Saturday, August 28, 2004
The FIU Football team practiced in full pads Saturday for the last time before the Golden Panthers season opener next Thursday night against Jacksonville.
Going into a third season of intercollegiate football, head coach Don Strock brought in Bernard "Tiger" Clark as the program's first defensive coordinator. Clark, a star University of Miami linebacker in the late 1980s and MVP of the 1988 Orange Bowl, brings a new intensity to the coaching staff, one that has already caught the attention of his linebacking corps and the entire defense.
"The things I want to bring to the table are discipline, aggressiveness and an overall fun for the game of football," Clark said. "I know no one likes practice, but I tell the players every day, it's necessary. In order to become a better player, you need to come out and get better at something every single day."
Clark has been on the job for last spring's practices and this fall, and while he is still holding out final judgment on a number of his defensive players, he know what he wants and who he wants results from.
"We do have a number of guys we're expecting a great deal from this season," he said. "[Defensive end] Daunte Foster (Hollywood/Hollywood Christian) comes off the ball and rushes the passer well. Our linebackers have speed but they all still have a lot to learn. I am expecting a lot of big things from them but they all need to improve on what they did for us last year.
"The secondary was one of the better aspects of our team last season. They are pretty solid. We've got some guys who play good man coverage and we've got some aggressive guys there. But we also have guys who still need to step it up."
While Clark sees that players have been responding to his coaching style and believes he has seen improvement, he won't confuse his current Golden Panthers with some of the former teams he's played on.
"I honestly don't think we have any great players here yet, but we do have some good ones. Now, it's just of matter of honing our skills to get to where we need to be as far as a defense. Moving from I-AA to Division I is a big step and many of our players still need to grasp where we're going."
Saturday's workout produced no new injuries other than offensive tackle Dustin Gibson (Quincy) who suffered from some heat difficulties. He is not expected to miss any practice time.
The team will take Sunday off and return to practice Monday afternoon from around 3:00-5:30 p.m., as workouts shift to the afternoons with the start of fall-semester classes.
Season tickets and seats for the Jacksonville game are still available at all Ticketmaster outlets, the Golden Panther Arena Ticket Office, charge by phone via Ticketmaster in Miami-Dade at (305) 358-5885, in Broward at (954) 523-3309, in Palm Beach at (561) 966-3309 or online at ticketmaster.com and FIUsports.com.
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