2009 Florida International Preview - Offense
CollegeFootballNews.com 2009 Preview - Florida International Golden Panther Offense
FIU Golden Panthers
Preview 2009 - Offense
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What you need to know:
Offensive coordinator Bill Legg came in from Purdue and there was a
night-and-day improvement. Even though the veteran offensive line didn’t block
anyone and despite the lack of a running game, the offense was strong
considering 2007 might have been the worst offensive year in the history of
college football. The attack will be all about the passing game where steady and
solid QB Paul McCall has a tremendous array of weapons to work with. T.Y. Hilton
might be the best under-the-radar playmaker in the country, but he’s not the
only wide receiver who should shine. Everyone of note is back for the passing
game with size, speed, experience, and depth in the receiving corps. The line
gets everyone back, but it has to find something it can do well. Darriet Perry
has to become a No. 1 back right away to provide some semblance of balance.
of the offense: Sophomore WR T.Y. Hilton
Passing: Paul McCall
167-317, 2332 yds, 16 TD, 9 INT
Rushing: Darriet Perry
31 carries, 173 yds, 2 TD
Receiving: T.Y. Hilton
41 catches, 1,013 yds, 7 TD
Player who has to step up and become a star:
Sophomore RB Darriet Perry
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore WR Junior Mertile
Best pro prospect: Hilton
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Hilton, 2) QB Paul McCall, 3) WR Greg
Strength of the offense: Experience, receiver
Weakness of the offense:
Offensive line production, running back experience
It’s a bit of a stretch to say that FIU’s season turned around when
Paul McCall got hot, but FIU’s
season turned around when McCall got hot. It helped that the schedule eased up,
but McCall was great after the first four games of the year throwing for 223
yards or more in seven of the final eight games including a brilliant 400-yard,
four touchdown day in the loss to Florida Atlantic. The senior is only 6-1 and
205 pounds, but he has a decent arm, is mobile enough to have netted 125 yards
and a score, and he finished with 2,332 yards and 15 touchdown passes with nine
interceptions. Five of those picks came in the first three games. Considering
several Ivy League schools were hot after him coming out of high school, smarts
aren’t an issue.
Projected Top Reserves: 6-3, 190-pound junior Wayne Younger
is a tall, athletic passer who took was thrown to the wolves early on in his
career and had a nightmare of a time producing. While he’s a good runner, he
threw nine touchdown passes and 17 interceptions in 2007 before getting knocked
out with a broken collarbone. He saw a little bit of mop-up time last season and
completed 18-of-33 passes for 249 yards and a touchdown, and he ran for 46
yards, but he didn’t play much over the second half of the season. With enough
experience to be thrown into the starting role if needed, he’s a decent option
if something happens to Paul McCall.
Looking to see a little bit of action this year is sophomore Colt Anderson,
a 6-4, 215-pound passer from Omaha who has seen some mop-up duty but has mostly
been a scout teamer. He has a live arm and he can move a little bit, and he’s a
winner having won the Nebraska Class A state championship. He’ll have to prove
himself this year to be in the mix for time next season.
On the way is Wesley Carroll, the
former Mississippi State starter who lost out on the starting job and
transferred to FIU. He struggled with his accuracy in the SEC but he had a few
good moments and was one pass away from setting the NCAA record for the most
throws in a row by a freshman without an interception (137). While he’s only 6-1
and 202 pounds, and will have to sit out a year, he’s tough, very fast, and he
should be a good replacement for Paul McCall next season.
Watch Out For ... a major battle for the No. 2 job. McCall is the
No. 1 guy, but Younger and Anderson will have to fight it out for the second
spot. With Carroll waiting in the wings for next year, the time is now for the
backups to show they deserve a shot at the 2010 starting gig.
Strength: Veterans. McCall and Younger each have a few years of
experience, while Anderson saw enough practice time last year, and a little bit
of work in 2007, to be one of the Sun Belt’s most experienced No. 3
Weakness: Touchdown passes. There were more yards last year and the
passing game was far more efficient, but there were only 17 touchdown passes
total with four coming in the overtime shootout loss to FAU.
Outlook: Considering where the quarterback situation was at the
beginning of the 2007 season, this is like having Peyton Manning and Kurt Warner
to work with. Paul McCall is a gritty passer who doesn’t make a ton of big
mistakes and runs the offense well. Wayne Younger is a nice runner who can add a
different look if he’s in, and Colt Anderson is a decent-looking passing option
who wouldn’t be a disaster if he’s thrown into the lineup.
Taking over the starting running back job will be
Darriet Perry, a speedy 5-9,
200-pound sophomore who finished third on the team with 173 yards and two
touchdowns in just the final two games of the year. He blew his redshirt season
late to run for 115 yards and two scores against Florida Atlantic, and he
followed it up with a 58-yard day against Western Kentucky. A good recruit last
year who was sought after by Illinois, he’ll be the main man for the ground
Projected Top Reserves: 5-10, 205-pound senior
Daunte Owens was supposed to be the
third man in the mix last year, he finished fourth on the team with just 130
yards and a score. He’s a speed back and can catch the ball a little bit, and he
has enough talent to be productive here and there. However, he’s had problems
staying healthy and can’t be counted on to last for long stretches.
Looking to get back into the rotation is junior
Trenard Turner, a very fast, very
athletic 5-9, 204-pounder who was going to play a big role last year as both a
runner and a special teamer but he hurt his leg and only played in four games.
As a freshman he set the school record for the most receiving yards by a running
back in one game with 84 against North Texas.
Watch Out For ... a regular rotation of runners. There isn’t a
workhorse in the backfield, and the offense doesn’t really utilize the running
game all that much, but there are several decent prospects waiting to be
unleashed. The coaching staff will go with several options and will stick with
the hot hand … or legs.
Strength: Quickness. Darting in and out of holes isn’t going to be
a problem for this bunch. There’s speed, athleticism, and speed and quickness to
burn out of all the options. There isn’t a thumper, but everyone can move.
Weakness: Production. FIU was 107th in the nation and last in
the Sun Belt in rushing, and now Julian Reams and Amod Ned, who combined for 736
of the team’s 1,185 yards, are gone. There’s good potential in Perry and Owens,
but they’ll have to prove they can do it for a full season.
Outlook: The FIU ground game is mostly along for the ride. With
Paul McCall at quarterback the rushing workload will fall on the backs, and
while Darriet Perry and Daunte Owens should be good with time, they’re unproven
for more than just a short stretch. There’s no power, but there are five backs
available who are extremely quick.
The passing game needed a new playmaker to emerge, and one did … and right away.
T.Y. Hilton was a good recruit for
the program who turned into the Sun Belt’s breakout playmaker with a
team-leading 41-catch, 1,013-yard, seven touchdown true freshman season.
Overlooked mainly because he’s only 5-9 and 168 pounds, Hilton overcame his size
by showing off blinding speed every time he touched the ball averaging 24.7
yards per catch while averaging 23.4 yards per kickoff return and 14.8 yards per
punt return. He also ran for two scores. The offense will use him in a variety
of ways again and he should be in the hunt for Sun Belt Player of the Year
One of the team’s veteran targets is junior
Greg Ellingson, a dangerous 6-3,
200-pound junior who finished second on the team in catches with 35 grabs for
574 yards and three touchdowns averaging 16.4 yards per catch. He didn’t do too
much for most of the season and then he came on over the final three games to
catch 18 passes for 323 yards and two scores. He should flourish with all the
attention being paid to Hilton.
Junior Mertile had a strong true
freshman season finishing third on the team with 26 catches for 245 yards and
two scores. He didn’t blow up in any one game, but he was steady throughout the
season. The 6-0 and 185 pound sophomore has decent size and excellent 4.5 speed,
and now needs to use his skills to bust off more big plays. His biggest play was
just 36 yards.
Miami transfer Eric Kirchenberg took
over the starting tight end job early on, starting the first ten games and
finishing fourth on the team with 14 catches for 157 yards and two touchdowns.
He was a key scout teamer for the Hurricanes before tearing his ACL, and he
became a good part of the FIU passing game right away. He’ll do even more this
Projected Top Reserves: Junior Jason Frierson ended up
leading the team in receiving with 21 catches for 190 yards as a true freshman,
but only played in six games last year and caught just ten passes for 113 yards
and two touchdowns. However, he started the final two games of the season and
showed off flashes of greatness. The 5-8, 160-pound cousin of Frank Gore will
start out playing behind T.Y. Hilton, but he’ll see time at several spots.
Senior Jeremy Dickens had the
potential to be a No. 1 target in the passing attack, but he only caught 12
passes for 138 yards and a touchdown and now will have to fight to see playing
time. The 5-10, 183-pounder has experience and has finally been able to stay
healthy, but he won’t likely make more than 12-to-15 grabs. He’ll play behind
Working at one of the outside spots will be Marquis Rolle, one of the
biggest surprises in the 2007 off-season. He didn’t do much on the field
catching just nine passes for 71 yards, but the 6-3, 185-pound sophomore has
blinding 4.46 speed and has the potential to be a field-stretcher.
6-0, 201-pound senior Elliott Dix is one of the team's fastest players,
and now he has to use his wheels a bit more after catching 17 passes for 225
yards over the last two years. He has the potential to be great
yard-after-the-catch receiver, but he needs to get the ball on the move playing
behind Junior Mertile.
Looking to make an immediate impact is JUCO transfer
Edgard Theliar. The 6-3, 195-pound
JUCO All-American was given the full court press by South Florida, but shoes FIU
and could be a key target because of his size.
Watch Out For ... the receiving corps to be among the best in the
Sun Belt. Hilton is a great player to start with, and there’s plenty of speed
and talent working around him. There will be plenty of good targets to for QB
Paul McCall to work with.
Strength: Experience. The top seven receivers/tight ends return
and all have the talent and potential to be better. The sky’s the limit on this
group with field-stretching speed at all three spots. The backups can fly, too.
Weakness: Backup tight end. Eric Kirchenberg is a good one but he has to
prove he can stay healthy. John Ellis
is more of a fullback than a receiver, while
Christopher Campbell is an unproven
Outlook: Arguably the team’s biggest weakness two years ago, now
it might be one of the Sun Belt’s biggest strength. All the top targets are
back, led by playmaker extraordinaire T.Y. Hilton, and this group is just
scratching the surface on how good it can become. There’s Miami Hurricane-like
speed and quickness, decent size at a few spots, and excellent depth.
All the starters are returning up front with more needed from the tackles,
specifically Ula Matavao, a 6-3,
311-pound senior who started every game at left tackle. The former JUCO all-star
has the quickness for his size to be far better in pass protection, and he has
the talent to emerge as a potential all-star if he can be more consistent.
On the other side will be Joe Alajajian,
a 6-4, 300-pound senior who started early on at right guard before moving to
right tackle for the final ten games. While he’s a good athlete, he’s not the
strongest pass protector but he can blast away for the running game when he gets
on the move. With his experience and versatility, he could be the anchor for the
Working again in the middle will be 6-3, 300-pound junior
Brad Serini, one of just five FIU
players to start every game at the same spot. A good recruit three years ago
who’s still improving, he should be the anchor for the line for the next two
seasons now that he has started to bulk up a bit and after starting every game
for the last two seasons. He's a mauler who should do far more for the running
Senior Andy Leavine will be the main
man at left guard again after taking over the job midway through the season. He
started out at right tackle, struggled, and showed he was far better suited for
the inside. The 6-5, 298-pounder is athletic for a guard, but he struggled
against speed rushers as a tackle.
Back at right guard will be Mario
Caraballo, a 6-2, 290-pound junior who has gotten much, much bigger since he
originally signed. Originally an athletic 238-pound blocker, he’s now a big,
promising all-around inside presence who should be better now that he’s able to
play at his new weight.
Projected Top Reserves: Trying to get eligible and become a major
part of the line is Cedric Mack, a
former JUCO All-American who was a superstar recruit. He could’ve gone to a BCS
school without a problem, but he has had problems getting on the field. This
year, he should finally be a key part of the tackle rotation.
6-4, 285-pound Chris Cawthon saw
starting time at right guard over the first half of the season and will figure
into the rotation against behind Mario Caraballo. He has gotten his weight in
check but kept his strength.
Working along with Joe Alajajian at right tackle will be
Devon Dickerson an undersized 6-4,
261-pound sophomore who started against Iowa. While he doesn’t have the bulk to
be a regular starter, he’s athletic enough to be a decent pass protector for
Watch Out For ... a bit more stability. While the coaching staff
won’t be afraid to tinker with the lineup to get a bit more production, five
starters are back and there’s hope for a bit more cohesion.
Strength: Experience. All five starters are back and two players
with key starting experience are ready to step in if needed. That doesn’t even
include Mack or redshirt freshman center
Kenneth White, one of the team’s key young blockers.
Weakness: Blocking. The pass protection was a wee bit better, but it
didn’t take much for that to happen. The Golden Panthers were still 94th
in the nation in sacks allowed, giving up 27 on the year, and did nothing for a
ground game that averaged 99 yards per game.
Outlook: The line has almost gotten the quarterbacks killed over
the last few years, but there’s the potential for a far better season with so
many starters returning and several decent backups to count on. It would be nice
if there was one star to work around, like left tackle Ula Matavao, who has the
potential to become the main man, and there’s more than enough size to go along
with the experience. Now it all has to translate into production.