September 08, 2015

Colimon Out, Everybody Else OK (Probably); Hezel Gets CUSA Love

Senior starting outside linebacker Davison Colimon won't just miss this Saturday's game at Indiana, as stated in the first version of this post. Colimon tore his left pec muscle and will be out for the season, FIU coach Ron Turner said after Tuesday's practice. He suffered the injury on a missed tackle in the fourth quarter of Thursday's win at Central Florida.

Expect senior cornerback Jeremiah McKinnon, who left Thursday's game with a hamstring injury, to return Saturday in Bloomington. FIU ran the ball reasonably well against a very good UCF front, so perhaps that slices some urgency from getting redshirt freshman Kai Absheer back at right tackle. Turner said Absheer will lose the orange injury jersey Wednesday, do his first team drill work in a couple of weeks and should be ready to paly Saturday.


FIU shut out Stetson 3-0 without allowing a shot on goal and beat Fairfield 2-1 Thursday. For his role in the wins, FIU defender Marvin Hezel was named Conference USA Defensive Player of the Week Tuesday.


September 07, 2015

Starters & Subs

FIU's depth chart for this week's game at Indiana has senior outside linebacker Davison Colimon (shoulder) and senior cornerback Jeremiah McKinnon (hamstring) starting despite the injuries that took them out Thursday. No surprise.

McKinnon should be fine with the extended time off before Saturday. Colimon's the bigger question and unless he's out for the season, FIU won't flip that card over this early in the week.

Indiana, as many FIU fans probably saw Saturday, played a cosmopolitan defense in Saturday's 48-47 win against FCS foe Southern Illinois -- reading Cosmo while sucking down cosmos instead of reading their keys and sucking it up in the absence of several starters. Monday, Hoosiers coach Kevin Wilson talked about the nine players who didn't take the field.

"I want to quickly address, not in a bad way, but after the game the comments of nine guys suspended. We had nine guys not available. If they were suspended they wouldn't have dressed, they wouldn't have traveled. They weren't allowed to play in the game. Our decision. Our program has standards we live up to. And when you miss the game, you miss the next game.

"So if you're a redshirt last year, couldn't play last year, that might have happened 18 months ago. When is your next game? Because you missed the next game. Something happens tonight, you'll miss Saturday. So you miss the next game.

"So nothing's happened in the last week, month, two months. There's no issues. Say again, there are no issues with these guys. They're kids. There are issues 'cause they're kids, but there's phenomenal buy-in. They know the lay of the land. They know where they're at. They're doing a great job. We moved forward this summer as a family. It's the best group we've had."

Wilson said that's all he wanted to say about that. Then, he said some more: "Pay for a guy to go to summer school, doesn't got to class and fails it, what do you do? You got a guy missing morning workouts in the spring, what do you do? Guy fumbles the ball in a game, Tevin Coleman, what do you do? We have standards we stay by. If you don't hold your standards, there's certain penalties that come with standards. You can over-read into it. Those guys weren't allowed to play. We'll see if they are this week."

That should make FIU fans feel great. After all, if long ago acts brought on the benchings, then surely Wilson gave the players he knew would play the greater reps throughout training camp. That's what FIU's Ron Turner did with cornerback Richard Leonard and wide receiver Glenn Coleman two years ago and safety Jordan Davis, academically ineligible for the first two games, this year.

Indiana's backups who started didn't find out when they arrived at the stadium on Saturday. They've known. They've practiced. An Power Five conference team's well-drilled subs shouldn't drag a defense down that badly against an FCS light-heavyweight. That means you're just not good. Monday evening, Wilson issued a statement that eight of the nine were eligible to return Saturday..


September 06, 2015

Opening Line & Other Footy Things


Men's soccer -- Thursday vs. Penn, 7 p.m.

Women's soccer -- Friday vs. North Florida, 7 p.m.

Men's soccer -- Saturday vs. Princeton, 7 p.m.

The opening lines, out of Vegas and the offshore sites, installed FIU as a 7.5-point underdog to Indiana. The Hoosiers struggled to beat FCS foe Southern Illinois at home after game-time suspensions of nine players, most of them on defense.

Still, that seems a strangely large line for favoring IU or putting FIU as an underdog.

As I watched the replay of Thursday's game, I realize forgot to address the two-point conversions in the postgame blog.

The second two-point conversion try, well, yeah -- 15-14 to 16-14, so what? You still lose on a field goal and you're a touchdown behind if you give up a touchdown. Might as well go for 17-14.

As for the first, during the game, I thought, "Oooo, just take the point." Later, though, the logic came clear. It wasn't about momentum, but math and cold-eyed reality.

After Alex Gardner's 7-yard run pulled FIU to 14-9, each team had allowed one real touchdown drive in two-plus quarters. UCF got a quick, 26-yard touchdown drive off the Alex Gardner fumble. You should hope you'll reach the end zone again. You can believe you'll reach the end zone again. But you have to know there's a decent probability you won't reach the end zone again.

A customary conversion still leaves FIU needing a touchdown to avoid defeat. Getting two would've left FIU just a field goal short of tying the game. The two teams allowed only one more score, as it turned out (that it was an FIU touchdown is immaterial -- we're talking about what the coaching staff knows at that moment in the third quarter).

Going for two at 14-9 describes greedy if you're in the first half of a game where points flow at a normal pace. But in the situation facing FIU, the Panthers made a smart move.

Alex Lamars, a National Weather Service meteorologist, updated his College Football Climatology for 2015.  

The two FBS schools in Miami-Dade County tie for second in Average Rainfall from September to November and fifth in Most Rainy Days from September to November. To find the leader in both those categories you have to go all the way FAU.



After two almosts in ACC country last weekend, the men's soccer team rebounded with two wins this weekend. Sunday, FIU went over to Deland and put DeFoot into Stetson's DeBooty 3-0. Brad Fountain, Santiago Patino, who assisted on Fountain's goal, and Jamar Campion-Hinds scored for the 2-2 Panthers

The women (2-3) got it done late again. Madlen Weinhardt, who assisted on the overtime game-winner in the season opener, struck in the 81st minute to give FIU a 1-0 win against Miami of Ohio.


Will Indiana Get What It Bought?


Men's soccer -- Thursday vs. Penn, 7 p.m.

Women's soccer -- Friday vs. North Florida, 7 p.m.

Men's soccer -- Saturday vs. Princeton, 7 p.m.

Not sure how much more motivation FIU needs for this Saturday's shot at perennial B1G bottom Indiana beyond a shot at 2-0...but this. Yeah.

Summary: IU paid to dump South Florida and add FIU so the Hoosiers could have an easier non-conference schedule. Clearly, Indiana athletic department and football program saw FIU as college-affiliated football version of a paid sub, a consonant better than the Hoosiers' season-opening FCS foe Southern Illinois.


Former FIU defensive tackles Greg Hickman and Isame Faciane, now an offensive guard, were among Minnesota's final cuts Saturday. Faciane got signed to the Vikings practice squad for the second consecutive season.



September 04, 2015

A few thoughts on FIU 15, UCF 14

A nod to the FIU male futbol bunch, 2-1 winners over Fairfield in almost as dramatic fashion as the pigskin guys won in up in Orlando. Speaking of which...

About a half hour after sophomore quarterback Alex McGough kidded teammate Thomas Owens that he owed him $5 for leaving Owens one reception short of T.Y. Hilton's single game FIU record and the Instagram timelines filled with selfies and Herald's Al Diaz shots of celebration, it struck me ironic:

What the Panthers celebrated like boys was maturity.

As much as two teams can in Week 1 college-affiliated football, FIU and UCF played a grown man football game.

There was a good atmosphere. Despite a steamy, sunny early evening, UCF's students grabbed their church-style hand fans, filled the student section and fulfilled their nickname for Bright House Networks Stadium ("The Bounce House"). The stadium wasn't packed, but rocked (literally) -- the normal-size press box swayed like the press box at Hialeah's Milander Park used to during rivalry games there.

Down on the field, the two teams crashed their way through the kind of game expected. This wasn't Gwen Cherry Park 7-on-7 with thigh pads, fat scoring summaries and backups putting up 100 yards rushing or receiving. UCF had four significant offensive possessions: a short-field touchdown drive, a regular-length touchdown drive, a failed fourth down at the FIU 20 and a blocked field goal off a two-minute drill. FIU had four significant offensive possessions: touchdown drives of 80 and 82 yards, a 76-yard drive to a field goal and a badly missed field goal off a two-minute drill before halftime.

(By the way, dumb call by George O'Leary on that fourth and 1 from the FIU 20 with the Knights up 14-9 in the third quarter. A low-scoring game, FIU's punked your run all night and you don't go for a 37-yard field goal to go up a touchdown and two-point conversion? Now, I think any UCF fan screaming for O'Leary's head after where that program was before he got there and what they've done the last five seasons can be considered too childish to live independently. But that decision seemed stupid macho, football's version of thinking with the lower head instead of the upper one.)

People hit. Most got up. A few got hurt. FIU senior linebacker Davison Colimon suffered a shoulder injury of undetermined seriousness. Senior cornerback Jeremiah McKinnon suffered a hamstring injury that has over a week to heal before FIU takes the Memorial Stadium field at Indiana.

But where FIU showed maturity not in the winning, but in the how.

The Panthers won without getting turnovers by the peck. Longtime readers here can probably say the next two sentences by heart after an Amsterdam afternoon. In the five wins under Ron Turner, here's the turnover numbers: four, six, six, four, five. And all four wins last year included a defensive touchdown. Exciting though that is, that's like living off Pick 4 and Cash 3 winnings instead of having a regular job. Thursday? No turnovers. The closest they came to getting one might've been the first drive of the game, when junior safety Wilkenson Myrtil jumped a route to the wide side of the field after UCF quarterback Justin Holman's pass took too long at launch. Myrtil dropped a pick six. UCF linemen recovered the strip sacks by senior defensive ends Michael Wakefield and Denzell Perine.

FIU just played sound defense, especially against the run and eventually against the pass. So many UCF runs seemed to get disrupted before they started. Wakefield, senior defensive tackle Darrian Dyson and sophomore linebacker Anthony Wint seemed to mess things up consistently. Junior linebacker Treyvon Williams made a game-high 11 tackles. As O'Leary admitted afterwards, the Panthers front seven got tremendous penetration in the gaps and really didn't get moved. No push, no lane, no go. Take out the two sacks and UCF ran for 60 yards on 28 carries, a picayune 2.14 yards per carry.

FIU stopped UCF three times on third or fourth down runs when UCF needed two yards or less. When UCF called what looked like a delayed quarterback draw on third and 2 in the third quarter, it was an acknowledgement to FIU from UCF: your line of scrimmage. We'll do something else.

The first of those stops might've been the most important in the game. Down 14-3 after consecutive UCF touchdown drives, FIU went three and out. UCF got the ball at its own 35 and FIU needed a stop like Miami needs coladas at 4 p.m. On third and 2, 5-10, 217-pound Dontravious Wilson tried the middle. Williams led the stuffing. Bupkiss. UCF punted.

Once McKinnon went out, UCF put the T-Buck Target on his replacements. Earlier, the Knights attacked the only starters lacking significant collegiate game experience at their position, FIU's safeties. UCF's enormous 6-3, 237-pound Jordan Akins beat Myrtil, who slipped for his first touchdown. Akins beat sophomore Niko Gonzalez for a 20-yard gain the next drive, setting up a 33-yard touchdown catch over the middle and behind the linebackers. Akins ended with nine catches for 109 yards, but only three for 41 in the second half.

On offense, nobody showed more maturity than McGough. The numbers -- 29 of 38 for 260 yards, one touchdown, no interceptions, four runs for 12 yards -- don't tell all that he showed.

UCF's line got pressure on him consistently. Only once did McGough possibly hold on to the ball too long. Few throws, maybe two, looked as if he disobeyed the "if it don't fit, don't force it" maxim that applies to many life situations. He smartly threw the ball away at least three times. No interceptions, as mentioned, and no sacks taken.

The two big completions on FIU's second touchdown drive, 47 yards to Ya'Keem Griner and 23 yards to running back Alex Gardner, were adjustments. McGough said his first read on the Griner completion was wide receiver Dennis Turner, but as he stepped up on the rollout, he saw Griner come open downfield. The Gardner play was a check down dump off to a favorable matchup, Gardner on a linebacker.

 Throughout the first half, McGough saw UCF's corners playing softly against Owens. He took what the defense gave to the tune of 10 completions to Owens for 70 yards. Maturity. 

In his first game since the season-ending shoulder injury, Gardner looked like he'd been waiting to burst for 10 months. His 27-yard running essay with a first quarter screen pass, on which he broke lienbacker Chequan Burkett's tackle and put a Michael Jackson spin move on safety Drico Johnson, will be a film room favorite. Had Gardner not getting slightly tripped going through the hole on the next possession, he'd have had an 89-yard touchdown run. Instead, a frantically recovering Burkett had time to punch the ball out. FIU will take Gardner's 149 yards receiving and rushing out of its lead running back any day.

In this grown up game, the Panthers got contributions from kids. Redshirt freshman right tackle Daquane Willkie started. Freshman Anthony Jones showed why some other schools made belated attempts to recruit him. Jones zoomed to a 26-yard run off a pitch and his almost Sanders-esque bobbing elusiveness got 15 yards out of a hitch pass. Freshman punter Stone Wilson averaged 47.7 yards per punt to redshirt junior Chris Ayers' 42.0.

FIU spent the first half getting the ball a DisneyWorld monorail ride from the UCF end zone. Turner said when they went in at halftime, nobody freaked. They figured things could be worse than 14-3 after a half with no field position and down one turnover on the road. What did they do with the second half opening kickoff? Moved 82 yards to a touchdown in a drive that included the two Jones' touches. Maturity.

Nobody plays a perfect game. FIU didn't just fail to close out the game with proper execution of the four-minute offense, the Panthers did the worst thing possible, three-and-out. On the unsuccessful third and 1, they gave the ball to Gardner instead of the more bullish Anthon Samuel. Turner said Samuel was fine, he was just going with the hot back. The timeout usage at the end as UCF moved into field goal range, especially after Jordan Guest's personal foul for a late helmet-to-helmet spear on a sliding Justin Holman? Late. Like, Miami time late. By the time FIU started to call timeouts, too little clock remained to give FIU any decent possession time had UCF scored.

So what? FIU played a good game on the road in a season opener against a talented, young UCF team (rather see the Knights now than in November). The Panthers justified the confidence they've had in themselves by doing things well they previously did poorly or erratically.

The next part of maturity? Consistency.


September 03, 2015

GameDay I, 2015: Relatively New Schools Going Old School


Men's soccer -- Thursday vs. Fairfield, 7 p.m.

The best part about the premiere of the 2015 FIU football season up near Wally World East (other than it's, you know, football with meaning): fast game. Football efficiently delivered.

Your Thursday night won't be obliterated by a game bloating into a miniseries, like many college-affiliated football contests these days. The expected strength of each offense lies in the running game. Each defense seems to have the matchup advantage. That translates into few clock-pausing incompletions or first downs.

That also means the total points might be as few as the schools' enrollments are many. The low score should fence the tension in this game and elevate the worth of each snap. I realize that thumbs the nose at the conventional assumption that offense=excitement. Too often in modern college-affiliated football, games turn into Frat Field Trip on Okeechobee Road. Everybody scores, cheap. 

Back in 1980, as NFL teams responded to the 1978 rules changes about downfield contact by flowing toward the pass the way current newspaper readers flow to mobile devices, Sports Illustrated's Paul Zimmerman testified for the beauty in defensive tug-of-wars. In writing about the regular season game between Philadelphia and Oakland and advancing the Super Bowl between the same teams, he criticized the 42-35 shootouts as containing so many big plays none truly were big. He hailed the low-scoring duels in which an 86-yard touchdown pass counted as a crushing overhand right, not just a quick hook in the middle of a flurry. Teenage me understood Dr. Z's reasoning. I couldn't let myself agree with it. I'm with him now. I wish he could still be with us in full.

That reminds me, what'll come together first? FIU's ability to push the ball downfield or UCF's ability to cover it? FIU's breaking in a group of wideouts with little experience and less production. UCF's breaking in a new secondary.

At first, I liked FIU to hit an Alley Oop or two to 6-1 Thomas Owens -- big, good body position, leaping ability and hands. But six of the eight Knights defensive backs on their two-deep list at 6-foot or over and the other two list at 5-11. So maybe as likely as Owens outjumping guys of similar height and athletic ability, is flyguy wide receiver Dennis Turner racing free through some miscommunication or getting single coverage when a safety blows his help responsibilities.

FIU coach Ron Turner says UCF makes you earn everything. But that's past UCF, not this UCF. As a longtime offensive coach, Turner should have enough funky arrows in his quiver to confuse the young ones. Then, it's a matter of McGough throwing with Green Arrow accuracy.

In retrospect, not redshirting Turner last year was a mistake. Nobody argues FIU needed what the coaches hoped Turner could inject. Unfortunately, you combine a nice true freshman deep threat wide receiver with a nice true freshman quarterback and you get results that don't look so nice. One or both make physical mistakes or mistakes of inexperience on called long balls. And that's when the quarterback's not getting bounced off the turf. It's no accident McGough's longest connections downfield -- I'm not talking about catch-and-runs -- went to then-senior Glenn Coleman. Having frogs at both ends of the bomb begs for dud.

Junior tight end Jonnu Smith will give his usual. five to eight catches for 60-100 yards, maybe a touchdown. 

I don't feel great that FIU didn't get its offensive line really figured out. That's not a criticism -- what can you do when injuries turn line composition into playing with a Rubik's Cube? Thursday, it could turn into Rubik's Grenade. Even with UCF losing senior defensive tackle Demetris Anderson to a season-ending injury, that's a line with the defensive ends returning and some depth. No. 69, senior defensive end Thomas Niles, will be a problem for FIU. Now, if FIU can get its blockers and runners to the second level, UCF's callow at linebacker. 

UCF coach George O'Leary can talk about how much he likes his young receivers' physical abilities. Does he like them vs. FIU's secondary, corners Richard Leonard and Jeremiah McKinnon, safeties Wilkenson Myrtil and Niko Gonzalez? Gonzalez is the only player among the defensive starters who didn't start at least two games last year. Does O'Leary like his new tackles against FIU defensive ends Michael Wakefield and Denzell Perine? Scout team to Perine or Wakefield is a medium-building-in-a-single-bound leap for redshirt freshman right tackle Luke Palmer.

Those matchups and having a former offensive line coach, Brent Key, as offensive coordinator say UCF's going to challenge FIU to put its man pants on as the Knights try to buffalo their way down the field on the hump of running back William Stanback (no relation to Haskel). A Florida humid night in the 80s says try to wear down the smaller, faster defense.

(Back to FIU with the ball for a moment...I'd run some hurry up stuff, just to watch that secondary scramble to figure out what's what.)

Also, I'm sure UCF knows this number almost as well as Panthers fans. FIU's five wins under Ron Turner featured 25 turnovers gained, spread rather equitably: four, six, six, four, five. Junior UCF quarterback Justin Holman threw 14 interceptions last year with a veteran receiving corps. Now, he's throwing to newbies with FIU's ball vultures circling in wait of a mistake they can take to the house. Where's that off tackle play? 

UCF's got a redshirt freshman kicker and a new starting long snapper. FIU's got Richard Leonard. Give that round to FIU, 10-8 (we score on the 10-point-must system here). I'm feeling some cheap points from field position there.

In the preseason section, I went with UCF 21-10. I still see them getting off to a better start than FIU, maybe 10-0. The Panthers break a big play or two to get back in it. I don't see consistent movement from either team. The bettors don't either -- the line's dropped from UCF by 17 to UCF by 13 with an over-under of 45 to 46. Good hitting, though. 

I'll say UCF 21, FIU 17.

That's one melanin-heavy man's opinion. I could be wrong.


As I Tweeted earlier today, I meant to put this on the previous In/Out post and even thought about flippantly including the participants with the players, but...the FIU radio broadcast team will be Mike Levine going play-by-play and FIU's only bowl game starting quarterback, Wesley Carroll, on color.

Pete Pelegrin, who did the radio job solo in 2013 and was Levine's color man last year, will be handling other media relations duties during the game. Pelegrin's knowledge of the breadth of FIU's football history will be missed on the broadcast.


September 01, 2015

Who's In, Who's Out

For Thursday's American football game between FIU and UCF.

In: Trenton Saunders at right guard. Redshirt freshman Daquane Willkie backing up the tackle positions. All is right with senior cornerback Jeremiah McKinnon.

Out: Safety Jordan Davis, academically ineligible for the first two games. Redshirt freshman tackle Kai Absheer. His hoped for return is next week, against Indiana. Sophomore wide receiver Shawn Abrams, out for four or five weeks. Senior wide receiver Juwan Caesar should be back by the home opener against North Carolina Central.

August 31, 2015

Back That Alex Up (And Other News Hits)

Sounds like Bud Martin got Fredo-ed.

Asked about his backup quarterback situation today, FIU coach Ron Turner said "We have two No. 2s. It'll be Christian or Trey."

That's true freshman Christian Alexander and fifth-year graduate senior transfer Trey Anderson. Much of camp, redshirt freshman Martin got second team reps. No surprise that Anderson's in the running. He's the only guy besides McGough who has seen a college defense from behind center. Alexander's ascension surprises a bit after Martin had a good camp (so I heard) and a good semi-public scrimmage. But Turner loves Alexander's maturity. Being 6-3 with an arm doesn't hurt, either.

The offensive line's still a Jumble in progress, which will be the subject of the story that'll be going online later today and in print tomorrow.

Turner said the secondary's down pat with rotation possibly only with the safeties. I'm wondering if something's up with senior cornerback Jeremiah McKinnon. Don't be surprised if junior Deonte Wilson sees a lot of time opposite Richard Leonard this week. Turner said there would be some rotation among the safeties. I'm betting we'll see freshman Tyree Johnson out of Miami Gardens Carol City if that happens.

The line is down to UCF by 14 from 17. Many somebodies thinking UCF won't score enough to cover.


Cerca Pero No Cohiba


Men's soccer -- Thursday vs. Fairfield, 7 p.m. (way to coordinate)

To be fair, the title fits only two out of three from the last football-free weekend until after Thanksgiving. Volleyball's pair of 3-0 wins Saturday over Alabama A&M and South Florida pushed them to 2-1, a nice rebound from Friday's 3-1 loss to North Florida.

Men's soccer is 0-2 after a weekend in the Carolinas but could feel more gold than blue. The Panthers played No. 5 North Carolina and almost-ranked Wake Forest, from the best soccer conference in the country, on even terms.

The Tar Heels held a statistical edge on FIU, but the game remained scoreless until a penalty kick in the 82nd minute when Marvin Hezel got convicted on a hand ball charge. The Tar Heels buried the penalty kick, of course for a 1-0 win. Sunday, FIU took a 1-0 lead on Wake Forest, fell behind 3-1 before losing 3-2. Coach Scott Calabrese said he'd learn a lot about his team quickly. He learned they can go iris-to-iris with top notch ACC teams, even if the Panthers blinked first.

Women's soccer played Central Florida on even terms, at least in the second half. But that's also when an FIU defender bounced off UCF's Ashley Spivey, allowing Spivey the space to take a step to the right and bury a gorgeous shot into the far upper corner in the 55th minute.

Freshman defender Lyrik Fryer showed some wonderful dribbling skill, the type that allows her to beat an opponent two or three times, although once and on your way does the job. FIU's best scoring chances came from junior Alyssa Robinson, who put one shot over the net and eschewed another shot from scoring range for a pass that went awry.

Like the men, the women fell just short of a good, nationally-respected opponent.


The first game is in three days. That is all.


August 28, 2015

Forcing Futbol Feet to the Fire


Friday -- Women's soccer vs. UCF, 7 p.m.

Friday -- Volleyball vs. North Florida, 7 p.m.

Saturday -- Volleyball vs. Alabama A&M, noon

Saturday -- Volleyball vs. South Florida, 6 p.m.

Thursday -- Men's soccer vs. Fairfield, 7 p.m.

While FIU women's soccer hosts formerly-ranked Central Florida in a measuring stick game tonight, men's soccer opens the season with a pair of measuring stick games that could easily turn into Big Mama yardstick spankings:

At No. 5 North Carolina in its season-opener tonight; at Wake Forest, which received Top 25 votes, Sunday.

Opening the season with Ali, then Frazier is the idea of head coach Scott Calabrese. The early damage it could do to the record he hopes gets countered by the later benefit in Conference USA, no ACC in soccer but home to two Top 25 teams (No. 17 Charlotte, No. 24 Old Dominion) and three others that received votes (UAB, Kentucky, New Mexico).

"When you play at Chapel Hill and you play at Wake Forest, they have an ability to expose things you do wrong and they'll punish you for it," Calabrese said. "We'll learn a lot about our team. UNC is a team that is usually in contention for a national championship. Playing them will set a standard for what it is to be in that position. The speed of play, how do we measure up to that?"

Last year's results reflected the reality of FIU men's soccer having a first-year coach being the third in four seasons of a program that's been buffeted by NCAA penalties and loss of national relevancy. Their 6-9-1 record included some fine performances but a 2-6 conference record left them outside the CUSA tournament.

Calabrese voiced similar hopes to those stated to me earlier in the day by volleyball's Rita Buck-Crockett.

(For that matter, all the fall sports -- men's soccer, women's soccer, volleyball, football -- spent their 2014 seasons malnourished on wins after losses during which they could smell victory cooking.

"You learn how to win games, not just play games as you mature," Calabrese said. "I think we have a group that's more mature and focused. Do we have an ability to turn good performances into results? Overall, I'd say this team that's starting to come together is more cohesive on and off the field. 

They lost three-time All-Region striker Quentin Albrecht, who led or tied for the team scoring lead each of his four years. Senior midfielder Daniel Gonzalez is the leading returning scorer (nine points). Gonzalez, preseason All-CUSA defender Marvin Hezel and midfielder Donald Tomlinson tie as the leading returning goal scorers (two each).

Making up Albrecht's production (eight goals, two assists last year), Calabrese said, "might be a midfielder scoring four or five, a striker getting six or seven goals, another player chipping in with three or four. I do think we have multiple players who can help us score goals."

The coaches picked FIU sixth. Calabrese figures if the Panthers get into the top four, that'll mean they're playing at a Top 25 level.

Friday, they'll see if they can play at a Top 5 level.


Thursday, starting at 5 p.m., there's a watch party at the Chili's in the Graham Center ("The GC") for FIU's season opener at UCF. You veterans without Friday classes can start your weekend. Those of you with Friday classes can start your weekend, too, it's just that you might pay for it one way or the other.

August 26, 2015

Getting It Together


Women's soccer -- Friday vs. No. 17 UCF, 7 p.m.

Volleyball -- Panther Challenge, Friday vs. North Florida, 7 p.m.

Volleyball -- Panther Challenge, Saturday vs. Alabama A&M, noon

Volleyball -- Panther Challenge, Saturday vs. South Florida, 6 p.m.

Now, you can walk the walk between FIU Arena and the soccer "stadium" without fear of getting conked by a wayward shot put or discus. North of the International Hurricane Research Center and south of the ROTC area, there's a field in front of a hammer throw cage and two discus/shot put circles.


Over in FIU Stadium, there's a dry land diving board -- I can't help but think it looks like a prop out of High-Diving Hare -- to help Swim & Dive keep cranking out its run of dominant divers.

The new softball locker room is running behind, but is running.

Meanwhile, eight football players got to play Santa Claus/UPS Guy/Jesse/Whatever Delivery Man Brings You Happiness by bringing season tickets to fans on campus while wearing jerseys to stand out among their fellow students (like they blend anyway). These pictures courtesy FIU Athletic Department.


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That's Provost Kenneth Furton.


The replacement for Compliance Director Hank Harrawood, the best thing to happen to that department in a while, is Jessica Reo. Reo also gets "Special Projects" attached her "Senior Associate Athletic Director for Compliance" title. Hey, mon, when a dollar needs to be stretched, it's all about how many jobs you can do. Reo worked in compliance at the other Division I/FBS school in town for seven years, but the spent the last seven years as director for student services in Central Florida's athletic department.


Need to grab some water. These crackers are making me thirsty.

August 24, 2015

Monday Hurts


Women's soccer -- Friday vs. UCF, 7 p.m.
Volleyball -- Friday, Panther Challenge vs. North Florida, 7 p.m.
Volleyball -- Saturday, Panther Challenge vs. Alabama A&M, noon
Volleyball -- Saturday, Panther Challenge vs. South Florida, 6 p.m.

It's Emancipation Day for parents and No Parking On The Dance Floor or Anywhere Else Day for FIU students: the first day of school.

Looking around after the football class at FIU Stadium, the Orange Crush injury jerseys draped the frames of redshirt freshman right tackle Kai Absheer, who had worked his way to the top of the depth chart; sophomore wide receiver Shawn Abrams, one of FIU's potential threats for bombs and red zone fades; and redshirt sophomore linebacker Jordan Guest.

FIU coach Ron Turner said Guest would be ready for the opener at Central Florida next Thursday. Of Absheer, he said if he wasn't ready for the opener, then by the next week at Indiana. Abrams, like Absheer, got a "we'll see..."

August 20, 2015

First Opening Kickoff Friday & Odds on Another Opening Kickoff


Friday -- Women's Soccer, vs. Dayton, 7 p.m.

The first team marching into its stadium (heh-heh) in this year's parade of FIU sports is, as usual, women's soccer. The team does so not draped in its customary attire of glossy official expectation but rather the plain, unfinished garments of apparent rebuilding.

So what? Recent years' glittery preseason clothes made of great expectations looked terribly out of place on the Panthers' heartbroken Miss Havishams the last few years. Since the 2011 Sun Belt Conference title, FIU lost the 2012 Sun Belt Conference championship game to a North Texas team to which they felt clearly better; lost key players in the front and the back early in 2013; then failed to make the 2014 Conference USA tournament despite what coach Thomas Chestnutt called, "The best team, the most talented team we've had."

In fact, for what little he cares for such projections, Chestnutt sees FIU being picked sixth by Conference USA coaches as something of a compliment. He figures if you finish 10th and lose two of the top scorers in school history, Chelsea Leiva and Ashleigh Shim, and still get picked sixth, "I guess the rest of the conference thinks highly of us."

Fifth-year senior defender Nikki Rios said, "I think we'll be a really big force to be reckoned with this year and I don't think anybody's expecting it. We didn't perform to our best abilities (in 2014) and we're predicted sixth this year. Everybody's saying, 'They've got a lot of new players, they've lost their experience, they're only going to go down from here.' That's not the case at all. We're just going to go up from here because we're so willing to win and win that ring this year. And it's (the Conference USA tournament) on our home turf this year."

Rios said she told teammates and coaches, "Marie, me and Scarlet Montoya are the three fifth-year seniors and we're not leaving without a ring on our finger."

Reminded she was a freshman on the 2011 Sun Belt Conference champions, Rios said, "Marie and I were hurt that year, so we don't really count it as our own."

"Marie," by the way, is defender Marie Egan, Second Team All-Conference USA in 2014 and the lone Panther voted to the preseason all-conference team.

"I don't think I've ever wanted to win this ring more," Egan said.

In addition to the intangible of want-to, the similarly amorphous quality of "chemistry" gets claimed by the Panthers.

"We did lose a lot of experienced players, but we did gain a lot of young new players who are willing to learn and work hard as soon as they came in," Rios said. "I think our chemistry is already building and it'll only get stronger."

Chestnutt said the 2014 team lacked accountability more than chemistry, but "You can have good character people, but they may not be able to hold each other accountable because there's chemistry lacking in the group."

FIU's 25-woman roster includes 10 freshmen plus junior goalkeeper Sophia Trujillo, a Gulliver graduate transferring back home from San Diego State. Chestnutt named defender Taylor Coffee (Pembroke Pines Flanagan); defender Jacqueline Manteas; midfielder Steffi Reischmann; and midfielder Jacqueline Byers among those freshmen who'll see the field often.

"Quite a few players in our new class will have a direct impact immediately," Chestnutt said. "If we're not having three freshmen contribute heavily, we're not doing a good enough job of recruiting."

They'll be the first ones at FIU to find out this year how well they've done recruiting and coaching.


The Las Vegas handicappers put FIU a 17-point underdog at UCF Sept. 3 with the over/under at 46.5.

Now, back to vacation. See you when classes start.


August 17, 2015

60 Minutes (or so) on Sunday


Friday: Women's Soccer vs. Dayton, 7 p.m.

Sunday's practice and scrimmage looked about how you'd expect -- Manwich early, meatier later. Afterwards, FIU coach Ron Turner pressed more flesh than Jeb Bush between current players' parents, high school coaches and recruits (you might have to go back to the high school playoffs to find the last time that much Central green was at FIU Stadium).  

Let's get the injury report out of the way before we get to whatever analysis you can make of a training camp scrimmage.

The Home Depot team roster looked too good for comfort, but as of now only sophomore running back Napoleon Maxwell's a long term issue. Maxwell will have season-ending surgery to repair a torn ACL in his left knee and will redshirt this season. When I saw him limp off after practice the day he injured the knee, I thought it didn't look good, but figured only an outside chance it would be that bad. Light sprain, probably.

You hope the injury that put senior outside linebacker Davison Colimon's in orange isn't long term because it's his head. Colimon got a concussion Tuesday. Junior middle linebacker Treyvon Williams sat out with an ankle injury. Both could be back Tuesday when FIU resumes practice. Everybody speaks cautiously these days about concussions, as they should.

Also in orange was senior defensive end Denzell Perine. Unlike Colimon and Williams, Perine could do some of the non-contact running around, so he's in the Small-to-No Problem column.

Seeing all the Central heads reminded me to ask about incoming freshman cornerback Olin Cushion. Cushion had shoulder surgery in the spring. He'll be grayshirted this year and enroll in January. Same with Neptune Beach Fletcher offensive tackle Andrew Burgess, another 2015 signee.

On to the scrimmage.

The Skill Position Player of the Night: sophomore wide receiver Thomas Owens made the best catch of warmups, a one-handed grab of a knee-high 10-to-15-yard throw while he kept stride. Both the first and second string offenses resembled the blah attacks of the last two seasons when quarterback Alex McGough fired a right sideline throw that cornerback Richard Leonard looked positioned to pick off. Somehow, the ball materialized on the other side of Leonard into Owens hands as he tapped in a 13-yard third down conversion. Leonard appeared to applaud the throw and/or the catch. It would've been worthy praise. Owens later caught a lovely 26-yard pass over the middle from redshirt freshman quarterback Bud Martin. Turner said the difference in Martin this year is decision-making.

Lineman of the Night: Any of the ones who didn't get flagged for false starts or offsides. A defensive end being offside, especially on a passing down, is expected once in a while. Defensive tackles? If the ball that's a foot from your face doesn't move, red light. The defensive tackles blew through that hint and a half the way South Florida drivers blow through Stop signs (do drivers these days think Stop signs are sponsored by Publix's BOGO bargains, thus are two for one?). A helpful offensive lineman would give the 5 yards back by flinching or fidgeting.

The first team offensive line had redshirt freshman Chris Miller at Jordan Budwig's left guard spot. Mike Montero took center. Aaron Nielsen got moved back to right tackle. Before that, however, redshirt freshman Kai Absheer worked at right tackle. Junior Edens Sineace did second team duty at right tackle.

Out in the middle of the field, FIU's three first team receivers were Owens and Clinton Taylor with sophomore Dennis Turner moving Taylor to the slot in three-receiver sets. On the goal line, they went with Clinton Taylor, freshman Anthony Jones and Owens. Jones flared right to catch Alex McGough's rollout 1-yard touchdown pass on third and goal after Silas Spearman's two shots from the 2 gained 1-yard, then no yards into defensive tackle Darrian Dyson's bulk. Alex Gardner opened the scrimmage at running back, then Anthon Samuel got some carries before Spearman, senior Lamarq Caldwell and freshman Collin Olsen took the rest of the scrimmage.

The next drive ended with a Men II Boyz How Not to Tackle lesson from senior tight end Akil Dan-Fodio, 6-4, 225, to freshman Jestin Green, 6-0, 175. Green tried to bring Dan-Fodio down by the shoulders as Dan-Fodio collected a Bud Martin pass. Dan-Fodio shrugged like a babysitting older brother and dumped Green over the sidelines, then rumbled into the end zone.

Colimon and Williams on the sideline meant the first unit linebackers were redshirt sophomore Vontarius West, graduated senior Jephete Matilus and sophomore Anthony Wint. Matilus came out of Delray Beach Atlantic as a linebacker, got switched to fullback while at Minnesota, now is a graduate with a year of eligibility left. At least one site ranked West as FIU's best recruit in 2013 when he came out of Bartow as a safety.

"We felt we had depth at safety. We felt (West) had the body type and athleticism to help inside," Turner said. "He was a very aggressive safety and seemed pretty instinctive. Smart kid. We figured, let's take a look at him. He looked pretty good. He's a fast linebacker maybe not quite as fast as a safety that you'd want. Not that he couldn't play safety. He could. He's a very athletic linebacker. He's shown some instincts, reading things, deciphering plays."

You can see why Turner's high on freshman cornerback Emmanuel Lubin who was paired with redshirt freshman Mark Bruno out of Pembroke Pines Flanagan as the second cornerback pair behind Richard Leonard and Jeremiah McKinnon. Lubin made some nice breaks on the ball and did something disruptive when he arrived on the scene. You could also see that he's a freshman. The scrimmage ended when freshman Maurice Alexander gave a shoulder fake, Lubin bought it like french fries and freshman Mark Hutchinson raced past Lubin to catch a 37-yard bomb. 

Speaking of sold, backup Trey Anderson scored on a nice bootleg run around left end on which the defense was so suckered, only one block needed to be thrown for Anderson in about 20 yards.

As far as punting, Chris Ayers got off a returnable 56-yarder, a returnable 42-yarder and, from 43 yards away, dropped a punt that Deonte Wilson downed at the 2. Freshman Stone Wilson put a 46-yarder out of bounds and booted a 56-yarder rugby style.


August 15, 2015

Saturday in La Cage

Sophomore running back Napoleon Maxwell, part of FIU's very good trio of running backs, has a left knee injury that had him in the Home Depot orange injury jersey and on crutches Saturday.

“We should have a final answer for the next day or two whether it’s going to be surgery or whether or not it’s going to be a sprain and we’ll get him back,” FIU coach Ron Turner said. “We’re concerned about it.”

Maxwell didn't get hit or get his cleats caught in the turf, Turner said. He just took a bad step.

Turner's high on freshman defensive back Emmanuel Lubin, who certainly has the lineage -- out of North Miami Beach, which produced Lubin's brother, Philadelphia cornerback E.J. Biggers; stepbrother, Dolphins safety Louis Delmas; and, of course, FIU's all-time tackler, Jacksonville safety Johnathan Cyprien.
Turner uses the word "smooth" to describe Lubin as an athlete. There's two safety jobs open. Nothing says a freshman can't get one of them.

Just did my game-by-game analysis for our football special sections. It came out 6-6, which means FIU's most likely records are 5-7 or 7-5.
In 2011, I picked FIU to go 9-3, 6-2 in the Sun Belt, and they came in 8-4, 5-3. I underestimated the 2013 disaster at 3-9, 2-6 in Conference USA instead of the 1-11, 1-7 Irwin Allen movie that it was. Last year's fortune telling came out at 3-9, 2-6 and FIU came out 4-8, 3-5. (We won't discuss 2012).

August 12, 2015

Wednesday Droppings

Pick your Lotto numbers well.

I asked Ron Turner who looked good among the receivers after a week of training camp. He named fifth-year senior Clinton Taylor, who works out of the slot; sophomore Dennis Turner ("he's picked it up"); looks-taller-than-6-1 sophomore Thomas Owens ("he's picked up where he was in the spring"); and Shawn Abrams.   

Freshman Anthony Jones and junior college transfer Julian Williams "are progressing really well," according to Turner.

If I had to guess, on Sept. 3, UCF will see Taylor and Owens as the wideouts in the double-tight end set to open the game.

In talking to redshirt junior defensive lineman Imarjaye Albury for tomorrow's story on the cost of attendance stipend, I asked him what he would do differently if he had to go through his recruiting again.

"I would've taken all my visits, looked at all the schools that offered me a scholarship," Albury said. "I would've held every conversation with every coach. I would've looked at every aspect of a school, not just its name, how it is publicity-wise and TV-wise."

Today, as I went through my old Sports Illustrated's, I ran across the 1986 College and Pro Football Preview Issue. I read a story I somehow hadn't read before -- I used to truly go cover to cover with those SI previews -- written by just departed Pitt player Robert Schilken on life as a college football backup. Schilken, who played four years then entered Pitt's med school, wrote something similar to what Albury said to me about an hour later -- consider everything when you choose a school, not just football.

Football can go sideways on you.


The unofficial opening of the sports season -- FIU hosts the Hurricanes at 7 p.m. Thursday for a little preseason skirmish.

The women footballers also open the official athletic season a week from Friday against Dayton at FIU Soccer Stadium (ahem).


August 11, 2015

Radio Static

FIU football will be back on 1210 ESPNDeportes for all 12 games this season. So when your cable goes on the fritz, there will be an alternative besides Twitter.

When the school didn't include the broadcast team in the announcement, it indicates a change in that department. Most likely, play-by-play man Mike Levine won't have Pete Pelegrin's encyclopedic knowledge of FIU football history at his disposal this season as color analyst.


At last report, FIU Swimming & Diving coach Randy Horner was seventh in The Herald's Best South Florida Coach poll. Former FIU baseball coach Danny Price, now at Miami-Dade College, is fifth.




August 05, 2015

29 Days

That's not the sequel to a Sandra Bullock flick about addiction. That's how many days until the college-affiliated football addiction for FIU fans gets satiated with the season opener against Central Florida.

Until then, there's training camp, more "training" than "camp." And FIU enters this phase with fewer questions than most teams coming off a 4-8 season.

Quarterback? Barring a positive drug test or arrest, neither of which seems likely, that'll be sophomore Alex McGough. Redshirt freshman Bud Martin will try to break up the Alexander monopoly on the quarterback position led by McGough and supplemented by the freshman Alexanders, Christian Alexander and Maurice Alexander.

Running back? Senior Anthon Samuel, sophomore Alex Gardner and sophomore Napoleon Maxwell stand above the running back pack.

Tight end? Junior Jonnu Smith (duh) and Ya'Keem Griner or senior Akil Dan-Fodio.

Offensive line: "We've got three starters back we feel good about," FIU coach Ron Turner said. Those would be left tackle Dieugot Joseph, left guard Jordan Budwig (24 for 24 on starts)

"Some other guys have to step up. Whether it's (junior) Edens Sineace, (junior) Trenton Saunders, whoever. I think they will. They did some good things in the spring." Senior Aaron Nielsen will be moved from right tackle, where Turner thought he was out of position, to center. 

Defensive line: Seniors Michael Wakefield and Denzell Perine on the ends. Redshirt junior Imarjaye Albury and either senior Lars Koht or senior Darrian Dyson as the tackles.

Linebackers: Senior Davison Colimon and sophomore Anthony Wint flanking junior Treyvon Williams.

Safties: Redshirt junior Jordan Davis and sophomore Shemarke Spence, who got time at safety later in the 2014 season. Expect redshirt juinor Deonte Wilson to challenge both.

Cornerbacks: Fifth-year senior Richard Leonard on one side, senior Jeremiah McKinnon covering the Leonard-Free Zone. 

Kicker: Junior Austin Taylor's the incumbent, but kickers define "fungible."

Punter: Senior Jose Laphitzondo and see "Kicker."

Notice I left wide receiver off this list. That's where the battles for position and playing time truly lay. And they begin today.

August 01, 2015

Football Practice Schedule (You Can't Come Yet)

Along with the football summer training camp practice schedule, FIU announced practices would be closed. I'm sure they'll be open via invitation at some point.

Wednesday: 9:05-11:30 a.m.

Thursday-Aug. 10; Aug. 12-17; Aug. 19-22; Aug. 24: 8:05-11:30 a.m.

Aug. 14, 16, 19, 21: Second practice at 7:15-8:30 p.m.

Aug. 11, 18, 23: No practice

FIU got more pledges Friday when Tallahasee Leon safety Damien Crumitie gave his word to Camp Mitch, as did Matt Kramer, Lakeland High defensive end. Crumitie is rated at three stars by and two stars by Kramer's unrated by both services.

July 31, 2015

Big Possibility Pencils in FIU

Look what happens when Ron Turner puts Tim Harris, Jr. on staff at FIU as running backs coach.

Arkansas wanted Central linebacker Donavan Thompson, rated at three stars by, like he was a Waffle House. Offer on the table and everything. But if you play football in that part of town, you know Harris, former coach at Booker T. Washington. So, you give a little more of your ear to the man when he talks to you about FIU. It also doesn't hurt when three very good teammates -- defensive lineman Fermin Silva, cornerback Olin Cushion, wide receiver/running back/offensive nitro Anthony Jones -- head for FIU with the idea of building an annual bowl team.

So, for now, Thompson gave the Heisman pose to Arkansas and the other Power Five schools said to be in pursuit and declared his sort-of commitment to FIU Thursday, as detailed here by David Furones. As Thompson described it, it's more like he and FIU are talking than going steady. As we know, nobody's fully yours until somebody puts a ring on the finger or name on the LOI.

Norland defensive back Bryon Brown pledged FIU earlier in the day. Brown's not rated by any of the recruiting sites yet. 



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