One thing that should not be in short supply on the FIU football team this season is speed. That revelead itself Thursday morning as early preparations for the 14th season of FIU football got underway at FIU Stadium with the first of 15 spring practices.
Speed on both sides of the ball. Defensive end Michael Wakefield was a disruption in the offensive backfield during team drills. Wakefield knocked down two passes in the backfield. Wakefield also got to quarterback Alex McGough for a touch sack since quarterbacks are always off limits from contact in practice.
Good luck to opposing teams trying to catch either Richard Leonard or Anthony Jones if they find a seam on punt or kick returns. The two speedsters were lining up on the first team for kick and punt returns. Jones later showed his quickness getting separation on a 20-yard pass from Bud Martin.
At one point in practice I was able to snap a photo of Leonard with his new position coach Greg Moss (below left), who is the first former FIU football player to become an assistant coach at FIU. You talk about speed. Moss still holds several FIU kick and punt return records, including being the only FIU football player to return a kickoff and punt for a touchdown in the same game -- Sept. 2003 against Carson-Newman. Moss had a 99-yard kickoff return and an 86-yard punt return for touchdowns that day. Leonard (No. 3 below) broke one of Moss's kickoff return records with his 100-yard kickoff return for a score in the 2012 Don Shula Bowl against Florida Atlantic.
Dennis Turner is being counted on to be one of the speed demons especially when FIU wants to go deep. During individual drills Turner was not looking back for the pass but at the last second turned around and made a nifty behind the back catch.
Tight end Akil Dan-Fodio had a good first day going up high twice to snag a couple of receptions. On one of the catches he just got one foot in bounds to pick up 17 yards.
It is Day One of spring ball but if you were eager to learn who lined up with the first team on the offensive line where there are three open jobs: center, right guard and right tackle, then those guys were Aaron Nielsen, Trenton Saunders and Edens Sineace, respectively.
FIU coach Ron Turner wasn't kidding when he said defensive lineman Marques Cheeks looked like another guy. Cheeks appeared stronger and quicker. Cheeks went into the backfield and got a tackle for loss. Lars Koht, recovered from last year's foot injury, also had a tackle for loss.
Reserve linebacker De'Shawn Hazziez had himself a whale of a day. Hazziez was physical in pass coverage and broke up two passes. On the second pass breakup Hazziez was kicking himself because he had a clear path to the end zone on what would have been a pick six.
Deonte Wilson, who was a special teams ace last season, is competing for playing time at safety. Wilson got off on the right foot with an interception.
Sophomore receiver Thomas Owens had the catch of the day when he went up and grabbed a pass with one hand. The play gained seven yards.
Good to see running back Alex Gardner moving as quick as he did last season before he was lost for the year with a collarbone injury. Gardner showed a good burst up the middle on a couple of plays.
Hard to gauge the quarterbacks with Thursday being the first day of spring. McGough, Martin and newcomer Christian Alexander had their moments.
Quarterback/punter Luke Medlock, who is getting a full-time shot to win the punter job had a good start with some high, deep punts.