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2007 Florida International Preview
Posted May 10, 2007

Preview 2007 Florida International Preview

FIU Golden Panthers

Preview 2007

By Pete FIUtak

- 2007 FIU Offense Preview | 2007 FIU Defense Preview
2007 FIU Depth Chart | 2006 CFN FIU Preview 

There are bad seasons, there are bizarre seasons, and then there are bizarre, bad seasons that couldn’t possibly be scripted in any coach’s worst nightmare.

How strange was 2006 for FIU? The defense wasn’t statistically the best in the Sun Belt, but it was fourth in the nation against the pass and 28th overall and first in the league in tackles for loss. That alone should’ve made the Golden Panthers contenders for the Sun Belt championship. Throw veteran quarterback Josh Padrick into the mix, and you have a trip to the New Orleans Bowl planned.


Head coach: Mario Cristobal
1st year
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 21, Def. 22, ST 3
Lettermen Lost: 17
Ten Best FIU Players
1. CB/kR Lionell Singleton, Sr.
2. DT Roland Clarke, Sr.
3. FS Jer. Weatherspoon, Jr.
4. DT Jonas Murrell, Soph.
5. DE Jarvis Penerton, Jr.
6. CB Robert Mitchell, Jr.
7. LB Wendy Napoleon, Soph.
8. RB Julian Reams, Jr.
9. QB Paul McCall, Soph.
10. RB A'mod Ned, Jr.

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction:

Sept. 1

at Penn State

Sept. 8


Sept. 15

at Miami

Sept. 22

at Kansas

Sept. 29

at Middle Tenn

Oct. 6


Oct. 20

at UL Monroe

Oct. 27

at Arkansas

Nov. 3

at Arkansas State

Nov. 17

UL Lafayette

Nov. 24

Florida Atlantic

Dec. 1

North Texas

2006 Schedule
2006 Record: 0-12

8/31 at MTSU L 7-6
9/9 at South Florida L 21-20
9/16 Bowling Green L 33-28
9/23 at Maryland L 14-10
9/30 Arkansas State L 31-6
10/7 at No Texas 25-22 7OT
10/14 at Miami L 35-0
10/28 at Alabama L 38-3
11/4 UL Monroe L 35-0
11/18 UL Lafayette L 17-7
11/25 at Florida Atlantic L 31-0
12/2 Troy L 26-13

FIU lost its first four games by a combined 11 points, lost in seven overtimes to North Texas, got into a fight with Miami, lost half its team, canned head coach Don Strock, and now is starting from scratch under Mario Cristobal.

In the end, the horrible year might have turned out to be a good thing if Cristobal is as good as expected. A tireless recruiter with good ties to the Miami area, he should be able to quickly reload the talent base. Enough starters return on both sides of the ball to expect a big turnaround as long as there’s better offensive production, and a little bit of luck. The program hasn’t gotten much of either since moving to D-I.

The offense needs Paul McCall to be a decent leader in place of Padrick, but most importantly, the line needs to give him time to work; a luxury Padrick didn’t have last year. There has to be some semblance of a rushing attack, the receivers have to make more plays, and after finishing dead last in scoring with 23 points scored over the final six games, there has to be scoring from somewhere. 

The defense won’t be as good without star LB Keyonvis Bouie and end Antwan Barnes, but it should still be stingy against the mediocre Sun Belt passing games and should continue to get into the backfield.

Can FIU go from worst to first? If Cristobal’s energy counts for anything, and if the overall karma goes the other way, it’s very possible.

What to watch for on offense: The quarterback situation. It might not be settled until midway through the year. Paul McCall is the starter out of spring ball by default, but that might quickly change once the recruits come in. Bryan Mann is the best prospect of the group and could quickly see playing time.

What to watch for on defense: More of the same. FIU’s secondary will be excellent with all four starters returning, the defensive front will be big and experienced, and the run defense, against the average teams, will be just fine. There will still be a few problems getting all the players back in place after the Miami fallout, but this will still be an attacking group that will make plenty of noise if the star linebackers can be replaced.

The team will be far better if … it can punt. The margin between being a Sun Belt champion and last place is thinner than any other conference, so doing all the little things right is a must. For FIU, part of the improvement has to come from the punting game that netted a nation-low 27-18 yards per boot. Part of the problem was Chris Cook and Chris Patullo, who struggled to get much blast, and part of the problem was the poor coverage.

The Schedule: It’s strange. Forget about the non-conference slate (at Penn State, Maryland, at Miami, at Kansas, and at Arkansas), and starting the year with four road games in September isn’t a plus. To make matters worse, FIU starts the year with seven road dates in the first nine, and the home games are against Maryland and likely Sun Belt favorite, Troy. On the plus side, the last three games are at home against UL Lafayette, Florida Atlantic, and North Texas.

Best Offensive Player: Junior RBs Julian Reams and A’mod Ned. This could quickly change if some of the young running backs (Trenared Turner and Devon Freeman) emerge, but going into the year, Reams and Ned are two good backs who need to get the ball in space far more often.

Best Defensive Player: Senior CB Lionell Singleton. He received a little bit of All-Sun Belt mention, and now he’ll be among the league’s best all-around defensive backs as well as a top kick and punt returner. The stats might not be there with teams likely to stay away from him, but he’ll make his presence felt against the run, if nothing else.

Key player to a successful season: The entire offensive line. The good: all five starters return. The bad: all five starters return. The line was awful last season, but it was young and rarely consistent from one game to the next. Now the tackles, Andy Leavine and Dustin Gibson, have to be better in pass protection, and the good-sized interior has to start opening up some holes.

The season will be a success if ... FIU wins four games. That could be a taller order than it appears with only five home games, and two of them (Maryland and Troy) likely losses. The defense will be good, and the offense can’t help but be better, but 4-8 would be a nice stepping-stone to 2008.

Key game: Sept. 29 at Middle Tennessee. It’ll be tough as the fourth road game in five weeks, and Middle Tennessee will be one of the league’s top teams, but this is a must-win to show that things have quickly changed around under Cristobal. The Golden Panthers almost won last year in Murfreesboro losing 7-6.

2006 Fun Stats: 
- Fourth quarter scoring: Opponents 86 – FIU 19
- Average points per game: Opponents 26.1 – FIU 9.6
- Field goals: Opponents 13 of 2 – FIU 5 of 11


Related Stories
2007 Florida International Preview - Offense
 -by  May 10, 2007
2007 Florida International Preview - Defense
 -by  May 10, 2007
2007 FIU Preview - Depth Chart
 -by  May 10, 2007

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