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2008 CFN FIU Preview
Florida International RB A'Mod Ned
Florida International RB A'Mod Ned
Posted Apr 23, 2008 2008 Preview - Florida International Golden Panthers

FIU Golden Panthers

Preview 2008

By Pete FIUtak

- 2008 CFN FIU Preview | 2008 FIU Offense
- 2008 FIU Defense | 2008 FIU Depth Chart
- 2007 CFN FIU Preview | 2006 CFN FIU Preview 

Head coach: Mario Cristobal
2nd year: 1-11
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 23, Def. 28, ST 4
Lettermen Lost: 19
Ten Best FIU Players
1. LB Scott Bryant, Jr.
2. SS Jeremiah Weatherspoon, Sr.
3. FS Ashlyn Parker, Jr.
4. C Brad Serini, Soph.
5. OT Andy Leavine, Jr.
6. CB Anthony Gaitor, Soph.
7. RB A'mod Ned, Sr.
8. LB Mannie Wellington, Jr.
9. RB Julian Reams, Sr.
10. QB Paul McCall, Jr.

2008 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2008 Record: 0-0

Aug. 30 at Kansas
Sept. 6 at Iowa
Sept. 13 OPEN DATE
Sept. 20 South Florida
Sept. 27 at Toledo
Oct. 4 at North Texas
Oct. 11 Middle Tennessee
Oct. 18 at Troy
Nov. 1 at UL Lafayette
Nov. 8 Arkansas State
Nov. 22 at Florida Atlantic
Nov. 29 UL Monroe
Dec. 6 Western Kentucky

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2007 Record: 1-

Sept. 1 at Penn State L 59-0
Sept. 8 Maryland L 26-10
Sept. 15 at Miami L 23-9
Sept. 22 at Kansas L 55-3
Sept. 29 at Middle Tenn L 47-6
Oct. 6 Troy L 34-16
Oct. 20 at UL Monroe L 28-14
Oct. 27 at Arkansas L 58-10
Nov. 3 at Arkansas St L 27-24
Nov. 17 UL Lafayette L 38-28
Nov. 24
Florida Atlantic L 55-23
Dec. 1 North Texas W 38-19

It has been a slow and painful process to get FIU football rolling, and it hasn't helped much that Florida Atlantic, a natural geographical rival, has become the new star of the Sun Belt. Under Mario Cristobal, the young head coach who's trying to navigate the rough waters in his second season, the potential is there for things to start changing around in a bit of a hurry.

To start, the offense needs to be more productive. The passing game was among the most inefficient in recent history, the team scored a mere 28 points in the first five games, and even though things picked up at the end of the season, FIU still finished last in America in scoring offense averaging 15 points per game.

All the problems on offense have taxed a defense that was trying to retool, too. The linebacking corps needed to start from near-scratch, the line was working in several young players, including a few true freshmen, and the secondary was getting its feet wet around Lionell Singleton, who graduated this year.

Now, it's up to Cristobal, known for being a tireless recruiter, has worked to provide instant upgrades all over the place, and while his efforts will take a while to bring results, he has the wheels in motion for what should be a stronger program over the next few seasons.

Having to overcome youth, suspensions, academic issues and poor play on the field, the Golden Panthers now need to take a few positive steps forward. Those began late last year as the offense picked up over the final month, there was a win over North Texas to close things out, and now the team has to start producing.

The coaching staff is in place, there's depth, stability, a little bit of talent, and a whole bunch of hope. The program appears to have hit rock-bottom, and now the turnaround is coming. It just might take a year for it to all completely come together.

What to watch for on offense: The quarterback situation. This was an issue last year, and while Wayne Younger might be the more dynamic player with the bigger upside, the offense didn't start to move until Paul McCall took over. Younger's collarbone injury allowed McCall to step in, and now there will be a battle to run new offensive coordinator Bill Legg's new spread offense.

What to watch for on defense: More of an attitude. Last year's defense spent the year trying to figure out what it was doing. This year's group is seasoned, salty, and ready to make more big plays. It showed as spring ball went on as the D started to make more big plays and start to be more aggressive. Now there should be more of a pass rush and more attacking.

The team will be far better if … it can turn around the turnover margin. Only Baylor, Hawaii and North Texas turned the ball over more. Interceptions were the biggest problem as Younger struggled to get the passing game going. He was a strong option because of his running skills, but several hopeful drives kept dying because of turnovers. They have to stop.

The Schedule: Six of the first eight games are on the road including Sun Belt battles with North Texas, Troy and UL Lafayette, but on the plus side, three of the final four games are at home with the one road date at Florida Atlantic. The non-conference schedule is tough, as expected, starting out at Kansas and Iowa, and with a date against South Florida, but Toledo and, in what is technically a non-conference game against Western Kentucky, aren't too bad. The key will be to get to the second half of the season alive. If FIU can somehow win two of its first seven games, it'll have a shot at its best year since joining the D-I ranks.

Best Offensive Player: Junior C Brad Serini. One of the team's ironmen last season as the leader of the line, he is on the verge of becoming an all-star. While not huge at 275 pounds, he's a tough mauler who'll get better and better with a little more experience.

Best Defensive Player:
Junior LB Scott Bryant. One of the biggest question marks going into last season was the linebacking corps that underwent a total overhaul. Bryant came through with a huge year leading the team in tackles while being a key playmaker in the backfield. Now he's the leader of a quick, rising corps that should be far better.

Key player to a successful season: Junior QB Paul McCall ... or sophomore QB Wayne Younger. Any improvement in the record only comes with a more efficient passing game, and while Younger will get his shot when he returns from injury this fall, McCall ran the spread offense well this spring and could be the catalyst to a rebound of a year.

The season will be a success if ... FIU wins five games. That would require a major turnaround in several areas and a lot of luck, but there's enough experience to hope for a big change. Some conference road wins are a must and a late season flurry will have to come, but it's possible if the team makes the strides it did at the end of last year.

Key game: Oct. 4 at North Texas. The win over the Mean Green was FIU's lone victory last season, and now a win to start out the Sun Belt year is a must before dealing with Middle Tennessee, at Troy and at UL Lafayette to follow. The secondary will be tested by the UNT passing game, while it should be one of the first big chances for the Golden Panther spread offense to get on track.

2007 Fun Stats: 
- Scoring quarters 1 through 3: Opponents 374 – FIU 115
- Red zone scores: Opponents 58 of 64 (91%) – FIU 13 of 22 (59%)
- First downs: Opponents 252 – FIU 165