That’s it. It is over and done with. Spring football for FIU, that is. Football is over for the Panthers until fall practice resumes in the Summer B semester. This is a semi-bittersweet moment because now there are indeed no college football games until August.
This was the start of a season of change for the Panthers.
Quarterback truly anyone’s game
The definition of quarterback battle was seen in the four weeks of Spring football practice for the Panthers.
Going into his first season as head coach, Ron Turner had a player on the roster who started for the majority of a season with Jake Medlock. Granted those Panthers, in the final year under Mario Cristobal, went 3-9, Medlock had the most Division-IA football experience.
Fastforward a year ahead and you see that Medlock has transferred to Valdosta State University. There is a quarterback on the roster who does have experience, having filled in as both an in-game and starter replacement for Medlock in E.J. Hilliard.
Hilliard practiced for the Spring with the first team offense, and started the spring game. He had a decent outing but failed to lead the whole first team into the endzone.
“It’s weird not having him [Medlock] here,” Hilliard previously said to FIU Student Media. “I have to work like it is my job to lose though.”
The second team was led in majority by early-enrollee freshman Alex McGough. McGough had a very successful day and threw the first touchdown of the day to wide receiver T.J. Lowder from 18 yards out.
McGough also had the first “explosive” play of the day. A play that went for more than 20 yards was considered “explosive” and got the offense an extra point in the scoring system for the spring game. This came on a 23 yard pass to tight end Ya’Keem Griner. They had two explosive plays together on the day.
The next quarterback up was also an early-enrollee freshman in Bud Martin. Martin’s first spring game in college started out rough. There were two penalties in a row in a false start by offensive guard Chris Flaig and an illegal shift by pretty much the entire offense on a busted screen play.
He did have a decent touchdown pass to tight end Jonathan Pavlov. That was accompanied by a Sergio Sroka point-after-touchdown which helped the offense win the day.
The final guy up was Akil Dan-Fodio, a 6-foot-4 230 pound junior quarterback from Stone Mountain, Georgia. He has a cannon for an arm as shown by the longest play of the day, a 49 yard ball to wide receiver Juwan Caesar.
In my opinion, now, with the two freshmen on the roster there is what the NFL would consider a franchise quarterback in the locker room. My depth chart for these quarterbacks would be McGough with the first string – whom he got playing time with during the spring game – followed by Martin, Dan-Fodio and Hilliard, in that order.
Most reliable position on the field
I am going to call that for the 2014-2015 season, the most productive position for the Panthers is going to be tight end.
This position, in my opinion, is the deepest on the roster for Turner and the rest of the Panthers program.
Besides Pavlov and Griner, two guys who I think will have monster years on their own, names like Cory White, Jonnu Smith, and Ricky Fernandez are going to become more and more common, and synonymous with FIU football.
These young men are led by Tight Ends/Offensive Tackles Coach Kort Shankweiler, who is the son of the offensive coordinator Steve Shankweiler.
The younger Shankweiler is definitely in the best position on the coaching staff with his group of athletes.
Pavlov, as previously mentioned, has a touchdown from Martin, and I do not think that is the last time we will hear about him grabbing one for six points.
I would also not be surprised if Smith, who is the leanest and probably most athletic in the group, lined up on the outside more often than not, leaving the trench work for guys like White and Pavlov, who are the better blockers.
The offense had a decent game, except for the running backs, who only had a single play of more than 20 yards – a run by junior DeAndre Jasper – and were disappointing in general. There were some fumbles by the running backs, most notable by junior Lamarq Caldwell.
The defense, showed some promise, with guys like Treyvon Williams, a sophomore linebacker, who laid out some guys on the field. Newly converted defensive lineman, sophomore Josh Glanton who had a sack – got to the quarterback before he threw the ball – ended the third quarter with a sack.
The spring game left a taste in the mouth of this football fan that can’t be satisfied until the first game in August. It will be August 30 the next time the Panthers put on their game uniforms as they play the Wildcats of Bethune-Cookman University in Miami.