National Signing Day: Panthers Get Speed, Versatility, And Depth

Head Coach Butch Davis (right) speaking with PantherTalk LIVE host AJ Ricketts in the GC pit during NSD. Dalton Tevlin/PantherNOW

Dalton Tevlin/Sports Director

With 16 players departing FIU this offseason, head coach Butch Davis and his staff had a lot of holes to fill. 

On National Signing Day, Davis showcased his 2020 recruiting class that is perhaps the best one in his four year tenure at FIU. 

“I think it’s probably the best recruiting class we have had since I have been here” said Davis. 

A class that is riddled with three-star recruits, this class offers both speed and versatility for the Panthers on both sides of the ball. 

American Heritage cornerback Andrew Volmar looks to be the next big playmaker on the defensive side of the ball. 

Volmar displayed great field vision and playmaking ability at his time at American Heritage, impressing defensive back coach Bryn Renner. 

“Andrew is a phenomenal player. We are very lucky to get him. Obviously there were programs after him and I think we did a great job recruiting him throughout the whole process.” said Renner. 

The Panthers were able to edge out the likes of FAU, Southern Miss and Rutgers and land Volmer, who has already taken a liking to the Panthers turnover belt. 

On the offensive side of the ball, the Panthers nabbed a three-star quarterback to add some depth to the position after the departure of James Morgan. 

Haden Carlson from Steinbrenner High School in Lutz, Florida comes into his freshman year with a lot of competition ahead of him. 

With players like Kaylan Wiggins and Stone Norton returning, Carlson will likely see a lot of time as a backup this season but could develop into the Panthers next starting quarterback. 

Carlson is the son of former NFL quarterback Jeff Carlson, who spent two years in the league in the early 90’s.

“His footwork in the pocket is really good, he has been trained really well by his dad. His arm strength and his talent is something that is going to propel him.” said Renner. 

For FIU, being a non-power five school has it’s disadvantages but each year Davis and his staff are able to improve their recruiting classes. 

This will be the first year at FIU that Davis will coach a team full of players mainly recruited by him and his staff. 

The process of building a rapport with highschools in the state and gaining credibility as a program takes time but Davis has consistently improved each year. 

“It takes a while to start building relationships with highschool coaches and the recruits want to know what the program is going to be like.” said Davis. “In 2017, we could just tell them about a vision. Now in year four you can say 3 consecutive bowl games, now they can actually see what kind of program they are coming into.”

The program has certainly been on an upswing since Davis took over, but one game in particular put the Panthers over the top both nationally and locally. 

The win over the University of Miami hit home for a lot of recruits in south Florida, some who previously committed to the Canes reverted their decision and ended up at FIU. 

While the 2019 season wasn’t the season Davis hoped for, the victory over UM carried a lot of weight into recruitment. 

“There’s obviously kids that decommitted to them that we ended up signing and we got kids on official visit that we probably wouldn’t of got a year ago.” said David. “I think that resonated with a lot of recruits, not only here but outside the state of Florida.” 

For three-star wide receiver Xavier McGriff, leadership from a coaching standpoint made the decision to sign with FIU that much easier. 

“I gained a great relationship with the coaching staff. I felt like this was a university where I can get to know the coaches as someone like my dad or a mentor.” said McGriff. 

McGriff has big shoes to fill after the departure of several weapons at receiver. Maurice Alexander, Tony Gaiter IV, Shemar Thornton and others were pivotal to the Panthers passing attack, leaving holes to be filled. 

“I want to all I can be. Be able to perform at my best ability.” said McGriff. 

There was a buzz among the staff and recruits in attendance at National Signing Day. Davis and crew are coming into the 2020 season with a lot of confidence that they have recruited multiple versatile players for this football team. 

With the offensive line being addressed, addition of some nifty dual-threat running backs and big-time playmakers on defense, the Panthers are shaping up to be competitive in Conference USA this season.

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