57.94).

Both Gustafsdottir and Andersson were on the 200 free relay (1:32.09), 400 free relay (3:20.74) and 400 medley relay school record teams (3:40.87). In the 2013 Sun Belt champion 400 medley relay, at the 2013 Sun Belt Championships, Gustafsdottir led off with the backstroke leg and Andersson finished with the free leg. At the same meet, they combined with Dani Albright and Marina Ribi to set a Sun Belt record in the 400 free relay (3:21.67) and set the current record with Jenny Alfani and Jenny Deist at last year's Conference USA meet.

Vander Schaaf was an All-Sun Belt swimmer in 2013, part of a then-school record 200 free relay and swam for distance. She ranks fourth in school history in the 1,650 free (17:08.27), fifth in the 1,000 free (10:21.18) and seventh in the 500 free (4:57.70). Last January, she picked up a Conference USA Swimmer of the Week award.

Farrugia anchored last year's Conference USA meet 800 free relay team (7:13.43) and, like VanderSchaaf, went long -- sixth fastest 500 freestyler (4:56.97) and 1000 freestyler (10:25.24) and third in the 1,650 free (17:04.33).

Madison was the fourth best in the 200 breast (2:17.16) and fifth in the 100 breast (1:04.19).

Madison, Farrugia, VanderSchaaf and Andersson made the Conference USA Honor Roll for having a 3.0 grade point average. Andersson was a Commissioner's Academic Medalist for having a 3.7 GPA.

 

 

From the Steele Mills

Phil Steele, producer of the most comprehensive preseason college sports magazines, also regularly blogs. His most recent post examined how many starters return for each FBS team after subtracting those that have declared for the NFL Draft.

FIU's 16 returning starters by Steele's count put the Panthers in a 12-way tie for 17th in FBS and tied with Western Kentucky for second in the conference. The Panthers and Hilltoppers each return eight starters on offense and eight on defense, according to him. I count nine defensive returning starters for FIU.

FBS and Conference USA football rookie Charlotte returns 19 starters, nine on offense and 10 on defense, leading each category. Steele says Southern Miss also returns nine offensive starters. 

January 22, 2015

Football's 2015 FCS Victim; Baseball Timing

Needing an FCS punching bag to fill out the 2015 home schedule, FIU will bring in North Carolina-Central, which went 7-5 last year, 6-2 in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, 0-1 vs. FBS (52-7 loss to East Carolina) and 0-1 vs. transitional FBS (40-28 loss to Charlotte).

NC-Central will be the only non-conference home game, a stark contrast to the four non-conference home games that opened the 2014 season. The four Conference USA home games will be decided once the league finishes the realignment caused by Alabama-Birmingham football's demise.

BASEBALL

FIU will move its Saturday games back to 6 p.m. from 4 p.m. Smart move. It gives families time to finish their Saturday activities and errands and cuts the roasting time in the stands on sunny days.

January 21, 2015

FIU Gets Lubin

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

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


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