Patrick Chalvire/Staff Writer
FIU may not be the big name sports schools like the neighboring Hurricanes in Coral Gables, but as the Panthers start to gain recognition in athletics, one thing has started to become a norm: family members working together for a common goal.
The first year sand volleyball team is lead by Head Coach Rita Buck-Crockett. In choosing her staff for the inaugural
season, Buck-Crockett hired her daughter, Marrita Royster-Crockett, as assistant coach.
In football, like sand volleyball, the Turner family has a strong presence on the staff. Head Coach Ron Turner hired his son, Cameron Turner, as an assistant coach. Having his son as a coach is something the elder Turner seems to enjoy.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” said Ron Turner said about working with his son. “He’s expected to do his job very well just like all the other coaches are. He’s no different than anybody else. He’s got to do his job and he will.”
Working in Miami is nothing new to Ron Turner, having spent some time in the Magic City for the Super bowl with the Chicago Bears and a bowl game with the University of Illinois, but living in the city is different altogether. What many people may take for granted in Miami, Turner embraces.
“I’m enjoying the weather,” Ron Turner said. “Especially when my wife is in Chicago and she calls everyday saying its raining, its 40 [degrees], its cold. More than anything it’s about the people. There’s real good people here, people at FIU have been tremendous and very very supportive.”
No experience, No problem
Half way through spring practices the FIU football team looks like they’re jelling to first-year Panthers coach Ron Turner and his new system in offense and defense. The defense looks the strongest and hopes to improve on their fourth ranked total defense in conference play last season.
The first practice of the spring in March brought energy, athleticism and showed the coaches the talent they would be dealing with and coaching in the future. According to Tom Williams, linebackers’ coach for the Panthers, he knew there would be one main concern ahead for himself and the coaching staff.
“They don’t have a lot of playing experience,” Williams said. “We got to try to get them as much experience in practice to prepare them for the games in the fall.”
Three weeks after the first snap of spring practice, the defense looks seasoned and does not seem to show signs of inexperience.
Jason Brooks, defensive secondary coach, sees improvement and feels comfortable going into the future.
“Our defense is progressing nicely,” Brooks said. “They’re taking great to coaching, taking to us schematically, all the new things we’ve been putting in and installing. They’ve been doing a great job from day one, getting better and better each day. That’s all we can ask for.”
Panthers reaching goals from new source
Rarely does a football program have a coach dedicated to special teams and kickers. In the past, FIU fell into that category, until this season. Under new management, special teams will be coached by Kevin Wolthausen.
Returning kicker Sergio Sroka spent last season learning from former Panther Jack Griffin. Now that Griffin has his sights on a possible NFL career, Sroka has spent this spring directly coached by Wolthausen.
“Having coach [Wolthausen] has been really good,” Sroka said. “He’s very one on one with us. We have a coach we can always review film with and who can help us out, last year we didn’t have that.”
Though there is already competition in practice, summer practices will bring more players fresh out of high school ready to compete for playing time. There is expected to be at least two more players kicking for a spot on the roster, but that doesn’t seem to faze Sroka.
“Competitions [have] been good,” Sroka said. “It keeps me working harder, knowing if I slip up, I can be replaced. It really boosts up your confidence kicking with the team.”