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2008 Florida International Preview - Offense

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Apr 23, 2008


CollegeFootballNews.com 2008 Preview - Florida International Golden Panther Offense

FIU Golden Panthers

Preview 2008 - Offense

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

What you need to know:
James Coley had one year as offensive coordinator. His attack finished dead last in the nation in scoring, dead last in passing efficiency, and second-to-last in total offense. In from Purdue comes Bill Legg and a spread attack looking to get the passing game going and get the offense moving. Does FIU have a quarterback who can throw? Paul McCall could be the answer, but Wayne Younger, last year's main man, will get a shot at his old job when he comes back from a collarbone injury. The running backs are experienced, the receivers are promising, and the line should be better. Now the offense has to start producing.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Wayne Younger
121-265, 1,357 yds, 9 TD, 17 INT
Rushing: A'mod Ned
143 carries, 581 yds, 2 TD
Receiving: Jason Frierson
21 catches, 190 yds, 0 TD

Star of the offense: Junior QB Paul McCall & sophomore QB Wayne Younger
Player who has to step up and become a star: McCall & Younger
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore WR Marquis Rolle
Best pro prospect: Sophomore C Brad Serini
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Serini, 2) OT Andy Leavine, 3) McCall
Strength of the offense: Experience, quarterback options
Weakness of the offense:
Passing, running, scoring

Quarterbacks

Projected Starter: While Wayne Younger will get his chance to get the job back, junior Paul McCall will be tough to beat out after a good spring. The 6-0, 198-pounder saw time in 11 games last season and was the team's most effective passer completing 56% of his throws for 413 yards and five touchdowns with one interception, and while he's not the playmaker Younger is, he's a decent runner and is bright enough to handle the new offense. Considering several Ivy League schools were hot after him, smarts won't be an issue.

Projected Top Reserves: 6-2, 178-pound sophomore Wayne Younger is a tall, athletic passer who took over the offense early on, and while he struggled mightily, he showed glimpses of tremendous potential before getting knocked out with a broken collarbone. Still out this spring healing, he'll have to fight to get his starting job back after completing a mere 48% of his throws for 1,357 yards and nine touchdowns with 17 interceptions. On the plus side, he can move finishing second on the team with 536 rushing yards and two scores.

Also in the hunt for starting time is sophomore Colt Anderson, a 6-4, 195-pound pass from Omaha who looked far more polished this spring than he did last year. He got a little bit of mop-up duty and way as bas as he could possibly be completing three of 15 passes for 37 yards with two touchdowns. He's mobile, but he's not the runner McCall and Younger are.

Watch Out For ... a battle this summer. While it might have been assumed that it was Younger's gig going into the year, McCall was good enough this spring to potentially snag the starting spot. Younger will have to be strong.
Strength: Veterans. The passing game might have stunk, but at least Younger has experience now, McCall has been around the offense for a few years and knows what he's doing in the new spread, and even Anderson got a little bit of work in last season.
Weakness
:
Throwing the ball. Things appeared to be far better this spring, but last year the passing game was one of the least efficient in college football history. To put it in perspective, FIU finished last in the nation with a passing efficiency rating of 91.33. The second least efficient passing game, Idaho's, was at 94.49. Mississippi State was the only other team to finish under 100.
Outlook: If nothing else, there should be more consistent play with several options to work with. Younger and McCall will each see meaningful work this season, while Anderson will be an interesting option. With more passing in the equation in the new offense, McCall might have the edge, but Younger won't be far behind, if at all.
Rating: 4.5


Running Backs

Projected Starters: Senior A'mod Ned has been part of the backfield rotation for a few years and has been the team's leading rusher over the last two seasons. The small, shifty 5-9, 184-pound jitterbug ran for 581 yards and two touchdowns while finishing tied for third on the team with 16 catches for 103 yards and a score. With his speed and quickness he should be more of a consistent home-run hitter, and he'll come up with one or two big plays here and there, but he has to be more of a workhorse and he has to make more big plays.

Projected Top Reserves: If Ned is the starter, then senior Julian Reams is 1A on the depth chart. At 5-10 and 205 pounds with tremendous speed, he has all the tools to be a major weapon, but it has never come together as he averaged just 3.3 yards per carry, after averaging 3.1 yards per crack as a sophomore, and finished third on the team with 274 yards and two scores and only caught eight passes for 41 yards.

Returning at fullback, when one is needed in the new offense, is junior John Ellis, who plays a hybrid of tight end and blocking back. He only carried the ball three times, but he caught 11 passes for 40 yards and a score. The 5-10, 233-pounder needs to be more of a power runner, but that's not really his game. He'll work mostly at tight end in the new offense.

The third man in the mix is 5-9, 195-pound junior Daunte Owens, a speed back who ended up running for 34 yards and catching two passes for 17 more. He only averaged 1.9 yards per carry, but he has the quickness to do far more when healthy. That was a problem last season as he played hurt most of the time.

Watch Out For ... the ground game to be better. Averaging 119 yards per game might not seem like much, but considering sacks are thrown into the net total, things improved after a lousy 2006. Now the Panthers have to use the experience of Ned and Reams to do more.
Strength: Veterans. Ned and Reams have been a major part of the offense for three years and will provide a nice, experienced pair to count on from time to time. They might not be impressive, but they'll help add some balance.
Weakness
:
Production. The ground game ran for 682 yards and five touchdowns in 2006 and was saved last year by the 536 yards of rushing production from QB Wayne Younger. 60 of Ned's 581 yards came on one play while Reams continued to disappoint. To be fair, it's not like the line helped too much.
Outlook: The running game could use some new blood and some new options to throw into the mix, but it'll be up to Ned, Reams, and the rushing of the quarterbacks to get things going on the ground. The plus out of this group, besides the experience, is the ability to catch the ball. In the new offense, there will be more lanes to run through and more opportunities to do things in space, but if the backs aren't doing much as receivers, they're not all that productive.
Rating: 4.5

Receivers


Projected Starters: The new passing offense got a jolt of promise this spring as junior Jeremy Dickens looked the part of a No. 1 target. The 5-10, 183-pound missed almost half the season hurt but he still finished third on the team with 16 catches for 218 yards and a team-leading three scores. Staying healthy, especially in his spot in the slot, is a must after getting hurt two years ago with a shoulder injury to go along with last year's problems.

6-3, 200-pound sophomore Greg Ellingson was one of the team's most dangerous targets averaging 16 yards per catch on 19 grabs for 304 yards and two touchdowns. He might not of caught many passes, but he was good for a few here and there and he should be able to do more after a promising true freshman campaign.

Working at one of the outside spots will be sophomore Marquis Rolle, one of the biggest surprises in spring ball. The 6-3, 185-pounder looked like a natural in the spread with 4.46 speed and good route running ability to go along with his size. If he's not starting, he'll work in a rotation with Ellingson.

Back at tight end will be Miami transfer Eric Kirchenberg, a 6-5, 250-pound senior who caught five passes for 49 yards. He was a scout teamer for the Hurricanes and tore his ACL before he was able to make any sort of an impact. Now he's healthy and should be a big part of the passing game.

Projected Top Reserves: 6-0, 201-pound junior Elliott Dix is one of the team's fastest players, and now he has to use his wheels a bit more after catching 14 passes for 200 yards. He has the potential to be great yard-after-the-catch receiver, but he needs to get the ball on the move.

Sophomore James Frierson ended up leading the team in receiving with 21 catches for 190 yards as a true freshman, but he'll have to fight for playing time. He saw most of his work in garbage time comeback mode, but the 5-8, 160-pound  cousin of former Miami Hurricane star and current San Francisco 49er, Frank Gore, has the potential to grow into a regular in the rotation in several spots.

6-1, 190-pound sophomore James Rucker is a physical receiver who caught 12 passes for 100 yards with a touchdown against Troy. He'll start out battling for a spot on the outside, but he can play at any of the positions.

6-2, 187-pound senior Travis Felder is more like another wide receiver than a true tight end. Fullback/tight end John Ellis will likely receive most of the work, but Felder is tremendously athletic. The former walk-on and top high school basketball player was a good scout teamer.

Watch Out For ... the receivers to finally be able to show what they can do. Bad quarterback play and a struggling offense kept the receivers from ever getting into any sort of a groove. With more of an emphasis on the passing game, now the young targets have to do their job.
Strength: Quickness. While this isn't a corps of speedsters, there are several quick targets who should be great after the grab. The key will be to consistently get open, and that was far easier said than done last year.
Weakness
:
Playmaking ability. Can the receivers actually play? There's good athleticism and good potential, but there isn't a true number one, at least not a proven one, and there are several ifs. The corps has to make the quarterbacks better.
Outlook: This was a big problem area last season after going through a bit of reshuffling and retooling, and now the Golden Panthers have to get big-time production out of Dickens and Rolle to get the passing game on track. While the wealth will be spread around, FIU needs one guy it can count on game-in-and-game out. That might take a few weeks.
Rating: 4.5

Offensive Linemen

Projected Starters: Even with all five starters returning, the line was a major problem last season. Now two starters need to be replaced with right tackle Xavier Shannon the big loss. He left to play for his dad at Miami, and now it'll be up to 6-1, 253-pound junior Mario Caraballo to step in and produce. Woefully undersized, he's a good athlete who bulked up from the 238 pound he was at when he originally signed.

The other open spot is at left guard where 6-5, 285-pound senior Dustin Gibson takes over
after playing in six games as a reserve. A good recruit for the program, he has been tried out in several spot, including tackle and long snapper, but hasn't been able to break through and be a top producer. He started every game at right tackle two years ago, and now will work on the inside.

The star of the line is left tackle Andy Leavine, a 6-5, 292-pound junior who has been a starter since day one and has shown glimpses of top potential. While he struggled against speed rushers and still needs work, he's plenty tough having played through a broken hand suffered in the season opener.

Also back is 6-4, 275-pound sophomore Brad Serini at center after starting every game as a true freshman. A good recruit two years ago with excellent upside, he should be the anchor for the line for the next three seasons now that he has started to bulk up a bit. He's a mauler who should do far more for the running game.

Returning at right guard is 6-3, 290-pound junior Joe Alajajian after starting 11 games. He has been a big part of the line for the last few seasons, and with the athleticism to go along with his strength, he should be more of a factor for the ground attack.

Projected Top Reserves: While Serini is the main man in the middle, redshirt freshman Juan Gonzalez will see a little bit of time in the rotation. At 5-10 and 245 pounds, he's a small, quick option in the middle who should grow into a decent pass blocker.

On the way to push for time at one of the tackle spots is 6-4, 320-pound JUCO transfer Cedric Mack.
A JUCO All-American, he was a star recruit who could've gone to a BCS school without a problem, but needs to be a factor right away.

At some point, 6-4, 327-pound redshirt freshman Chris Cawthon will see action at guard. At his size, and with tremendous strength, he'll be a key backup at right guard behind Alajajian.


Watch Out For ... Mack. He's the big, veteran lineman with tremendous skill that the line has desperately been missing. He could quickly become the go-to blocker to work around.
Strength: Huge options. The line likes to use smallish athletic options, but it now has some big bodies to start leaning on lines. Cawthon is 327 pounds and Mack is 320.
Weakness
:
Run blocking. The pass protection wasn't a plus, but the biggest problem was trying to generate a consistent push up front. The Golden Panthers only had one game with more than 159 rushing yards.
Outlook: The line almost got the quarterbacks killed and struggled to generate a push for the ground game. Now there's more talent, more experience, and some decent backups to count on. This should be a far better line than it has been in a few years, but that's not saying much. With Leavine and Serini to start with, everything else has to start falling into place.
Rating: 5