If you are looking for something good to come from FIU football, you will have all season to wait for it. There is no real telling of what this fall will bring to "The Cage." Expect Florida International to be a very dangerous matchup for every opponent, but hold off on looking for a winning season this year.
Coach Ron Turner will serve as the offensive coordinator this season. Jake Medlock will be the signal caller under center when FIU takes the act on the road to start the season, but E.J. Hilliard is a decent #2. A talented running back corps deals with the loss of Kedrick Rhodes in the offseason. His dismissal from the team hurts a light backfield, but the backup is Jakari Gore, a transfer from LSU. Even with one of the worst offensive lines in the conference, FIU should have little trouble running the ball, which is one of the standards for this program. Medlock is a decent passer, and he gets James Louis, a transfer from Ohio State, to help get those numbers higher this season. When you consider the fact that Willis Wright led the team in receiving yards with 633 on only 25 catches, it is not hard to get excited about what these two and Glenn Coleman will bring to the air game. FIU should have few worries on offense, as this may be a repeat of the 2010 and 2011 seasons, when the offense lit up opposing defenses.
The defense will miss first round draft pick Johnathan Cyprien. Four interceptions and 93 tackles by one player is hard to repeat, considering the total number of the team was 9. The unit does return 23 lettermen and 4 starters, but that may not be enough to slow down some of the offenses they will face in conference, let alone Maryland, Louisville and Central Florida. Sun Belt first team players from each unit are gone. Names like Greg Hickman and Isame Faciane will be heard a lot, but playmakers from all over should step up to keep FIU from getting embarrassed.
Special teams can really help FIU this season. Short fields on offense and long fields on defense will go a long way in keeping the golden panthers in games. Two redshirt freshmen will serve as kicker and punter. Punter Chris Ayers earned all-Florida honors as a senior in high school, but Kicker Sergio Sroka is a walk-on. Richard Leonard, who has a kick return and a punt return for a TD, should be in position to do the same damage this year as last. With speedy De'Andre Jasper alongside, this unit can get the FIU faithful jumping.
FIU can do remarkable things this season, and you can expect there to be plenty of individual accomplishments this season. The main question is whether it can all come together for a magical season, or one to forget. Because winning seasons are not easy for the golden panthers, find pride in the good effort that the players exhibit on the field. Getting past some of the offseason turmoil will start this week: away from the distractions of South Florida.
Next article- preview FIU @ Maryland