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FIU Preview 2006 - Further Analysis

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Aug 8, 2006


FIU Golden Panthers Preview 2006 - FIU Further Analysis

1st and Ten – One More Year – As a former QB, head coach Don Strock must understand the advantage of having a signal caller with a plethora of experience.  The QB doesn’t always have to be the best player or the most important to his team, but there’s something so valuable about having experience in that position.  Well, in that case, Strock should be happier than a clam with his QB situation, one Josh Padrick, back for his final year at the helm.  Padrick, a former Merritt Island Mustang, was a second team All-Sun Belt conference selection last year, after throwing for over 2,400 yards and 13 touchdowns.  Considering that he was able to have this kind of year with virtually no running game, it speaks volumes about how gutty and tough this kid is.  But, trying to replicate that season is going to be difficult with no more progress in the running game.  Consider this, the Golden Panthers won the last three games of the year, and in those games, the offense averaged 437 yards in total offense – 186 rushing, 251 passing – 43%-57% split.  In a key four game SBC stretch in the middle of the season, where FIU went 1 and 3, the run/pass balance was closer to 20%-80%.  The point being that Padrick will need more balance in the run game to have an even better season, from a W-L perspective.  He might take matters into his own hands, running the ball more, as he did in those last three wins of the year, but he’s not getting paid, if you will, to tote the mail.  He’s a guy who can deliver the ball to his WR/TE, and with star WR Chandler Williams back for another year, he does have a weapon at his disposal.

2nd and Seven – The Key for Keyonvis – The town of Pahokee, Florida doesn’t resonate with many across the nation, but those knowledgeable about Florida high school football know how good players are from that city.  Heard of Anquan Boldin, star for the Arizona Cardinals?  He’s probably the best to come out of that town, but there’ve been others as well.  Alphonso Smith is arguably the best cover corner in the ACC at Wake Forest.  And, FIU has one of their own in linebacker Keyonvis Bouie.  At only 6’ and 225, he doesn’t quite look the part, but if you’re looking at only his size, forget it – this kid is a star.  He finished last year with 118 tackles (in only nine games) and earned 2005 Sun Belt Defensive player of the year honors.  He returns, along with stud DE Antwan Barnes, to wreck havoc on offenses in this league.  Bouie is a solid tackler and is ultra quick to the ball, so don’t expect those numbers to wane this year in the slightest – he does have to do Pahokee proud.

3rd and Three – Help Wanted – offensive line positions open and available – Having your QB back for another season is valuable, no question.  Having to replace much of your offensive line from the year before, well, that’s a nightmare for that returning QB and his coaching staff.  Consequently, that’s the predicament facing Padrick and the Golden Panthers this year – the offensive line returns only one guy who started a game last year, and Ronny Silva sat most of the year with a broken leg.  Former Miami Hurricane and current OL coach Leon Searcy may need to get some production out of his true freshmen and redshirt freshmen to build for the future.  However, throwing those youngsters into the fire so early is dangerous to say the least.  Considering how much better the FIU offense was when they ran the ball equally as well as they threw the ball, it’s imperative that this OL rounds into shape quickly.

4th and One – Be careful of what you wish for – Building a program in the state of Florida, it’s hard not to look at what Bobby Bowden did in Tallahassee for FSU back in the late 1970s/early 1980s.  Bowden had the chutzpah and confidence to take on anyone, anywhere.  Given the type of program Strock wants at FIU, he’s seemingly going down the same path, if this year’s schedule is any indication.  Outside of the Sun Belt, the Panthers play Miami, Alabama, USF, Maryland and their patsy is (tongue in cheek of course) Bowling Green.  Yikes, that might be the most ambitious non-conference schedule of any team not named Notre Dame.  But, if they can come out of those games without any major injuries, they’ll be better for it.  The speed with which those teams play will give FIU an added boost when they hit November for the bulk of their Sun Belt games.  It may not be pretty for those five games, especially with a ‘rookie’ offensive line, but the end result may be more valuable than five potential L’s.

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