July 22, 2015

Quick Hits From CUSA Media Day

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

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

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

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

FAU (vs. FIU, Oct. 31)

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

WESTERN KENTUCKY (at FIU Nov. 21)

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

MARSHALL (vs. FIU Nov. 14)

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

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

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

LOUISIANA TECH (vs. FIU, Sept. 26)

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

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

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

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

CHARLOTTE (at FIU, Nov. 7)

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

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

OLD DOMINION (at FIU, Oct. 24)

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

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

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

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

 

 

July 21, 2015

Hypothesizing the Future

Some Conference USA schools released their entire basketball schedules Monday. Some released their conference basketball schedules Monday. Some released nothing Monday.

FIU's in group No. 3, but we're not mad. We just had to do a little research and deduction.

Conference USA uses the travel partner system. For example, FIU and FAU are travel partners. When FIU plays at Southern Mississippi on a Thursday, for example, FAU plays at Louisiana Tech. They'll swap opponents for the Saturday games. The week you play your travel partner, you have only one conference game instead of two. The C-USA partners, aside from FIU and FAU, are Rice-North Texas, Texas-San Antonio-UTEP, Southern Miss-La. Tech, Middle Tennessee State-Alabama-Birmingham, Western Kentucky-Marshall and Charlotte-Old Dominion.

Also, the men and women tend to have mirror schedules.

Based on the schedules already released, here's what we know of FIU's schedules with hypothetical games based on the travel partner system noted by "Probably."

MEN

Jan. 2 or 3 -- FAU (probably)

Jan. 7 -- at Western Kentucky

Jan. 9 -- at Marshall

Jan. 14 -- vs. La. Tech

Jan. 16 -- vs. Southern Miss (probably)

Jan. 21 -- at UTSA

Jan. 23 –- at UTEP

Jan. 28 – at Charlotte (probably)

Jan. 30 – at Old Dominion (probably)

Feb. 4 -- at UAB (probably)

Feb. 6 -- at Middle Tennessee

Feb. 11 -– vs. UTEP

Feb. 13 -– vs. UTSA

Feb. 18 – at North Texas

Feb. 20 – at Rice

Feb. 27 -- FAU (probably)

Mar. 3 -- vs. UAB (probably)

Mar. 5 -- vs. Middle

WOMEN

Jan. 2 or 3 -- FAU (probably)

Jan. 7 – vs. Western

Jan. 9 -- vs. Marshall (probably)

Jan. 14 – at La Tech

Jan. 16 -- at Southern Miss (probably)

Jan. 21 -- vs. UTEP (probably)

Jan. 23 -- vs. UTSA (probably)

Jan. 28 –- at Charlotte

Jan. 30 –- at Old Dominion (probably)

Feb. 4 -- vs. UAB (probably)

Feb. 6 – vs. Middle

Feb. 11 -- at UTEP (probably)

Feb. 13 -- at UTSA (probably)

Feb. 18 – vs. North Texas (probably)

Feb. 20 – vs. Rice

Feb. 27 -- FAU (probalby)

Mar. 3 -- at UAB (probably)

Mar. 5 – at Middle

FOOTBALL

Needing to clear the DVR of David recordings, I finally watched Booker T. Washington's 34-28 overtime win against Bingham (Utah) High in the Burger King State Champions Bowl Series. It wasn't the first time I saw FIU soon-to-be freshman Maurice Alexander. It was the first time I thought "He can come in there and take that quarterback job, if those guys already there don't watch it."

Maybe not this year, although only a fool would rule that out when the competition's a sophomore who started 11 games and looked like a freshman with ability (Alex McGough), a redshirt freshman (Bud Martin) and another true freshman who fits the tall, strapping quarterback suit (Christian Alexander). But Maurice Alexander (no relation) will challenge for that No. 1 job.

The "whatever it takes" quality he showed against Bingham impressed me and probably is why, FIU coach Ron Turner noted from a camp, players gravitate to him as a leader. On one play, Alexander threw a hitch left to running back Mike Walton. Walton reversed his field to get around the right side. Alexander didn't just get in the way of a defensive lineman -- he threw a block with a six-pack of gusto. Later, he broke the same lineman's tackle on a read option keep to slip into the end zone for the game-winning touchdown.

Alexander ran for two touchdowns and threw for three, including two achingly beautiful touch passes to the numbers. Quarterbacking a team that rarely trails at all and only once before in the fourth quarter, he marched the Tornadoes the length of the field in 1:51 for the tying touchdown with 18 seconds left. He got away with his only mistake, not just getting the first down on a scramble, but trying to dip wide for the sidelines or bigger yardage. He got away with it because on third and 1, he threaded the needle with a throw down the middle. A miscommunication with a receiver that almost turned into a game-killing interception, but you can't tell if that goes on Alexander's account or the receiver's.

Alexander will wear No. 13, probably until Richard Leonard finishes with No. 3. Don't be surprised if, by that point, Alexander's No. 1 on the depth chart.

I'm not saying it will happen. I'm just saying don't be stunned if it does happen.

 

July 15, 2015

Smith On Another Watch List.

The Wuerffel Trophy goes to the top community servant among the nation's top notch college-affiliated football players.

Proving he's as much an all-around good guy as Tom Slick, FIU's best offensive player, junior tight end Jonnu Smith, is on the Wuerffel Trophy watch list. Smith's also on the Mackey Award (best tight end) watch list for the second consecutive year.

CUSA Media Prediction for CUSA Football

This year, instead of asking the coaches do the preseason picks poll (and, probably often as not, winding up with a sports information director's preseason poll), Conference USA asked beat writers covering CUSA schools to do some handicapping.

This sayeth the media mass, which included one black man's opinion (I could be wrong): Louisiana Tech in the West, Western Kentucky in the East. FIU? Fifth in the east.

Don't blame me. I voted FIU fourth. Anyway, from Ruston to West Virginia, here's the preseason Conference USA poll:

EAST DIVISION

1. Western Kentucky

2. Marshall

3. Middle Tennessee State

4. FAU

5. FIU

6. Old Dominion

7. Charlotte

WEST DIVISION

1. La. Tech

2. Rice

3. UTEP

4. Southern Miss

5. North Texas

6. UTSA

July 14, 2015

CUSA Coaches Love Richard Leonard; Lombardi Watch List? Got Two

Conference USA coaches voted FIU fifth-year senior cornerback Richard Leonard the league's preseason Defensive Player of the Year. 

Some -- like me -- thought Leonard should've been the C-USA Defensive Player of the Year for 2014: five interceptions, two returned for touchdowns; four fumble recoveries, one returned for a touchdown; two forced fumbles; seven passes broken up; and stopping Alabama-Birmingham 4x4 truck Jordan Howard on a fourth-and-short with UAB driving in FIU's upset win.

Equating FIU's defense to a baseball lineup, the 5-9 cornerback essayed the Mark McGwire role with the big impact plays. The Rod Carew or Ted Williams, steady hitting play after play, day after day, game after game,  was defensive end Michael Wakefield. There's a reason in the FIU coaches' weekly selection of captains, only Wakefield got chosen for every game.

Wakefield and defensive end Denzell Perine each got named to the preseason Lombardi Award Watch List. The award goes to college-affiliated football's best down lineman or linebacker, if said linebacker lines up no more than 5 yards off the ball. The honor takes its name from Vince Lombardi, most famously the Green Bay Packers head coach during their 1960s glory days, but also in college one of the Seven Blocks of Granite, Fordham's offensive line in the 1930s.

Wakefield collected 8.0 sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss last year, while Perine had 9.5 and 6.5 respectively. Although my counterpart up on the Western Kentucky beat, Chad Bishop, ranks FIU's regular season closer as Western's least interesting game, I'm kind of intrigued by the matchup: Western's gunslinging offense triggered by CUSA preseason Offensive Player of the Year Brandon Doughty against FIU's pass rush and Leonard-led secondary.

 

 

July 13, 2015

Leonard on Thorpe Watch

Jim Thorpe did everything as one of football's first superstars.

In an era when college football was America's second most popular team sport behind major league baseball -- professional football tended to be as confined to Ohio and Western Pennsylvania as the worship of Woody Hayes and Joe Paterno later would be -- Thorpe played running back, defensive back, punted and kicked for Carlisle Indian Industrial School. He did all of it well enough to allow Carlisle to compete for national supremacy with the Michigans and Harvards that ruled the fields as they ruled the halls of real world power.

"Heisman" still meant the head coach at Georgia Tech, not a trophy or shorthand for a romantic stiff arm, so Thorpe couldn't win that individual honor. And the best running back often wins the Heisman. So, Thorpe's name goes on the award for the nation's best defensive back.

And FIU cornerback/kick returner/punt returner Richard Leonard is on the watch list for that award.

Leonard defensive 2014 season came thicker than a Snickers with impact plays: two interception returns for touchdowns, one fumble return for touchdown, nine total turnovers, most of which came with opponents in scoring position. It'll be interesting to see how teams deal with Leonard this season.

Seems appropriate in a couple of ways...

 

 

 

July 08, 2015

No. 87 on Mackey Award Watch List (duh)

FIU felt Jonnu Smith's 61 catches for 710 yards and eight touchdowns should've earned him a spot as a Mackey Award finalist, especially when considering the circumstances: a freshman quarterback starting 11 games and wide receivers who made only cameo appearances as downfield threats.

The Mackey Award folks disagreed (hmph), but put Smith on their preseason watch list for the second consecutive season, as announced Wednesday.

July 07, 2015

Projections...

Some of you probably saw my Tweet last week on the Over/Under line for each college football team's wins according to Bovada. Here's how the betting site sees Conference USA.

EAST DIVISION

Marshall 10

Western Kentucky 7.5

Middle Tennessee State 6.5

FIU 5.5

FAU 5.0

Old Dominion 4.5

Charlotte 2.5

WEST DIVISION

Louisiana Teach 8.0

Rice 7.5

UTEP 6

North Texas 4.5

Southern Mississippi 4.5

Texas-San Antonio 2.5

Tough call on FIU. I'd tend to go with the over.

No surprise on the players FIU will bring to the Conference USA Media Days in Boca Raton July 21-22: junior tight end Jonnu Smith and fifth-year senior cornerback/kick returner Richard Leonard.

 

 

July 04, 2015

FIU Flips the Byrd

 

 

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

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

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

Check out his highlights here.

Happy Fourth of July

 

June 30, 2015

Dolphins Coming to FIU

The Dolphins will hold a public practice at FIU Stadium Aug. 7 as part of a Friday Night Festival, featuring live practice and scrimmage, player autographs afterwards, cheerleaders and Dolphins alumni smiling and waving after signing autographs...all you'd expect from a franchise of good people working very hard to help everybody overlook 20 years of professional mediocrity on the field.

Tickets can be purchased here for $5 each.

 

June 27, 2015

Summer Friday Night Softball for Charity

While I wrote about a summer camp at the University of Miami that disappeared and a sailor who disappeared before rambling up the Palmetto and I-75 to the NHL Draft, David Furones went to the Cypsquad Charity Celebrity Softball Game Friday at FIU Baseball Stadium. Proceeds from the event benefit former FIU safety Johnathan Cyrpien's CypSquad Foundation.

Furones reports:

Cyprien, a starting safety the last two seasons for Jacksonville, put together a team predominantly of former college teammates, high school teammates at North Miami Beach High, former UM players and other NFL players with South Florida ties against members of the military, policemen and fire fighters from Miami-Dade County.

Proceeds benefited the CypSquad At-Risk Youth Program and the Feed Our Block Foundation. A number of children in the program were on the field meeting and taking pictures with the stars before and after the game.

“Our mission, No. 1, was for these kids out here because we wouldn’t be having this event if it wasn’t for those guys,” Cyprien said. “This foundation started about a month ago, and it’s for at-risk youths to put them in better positions so they can make better choices.”

Among the top standout sightings were Indianapolis Colts Pro-Bowl wide receiver and former FIU Panther T.Y. Hilton, Minnesota Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (Northwestern High), Chicago Bears safety Antrel Rolle (UM, Homestead South Dade) and former FIU baseball star Garret Wittels, he of the 56-game hitting streak.

Cyprien said his highlight on the field was scoring a run in the 9-5 victory for the celebrity team. The top bloopers: Isame Faciane dropping a fly ball, Dolphins safety Louis Delmas dancing around the field every chance he got or rapper Ice Berg just embarrassing himself at the plate.

Some of the best ovations from the roughly 1,000 in attendance came for Hilton, of course.

“Any time you get a chance to come back to your old stomping grounds, you do that,” Hilton said. “Just give back, just come out here and have fun and spend some time with the kids.”

Cyprien plans on making the softball game an annual event with the connections he has in both the Miami and Jacksonville areas.

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June 26, 2015

Football Past & Future

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MEN'S SOCCER

The 2015 schedule is out.

VOLLEYBALL

Same here.

 

June 15, 2015

FIU on ASN (football, of course)

Conference USA announced which games will be televised on the American Sports Network and FIU announced game times for two should-be home wins. Actually, the five games involved might comprise the Panthers' 2015 victory total.

ASN, a division of Sinclair Broadcasting that too often doesn't include a station in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale market, decrees that FIU's home games against Texas-El Paso on Oct. 18 and Charlotte on Nov. 7 will be at noon. If you heard a Nancy Kerrigan-like screaming, that's FIU's marketing and sales reacting to any potential hope for a decent crowd getting kneecapped.

I used to wonder why FIU didn't play more home early afternoon football games to take advantage of the heat. I saw the Rice and Pitt crowds -- using "crowds" more loosely than jeans sag on the ignorant -- last year. I wonder no more.

The annual Shula Bowl, at FAU this year, gets a 3:30 p.m. kickoff for Oct. 31, Halloween, on ASN. That'll take a few parents out of the trick-or-treating game. I hope two South Florida teams means ASN manages to show the game down here on something other than ASN's streaming site.

FIU announced its home opener, a planned punking of North Carolina Central, and the Oct. 24 Homecoming game against Old Dominion will be 6 p.m. kickoffs.

 

 

June 14, 2015

Phillicia & Phil

Long jumper Phillicia Fluellen officially finished FIU's 2014-15 athletic year when she sailed to 14th in this week's NCAA Championships.

Fluellen's leap of 20 feet, 4 1/2 inches was her third best this season and second best among the mid-majors at the meet behind 10th place Texas State's Allie Saunders (I'm not counting 11th place Tennessee State's Clairwin Dameus as being from a mid-major -- that track program's been good longer than half the coaches at that meet have been alive.)

FOOTBALL

The premier college football preview publication, by information tonnage and accuracy, Phil Steele's College Football 2015, is now online if not newsstands.

Steele ranks FIU 103rd overall and fourth in Conference USA East. One of the common problems when turnovers become the manna you turn into victory, as in FIU's five wins over the last two seasons, is that's not consistent sustenance. Steele lists the Panthers as one of the teams with a positive double-digit turnover margin, a statistic that precedes a dropoff in wins the following year for 65 percent of such cases since 1991.

But, Steele points out FIU was four plays from being 8-4 last year instead of 4-8 and expects this year's model to be the best of the three Ron Turner FIU teams.

So, there's that.

 

 

June 12, 2015

...and Comings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FOOTBALL

Forgot to add late night...

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

 

June 01, 2015

TV Time

Four of FIU's eight conference games get the television once-over on the schedule announced by Conference USA Monday and one non-conference game will get Big Ten Network coverage.

The conference opener at Louisiana Tech, Sept. 26, will be on Fox College Sports. Fox Regional Networks will carry road games at Middle Tennessee (Oct. 17), Marshall (Nov. 14) and the home game against Western Kentucky (Nov. 21). After FIU opens the season against Central Florida on CBS Sports Network on Sept. 3, the Panthers go to Bloomington to face Indiana on the Big Ten Network at 8 p.m. (8 p.m? Whatever happened to 1 p.m. kickoffs that get everybody to Kilroy's and the DunnKirk area by sundown?)

FIU might have another couple of conference games in the to-be-announced 30 that'll be broadcast by American Sports Network, which last year showed a couple of games everywhere except South Florida. So far, six FIU games will be televised.

 

Preseason Projections

Edwin Rios' ground out that ended the baseball season began the scollege-affiliated football preseason. The preseason magazines drew us to the Coral Gables Barnes & Noble on the way to Saturday's baseball action.

Athlon's, Lindy's and The Sporting News sit on the stands. Phil Steele, producer of the most accurate and (not coincidentally) exhaustively researched preseason guide, just shipped his guide off to the printer for July 1 store release.

Steele released his four-deep preseason All-Conference USA teams Monday and it reflects the general perception of FIU going into the season. 

On offense, he cites only junior tight end Jonnu Smith on the First Team (duh) and junior guard Jordan Budwig on the Fourth Team. The other side, however, includes senior defensive ends Michael Wakefield and Denzell Perine on the First Team, sophomore linebacker Anthony Wint and senior cornerback Richard Leonard on the Second Team (Second Team for Leonard?) and senior linebacker Davison Colimon on the Fourth Team. He puts Leonard as his First Team punt returner and senior Clinton Taylor as the Fourth Team punt returner.

Athlon Sports ranks FIU 112th nationally out of 128, fifth in the C-USA East and projects the Panthers to run in place -- second consecutive 4-8 overall and 3-5 conference records. I think they went with chalk in figuring FIU to beat FCS team North Carolina Central, Old Dominion and No. 128 Charlotte at La Cage and a conference upsets somewhere in there.

Their all-conference Panthers were Smith, Wakefield and Leonard on the first First Team, with Leonard at punt returner and cornerback and Colimon on the Second Team.

This year's quote from a conference opponent's assistant coach -- "They were much better last year than two years ago, but their passing game was almost nonexistent" -- might not come off well, but it's an encouraging butt-slap compared to last year's slap-in-the-face quote.

Lindy's likes FIU at No. 98 nationally and fourth in the East. While not throwing out a record, the magazine states becoming bowl eligible (six wins) would be a stretch for FIU. Lindy's two-deep preseason all-conference teams look similar to Phil Steele's, but put Colimon and Budwig on the Second Team and Leonard on the First Team. Lindy's ranked Smith as the nation's No. 1 tight end for college fantasy football.

The Sporting News says fifth in the East with Smith, Leonard and Wakefield as their preseason all-conference players (TSN made only one team).

May 27, 2015

APR, Adidas, Athletics Cash

As the baseball team practiced (with adidas bats -- more on that later), the 2013-14 Academic Progress Rate numbers dropped. Not literally, but in the modern popular music vernacular.

Terry McMillan's Waiting to Exhale concerned African-American women and early 1990s relationships, not APR. But, it does tend to describe FIU around this time of the year. It's entirely possible one of the breezes I felt at the baseball stadium today came from the department exhaling over an APR report without any red flags or even yellow flags.

Men's track (indoor and outdoor), women's track, volleyball, softball, golf, women's cross country each registered perfect single-year APRs of 1000. Golf owned the lone perfect multiyear APR.

Proving that bad APR falls somewhere between tires and herpes in durability, men's basketball came in with the lowest multiyear APR, 879. That's still represents progress from 858 in 2011-12 and 866 in 2012-13 and allows basketball to proceed penalty free for the first time since the Richard Pitino-coached season of 2012-13.

Multiyear APR

Golf 1000

Women's basketball 995

Women's cross country 987

Tennis 982

Men's cross country 977

Women's outdoor track 977

Women's indoor track 975

Swimming & Diving 973

Volleyball 973

Softball 971

Men's soccer 970

Women's soccer 969

Men's outdoor track 958

Men's indoor track 956

Baseball 938

Football 933

Men's Basketball 879

2013-14 Single Year APR

Men's indoor track 1000

Women's indoor track 1000

Women's outdoor track 1000

Men's outdoor track 1000

Women's cross country 1000

Volleyball 1000

Golf 1000

Softball 1000

Women's soccer 979

Women's basketball 967

Swimming & Diving 962

Tennis 955

Football 935

Men's basketball 933

Men's Soccer 932

Baseball 931

BASEBALL

Businesses show love by showing material and money. As detailed here in the February post "Getting Dressed," the FIU athletic team Adidas loves most is baseball. No other program gets the amount of equipment under Adidas' agreement with FIU Athletics that baseball does. No other FIU head coach gets $4,000 of free product annually as FIU's baseball coach does.

According to Camp Mitch sources, baseball's love of its Adidas clothes and gear didn't extend to the bats. So FIU brought other brands along with Adidas to the plate throughout the season.

Apparently, somebody at Adidas noticed FIU's bat diversity as the Panthers battered Conference USA tournament opponents. That's not a problem unless there's a clause in the agreement between the school and the athletic wear company stating "each Sport...shall exclusively use or wear Adidas products whenever School's athletic teams are playing one of the Sports (including games and practice sessions)..." and that failure to do so constitutes a material breach of contract.

FIU swung Adidas bats at practice Wednesday and you can bet they'll do so this weekend in Coral Gables.

MONEY

USA Today's annual college athletics finances report demonstrated little of surprise beyond Oregon taking over the Total Revenue title from Texas.

Of the 230 schools ranked, FIU placed 90th in total revenue ($28,104,962), 92nd in total expenses ($27,542,910), 16th in subsidy ($22,540,365) and 36th overall, second to Eastern Michigan among FBS football schools, in percentage of total revenue that comes from subsidies (80.2%).

FORMER FOOTBALL

Click here to see the current real world job of former FIU running back Darian Mallary.

 

May 07, 2015

MacLaren Golf...And Twins!

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

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

Of course, this reminded us of...

 

GOLF

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

May 04, 2015

Camp Bodies; Super Tex

To no surprise for a team whose best players were juniors, sophomores and freshmen, the 2014 football Panthers saw nobody get their name called or miscalled during the NFL Draft. Nor did any of the 32 entertainment franchises under the NFL shield sign an FIU player as a free agent.

But, rookie camps need more bodies beyond the undrafted free agents scooped up in the draft's version of a Dec. 26 sale. So, they bring in rookie camp bodies to make the numbers up, as the British would say, and get a longshot's chance of hanging around. One Dolphins rookie camp, I did a story on Justin Wynn, a wide receiver with one year of junior college ball under his belt -- three and a half years before he came to the Dolphins camp. Wynn wound up hanging on until the second round of cuts in the main training camp.

Indianapolis, which seems to be bringing in anything with a Miami connection short of a coffee window, has had an undrafted free agent make the final 53 in September 16 consecutive seasons.

According to FIU, safety Justin Halley will get the opportunity to extend that streak; strong safety Demarkus Perkins will be in the Jets rookie camp and the Dolphins pulled in offensive lineman David Delsoin.

I'm still trying to confirm these camp invites.

SOFTBALL

You can't blame the softball team's failure to make the Conference USA tournament on sophomore Stephanie Texeira.

Texeira set an FIU record with a .444 batting average, beating Ashley McClain's .409 in 2011. With her freshman year .408, she's got two of the three best hitting seasons in FIU history. McClain's FIU record for career batting average (minimum 200 at bats), is .357. Or, rather, was .357. Texeira's at .424 with 276 at bats with two seasons remaining.

Texeira's 51 RBI this season ties Kim Rodriguez's 2008 number for second behind McClain's 56 in 2010.

 

 

 


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