Panther Preview: 2022 FIU Football

FIU HC Mike MacIntyre talking to his team after fall practice. Photo by FIU Athletics

By: Jonathan Mayer / Assistant Sports Director 

A New Day approaches for the FIU Football program as a new era of Panther athletics begins. 

After a 1-11, 2021, which saw the program end the season with losing 19 consecutive FBS games, and a head coach in Butch Davis partying ways with the team, change was inevitable for a team that was trying to get back to a bowl game for the first time since 2019. 

Changes were made as FIU hired new athletic director Scott Carr last November after former athletic director Pete Garcia resigned following 15 years with FIU. 

His first order of business was to hire a football coach to lead the program. 

Hiring the right man for the job 

On Dec. 9, 2021, FIU announced the hiring of its sixth head coach in program history, Mike MacIntyre

“He has a passion for student-athletes and building genuine relationships with them,” Carr said. “He’s a builder, with proven success taking two struggling programs and elevating them to national relevance.” 

MacIntyre comes to FIU with a lengthy resume, having over 32-years of college coaching experience, including two years as a head coach, San Jose State (2010-2012) and Colorado (2013-2018).  

In both tenures, he turned the programs around in historic fashion, taking a San Jose State team that had just one win his first year, to a 10-win team and a national ranking in his final year. 

He saw the same success in Colorado. A one win team in 2012, he turned them into to a 10-win team in 2016, ranked as high as ninth in the national rankings. 

His turnaround earned him National Coach of the Year. 

Now, MacIntyre is expected to turn around FIU heading into 2022 and he has growing optimism for his new team. 

“There is so much talent and passion for football in our area. I can’t wait to get started building a strong foundation for our program,” MacIntyre said. “I believe that together we will create something special to rally around, inspiring Panther Pride in everyone associated with FIU and our community.” 

Putting Together a Staff 

After his hiring in December 2021, MacIntyre first order of business was to hire a full-time coaching staff. 

On the offensive side of the ball, MacInyre hired David Yost as offensive coordinator and quarterback coach. Yost brings over 25 years of coaching experience, his most recent stops being Texas Tech and Utah State. 

FIU OC/QB coach David Yost has years of experience of college coaching, including mentoring Clos Angeles Chargers QB Justin Herbert and Green Bay Packers QB Jordan Love. Photo by Miami Herald

Yost has been part of successful offenses including 2018 with the Utah State Aggies, his offense ranked in the top-20 in passing offense.  

For the offensive line, Greg Austin was named the run game coordinator and offensive line coach. Austin spent 2021 in the same role with Nebraska, with prior stops including UCF, Oregon, and the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles. 

MacIntyre continued his hiring by bringing over his son Jay MacInyre as the wide receiver coach, who spent time at University of Tennesse-Martin in 2020 and 2021, while also playing collegiate football at Colorado for four seasons. 

Former University of Miami running backs coach Eric Hickson was hired as the RB coach, while Josh Eargle, former head coach of East Texas Baptist and a consultant at Memphis was named the tight ends coach for the Panthers. 

Defensively the first main hire was Jovan Dewitt as defensive coordinator. Dewitt, has a 23-year resume of coaching experience, most recently the outside linebacker coach at North Carolina in 2021.  

Corey Bell, a staple in the South Florida high school scene was tabbed as the cornerback and recruiting coordinator. Bell, a former head coach of Miami Edison taking them to five consecutive playoff appearances, spent the last five years at the University of Florida as their defensive backs coach. 

FIU Cornerbacks coach/Recruting Coordinator Corey Bell has years of experiences working in the Miami High school scene in Miami and as well in college coaching Photo by 247 Sports 

More names on the coaching staff include Nate Taye, who spent time with Colorado as a quality control analyst, named the safeties coach, while George Frazier is taking over as the defensive line coach. Frazier led a UT-Martin defensive line that was top in the Ohio Valley Conference. 

The last hire to follow was Ricky Brumfield as special team’s coordinator and outside linebacker coach. Brumfield spent the last four seasons as a special team’s coordinator and tight ends coach at Virgina Tech. 

The Recruiting season  

With a new coaching staff in position, Macintyre was ready to hit the ground running in recruiting season, using the transfer portal and recruits for the upcoming signing period. 

After the 2021 season, the Panthers lost numerous seniors, including quarterback Max Bortenschalger, who holds the program-record in passing yards in a single season with 2,935. Richard and Rishard Dames, the twin-duo that held the defensive backs position for FIU for a solid five years. Receiver Bryce Singleton who had 846 receiving yards in 2021 also left. 

In Feburary, MacIntyre announced a signing class with 27 student-athletes, 14 transfers and 13 freshmen to play for the Blue & Gold. 

Notable transfers included quarterback Gunnar Holmberg, who came from Duke, where he played in a total of six games in 2021 with 2,358 yards and seven touchdowns. Earlier this week, head coach Mike MacIntyre announced Holmberg will start week one against the Bryant Bulldogs. 

FIU QB Gunnar Holmberg is currently in a quarterback battle to win the starting spot for the season. Photo by Miami Herald 

Receiver Jacolby Hewit, played three seasons with the Indiana Hosiers, starting 10 games last season. Fellow receiver Sharod Johnson, who went to Booker T. Washington high school in Miami transferred from Syracuse after playing 32 games with the Orange. 

As for the defensive transfers, one notable name coming to South Florida is linebacker Donovan Manuel, who joins from FCS East Tennessee State. He made his mark in Tennessee with 124 tackles and 9.5 sacks for loss in two seasons. 

Defensive back Adrian Cole, native of Plantation, Florida, is a transfer that has notable Power five experience playing for Syracuse, appearing in nine games over the course of two seasons. 

The 13 recruits bring a lot of talent. Among the names, receiver Mike Jackson from Miami Palmetto high school, who was named the 2021 Miami Dade 8A-6A Defensive Player of the Year, quarterback Amari Jones, a 6-2, 220, three-star recruit from Bradford, Florida, and John Bock II, an offensive lineman from Cardinal Gibbons high school in Fort Lauderdale, Fl, stand out. 

FIU WR Mike Jackson was explosive at Miami Palmetto, and will try to bring his dynamic play to FIU. Photo by Miami Herald 

Head Coach Mike MacIntyre was thrilled with his first signing class with program 

“Our recruiting staff has been phenomenal, our operations staff has been incredible and our coaching staff has worked tirelessly,” he said to FIU Athletics. 

Key Returners 

One major name that will be donning the Blue & Gold again in 2022 is receiver Tyrese Chambers. Chambers had an historic season for FIU in 2021, where he completed 45 catches for a total of 1,074 receiving yards to go along with nine touchdowns. Both the receiving yards and touchdowns were single-season records in program history. 

After the conclusion of the 2021 season, Chambers announced his intent to enter the transfer portal with the unknown of the next coaching hire. He received offers from numerous P5 programs, however in early January, Chambers announced on social media he will be returning to the FIU football program. 

“FIU is home to me, there is no place like this. I want help build a foundation for a program that is still young,” Chambers said during spring camp. 

FIU WR Tyrese Chambers had an historic season in 2021 and is primed for more in 2022. Photo by FIU Athletics 

Chambers is set for a big season, already on notable watch lists including the Biletnikoff Award, given to the nation’s most outstanding receiver and the Reese’s Senior Bowl watch list. 

In addition to Chambers, another offensive piece returning is tight end Rivaldo Fairweather. The 6-5, 241, sophomore is set for a breakout season after a 2021 season where he caught a total of 16 passes for 247 yards and a single touchdown. 

This offseason, Fairweather was named to the John Mackey Award watch list, given to the nation’s most outstanding tight end.  

“It really is a blessing. Every day I put my head down to work and they say sooner or later, the good will come when you work hard,” Fairweather said after being nominated for the award.  

Former walk-on receiver Dean Patterson and South Florida transfer Randall St. Felix will have bigger roles heading into the season. 

With running back D’vonte Price on the Colts, EJ Wilson Jr and Lexington Joseph will get more snaps in their assumed roles as a duo. 

Linebacker Gaethan Bernadel is a key piece on defense as the Hallandale native saw action in ten starts, logging 44 tackles and a sack in his freshman campaign.  

Linebacker Shaun Peterson Jr, who MacIntyre said to the media, “has kept improving everyday” is expected to be a key contributor in his new role. In the past three seasons, Peterson Jr. was a running back for the program, but switched to linebacker, a position he played in high school, during spring ball. 

DL Davon Strickland will continue to have a leading presence as he enters his fourth season with the team. Strickland is one of the team’s leading tacklers as he had 53 last year, third-most on the team. His high play has named him All-Conference Preseason First Team for Athlon Sports and Phil Steele. 

FIU DE Davon Strickland will be one of the mainleaders on the defensive front in 2022. Photo by FIU Athletics 

On special teams kicker Chase Gabriel returns for his third season while punter Dalton Montiel, who transferred from Marshall will hold punting duties. 

The Season Ahead 

  • Bryant Bulldogs 09/1 at 7 PM at FIU Stadium-ESPN3 

The Blue & Gold kicks off their season with a matchup against the Bryant Bulldogs in Miami. The Bulldogs, an FCS program located in Smithfield, Rhode Island will take on the Panthers for the first time in program history. 

Bryant is coming off a 7-4 season, which saw them place third in the Northeast Conference. It will be a homecoming for Bryant head coach Chris Merrit, who is coming back to South Florida after spending 18 seasons as the head coach of Christopher Columbus high school, located in Miami. 

As for the Panthers, they look to take victory in the first game of the Mike MacIntyre era and snap a 11-game losing streak that dates back to last season. 

  • Texas State Bobcats 09/10 at 7 PM at Bobcat Stadium-ESPN+ 

After their season-opening game in South Florida, FIU will kick off a three-game road trip, beginning in San Marcos, Texas against the Texas State Bobcats. Texas State played the Panthers last season in Miami in an overtime win, taking down FIU by a score of 23-17. 

Texas State is coming off a four-win season last year, their most wins since 2014. 

FIU would like to take down this non-conference opponent on the road and get their first win against an FBS opponent since Nov. 23, 2019, while also getting their first road win since November 17th, 2018. 

  • Western Kentucky Hilltoppers 09/24 at 3:30 PM at Houchens Industries L. T. Smith Stadium-Stadium 

Following a bye, the second game of the road trip takes the Panthers to Bowling Green, Kentucky for their first matchup against a Conference-USA opponent in the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers. 

In their last matchup, the Hilltoppers were victors over FIU in a 34-19 win at FIU Stadium last year. However, it is a completely different Western Kentucky team as quarterback Bailey Zappe who went on to have a historic season in College Football history with 62 touchdowns and 5,967 was drafted by the Patriots. 

Western Kentucky head coach Tyson Helton led his Hilltoppers to a nine-win season and a bowl victory in 2021. Photo by The Athletic 

The Hilltoppers have the advantage winning the last two matchups, and FIU will try to knock the losing streak on the road. 

  • New Mexico State Aggies 10/1 at 8 PM at Aggie Memorial Stadium-FloSports 

Wrapping up the three-game road trip, FIU will travel 1,665 miles from to Miami to Las Cruces to take on the New Mexico State Aggies. 

It will be the second meeting for both teams as they first met 18 years ago on October 30, 2004 in a 56-31 win for the Aggies. 

New Mexico State is in their first year with a new head coach. They hired former University of Minnesota head coach Jerry Hill to lead a program that has only won eight games in four years. 

Both teams will play as non-conference opponents this season as next year New Mexico State moves into Conference-USA. 

  • University of Connecticut Huskies 10/8 at 7 PM at FIU Stadium-ESPN Networks 

After a month away from playing in Miami, FIU returns to South Florida to kick off a two-game homestand, beginning with a homecoming matchup against the University of Connecticut Huskies. 

UConn is set to enter a new era under head coach Jim Moran trying to rebuild a program that has won seven games since 2017. 

It will be the first meeting for both schools as FIU finishes off their non-conference slate. 

  • University of Texas-San Antonio Roadrunners 10/14 at 8 PM at FIU Stadium-CBS Sports Network 

With the conference slate in full swing, FIU has a important Friday night matchup with the reigning C-USA champions in the UTSA Roadrunners. 

The Roadrunners are coming off an historic season, going 12-2, winning their first conference championship in program history and are the frontrunners to win it once again in 2022. 

UTSA are the reigning champions of Conference-USA and are expected to contend in 2022. Photo by San Antonio Report 

The last time FIU faced UTSA was four years ago in a dominant 45-7 win on the road in San Antonio. 

It will be a huge test for a Panther squad looking to make it three wins in a row against the Roadrunners. 

  • Charlotte 49ers 10/22 at 3:30 PM at Jerry Richardson Stadium-ESPN Networks 

With back-to-back games at home, FIU packs their bags and head to North Carolina to take on the Charlotte 49ers in a late afternoon battle. 

Last year, the 49ers came to Miami as both teams combined for 78-points in a 45-33 win for Charlotte, however FIU WR Tyrese Chambers had a career game, catching three passes for 201 receiving yards and two touchdowns. 

Charlotte is coming off a down year, going 5-7, and losing four games in 2021. 

Charlotte head coach Will Healy and company are expected to make a leap for bowl eligibility before they head to the American Athletic Conference in 2023. 

  • Louisiana Tech 10/28 at 8 PM at FIU Stadium-CBS Sports Network 

FIU heads back home for a Friday night matchup in a nationally televised game against the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs. 

In the prior matchup for the Panthers in 2019, FIU lost on the road in Ruston, Louisiana by a score of 43-31. 

The Bulldogs will have a new head coach as former offensive coordinator for Texas Tech Sonny Cumbie will lead the charge after Skip Holtz was fired after four seasons. 

  • University of North Texas Mean Green 11/5 at 4 PM at Apogee Stadium-ESPN Networks  

FIU will hit the road for another trip to Texas, this time to Denton with a game against the North Texas Mean Green. 

Both teams have played each other nine times with the Panthers leading the edge 5-4. In their last contest, North Texas cruised along to a 49-7 in Miami, rushing for over 370 yards in the game. 

North Texas is coming off a bowl season where they begin the year 1-6, winning their last five games to become bowl eligible. 

  • Florida Atlantic Owls 11/12 at 7 PM at FIU Stadium-Stadium 

The 21st installment of the Shula Bowl heads to Miami as FIU takes on in-state rivals, the FAU Owls. 

FIU has struggled in the series, having lost five matchups, dating back to 2017. 

The Panthers traveled up to Boca for the 2021 edition, where the Owls won in dominant fashion by a score of 58-21. 

FIU will look to win the Shula Bowl for the first time since 2016. Photo by FIU Athletics 

FAU is looking to rebound after their second consecutive losing season, which includes 5-7 in 2021.  

They are expected to bounce back in 2022 with quarterback N’Kosi Perry leading the offense for another year. 

  • University of Texas at El Paso Miners at 4 PM at the Sun Bowl- ESPN Networks 

FIU will hit the road for the final time of the regular season as the travel to El Paso, Texas to take on the UTEP Miners. 

The Panthers hold the advantage, winning the last three games with their last victory on Oct. 19, 2019, by a score of 32-17. 

The Miners are coming off a seven-win season, their most wins since 2014. Their head coach Dana Dimel is heading into his fifth year with UTEP and has expectations for another bowl appearance in 2022. 

  • Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders at 6 PM at FIU Stadium-ESPN Networks 

The Panthers finish out their regular season slate at home with a battle against the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders. 

Middle Tennessee have played the Blue & Gold 17 times, winning 12 of the contests. They have won the last three matchups including a 40-point win over FIU by a score of 50-10 in Murfreesboro. 

The Blue Raiders were 7-6 last season including a bowl win over the Toledo Rockets in the Bahamas Bowl. Head coach Rick Stocksill is entering his 17th season under the helm for Middle Tennessee. 

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