Joined: Feb 2004
I Root For: FIU
A few preview articles came out about FIU today, here they are:
First from the Miami Herald:
Quote:Five key questions for Golden Panthers
What's the quarterback situation heading into camp?
Jamie Burke, FIU's original starter before tearing his right anterior cruciate ligament in last season's opener, is healthy and ready to compete with 2003 team MVP Josh Padrick for the starting job. Padrick emerged last season to throw for 2,493 yards. Coach Don Strock said each QB will get equal reps in practice.
How much of an impact will new defensive coordinator Bernard ''Tiger'' Clark have on a mediocre run defense?
After two seasons without a coordinator, the Golden Panthers' defense finally gets a lead voice. The players have been impressed. ''He's strict and no-nonsense,'' defensive back Greg Moss said. ''He will only take perfection. Coach Clark will bring something special to our defense.'' But he can't do the tackling. Clark has said this is the fastest defense he has coached, and FIU is switching to a base 4-3 defense that is expected to contain the run better.
Will FIU finally develop a ''workhorse'' running back to balance its pass-oriented offense?
Injuries decimated the Golden Panthers at this position during their first two seasons, but everyone is healthy now and ready to hit the AstroPlay surface. Rashod Smith, the 2002 team MVP, will get some stiff competition from last season's leading rusher, Adam Gorman, and incoming freshmen Julian Reams, Ben West and J.J. Bass. Keep an eye on Reams, who Strock thinks can be a feature back. The former Coral Reef High standout has the size (5-11, 199 pounds) and will fill out his frame with the help of strength coach Lou DeNeen.
Will the offensive line build on last year's success?
FIU cut its sacks-allowed total in half last season and opened gaping holes for the ground game, so what can offensive line coach Steve Smith's unit do for an encore? It gets deeper, bigger and faster. Freshmen Dustin Gibson and Xavier Shannon, the son of Miami defensive coordinator Randy Shannon, add quickness to the line, and Benjamin Reynolds brings bulk. Victor Cernius and Ed Wenger are the returning pillars.
With a more daunting schedule this season after a two-win season last year, is there reason for optimism?
FIU won't win a Sun Belt title or go to the New Orleans Bowl, but noticeable improvement is not out of the question. Last season, the Golden Panthers lost six of their 12 games by 10 points or fewer and nearly upset then-No. 5 Georgia Southern on the road before losing 37-35 in the final minute. FIU could pull out some of the close games. Said Strock: ``Before, they didn't know what to do in those types of games, but now they'll know when those close games come around that they've been there before and will know what to do.''
-- PETE PELEGRIN
<a href='http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/sports/colleges/fiu/9347207.htm' target='_blank'>http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/sport...fiu/9347207.htm</a>
Two from the Sun-Sentinel:
Quote:Tougher schedule will test Panthers
By Shandel Richardson
Posted August 8 2004
MIAMI · The days of playing lightweights are over for FIU.
Sure, the season opens Sept. 2 against Jacksonville, a non-scholarship program, but a move from Division I-AA to I-A has FIU ready for stronger competition. The Golden Panthers, who endure a two-year probation period before moving up, play four I-A teams and four ranked I-AA opponents this fall.
If that's not enough, FIU begins the 2005 season at Kansas State and Texas Tech.
"I promised the players that we were going to play a major schedule and be I-A before they left," FIU coach Don Strock said. "I didn't think it was going to be this quick. It's a bold move on our part. But to get where we want to be, those were the necessary steps."
FIU finished 2-10 in its second season. Its move to Division I-A is the fastest in NCAA history. Even though this is the first team that will field seniors, Strock felt it was necessary to load up a strong schedule. I-A opponents include Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisiana-Monroe, New Mexico State and FAU, which is also in transition from I-AA to I-A. The Golden Panthers also face Youngstown State, Western Kentucky and Georgia Southern, all traditional I-AA powers.
"I think [the players] understand where we're headed with the program," Strock said. "If we wanted to go 11-1 or 11-0 or 10-1 or whatever, we could've scheduled the teams we did in our first year."
The changes have brought a new enthusiasm. Defensive back Greg Moss said no one is late for workouts, team meetings and practices because of the excitement.
"It's big time," said Moss, one of the nine starters returning on defense. "For the most part, it's the maturity. It's just the little things like that. All around, we're just trying to progress every day."
FIU returns 11 starters on offense, led by sophomore quarterback Josh Padrick. He entered camp last year as the No. 3 quarterback on the depth chart before injuries bumped him into the starting role. He responded by throwing for a school-record 2,493 yards and was named team MVP.
Despite Padrick's success, Strock made an effort to improve recruiting to avoid these risky situations. Padrick had only one backup and the emergency quarterback was wide receiver/kicker Chris Patullo, who played at Western.
"We were one play away from having a wide receiver as our backup," Strock said.
So expect freshmen Tavares Kendrick (Homestead) and Mike Chapman (Orange Park) to provide depth at quarterback. Both were all-county performers. Strock also said he felt the recruiting season improved all question areas, including faster defensive linemen, bigger defensive backs and team speed.
"We felt this was the first year as far as recruiting was concerned that we took it upon ourselves to go out and recruit the players we felt we need in the areas we needed," Strock said. "What we're trying to do is build for the future. And in , when you're playing teams like Kansas State and Texas Tech and Alabama and Iowa, I mean you're testing your team."
Shandel Richardson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted August 8 2004
First practice: Monday.
Up for grabs: The running back spot is wide open. FIU has several candidates, including Rashod Smith, Tori Robinson and Adam Gorman. With injuries last year to Diamos DeMerritt and Smith, Gorman made a name for himself by rushing for a team-high 736 yards. At defensive tackle, Nick Carreno, Brandon Higdon and Pedro Farias will compete for the starting job.
No worries: FIU should be strong again in the secondary, even without Everett Baker. Baker, who had 67 tackles last year, was suspended last month for his alleged involvement in an on-campus robbery. Still, the Golden Panthers have Greg Moss, John Haritan and Nick Turnbull to make up the team's strongest unit. Haritan had 117 tackles last year and Turnbull is a two-time all-Independent selection.
On the spot: Smith has rushed for a school-record 1,062 career yards, but injuries have slowed his production. He played in just six games last year after being voted the team MVP the previous season. If he avoids injuries, he could find himself back in the spotlight. If not, Gorman and Robinson will receive most of the carries again.
Of note: FIU's move to I-A and the arrests of three players have made most of the headlines. The Golden Panthers make the jump from I-AA and will compete in the Sun Belt Conference. Meanwhile, defensive backs Everett Baker and Randy Arnold and running back DeMerritt were suspended for their roles in an alleged on-campus robbery attempt. Quarterback Josh Padrick showed poised after being thrown into the lineup when the starter and backup were injured. Padrick is listed as the starter, but will receive competition from No. 2 David Tabor.
<a href='http://www.sun-sentinel.com/sports/sfl-fiu08aug08,0,4342486.story?coll=sfla-sports-headlines' target='_blank'>http://www.sun-sentinel.com/sports/sfl-fiu...ports-headlines</a>
<a href='http://www.sun-sentinel.com/sports/sfl-fiucapsule08aug08,0,4546244.story?coll=sfla-sports-headlines' target='_blank'>http://www.sun-sentinel.com/sports/sfl-fiu...ports-headlines</a>