National Signing Day is less than 24 hours away. Like many teams around the nation, the Panthers have needs to fill and we'll get to those needs in this series that runs up until NSD on Wednesday.
Wednesday, Feb. 6, I'll have a LIVE BLOG right here from coach Ron Turner's press conference. The LIVE BLOG and press conference will begin at 2:30 p.m. You can join me here then to talk about the newest FIU players and Panthers football overall. Also don't forget you can attend the FIU football NSD Meet-and-Greet on Thursday before the FIU/FAU basketball game on the U.S. Century Arena plaza at 6 p.m.
Before we get into the returning FIU defensive backs and specialists, the Countdown to NSD 2013 series disclaimer: Due to NCAA restrictions, I can only comment on current or former Panthers until National Signing Day, Feb. 6. However, the gag order on commenting on future Panthers will be lifted on NSD, Feb. 6. So join me then for the LIVE BLOG.
The obvious gaping hole in the secondary in 2013 is future NFL safety Johnathan Cyprien, who has had himself a hell of an off-season rising in the NFL draft charts. A recent NFL mock draft has Cyprien as high as a first round draft pick of the Green Bay Packers.
FIU loses other seniors as well in the defensive backfield, including valuable safety Chuck Grace to graduation. The Panthers are hit with losses among the cornerbacks with Jose Cheeseborough, Tevin Blanchard and Junior Mertile being the most experienced among those corners no longer on the team.
You don't just replace Cyprien with anybody, but FIU has some talent with Justin Halley (above), Terrance Taylor and Davison Colimon at safety and with possible additions on Wednesday.
The Panthers will need to address the cornerback position on Wednesday and in the coming months leading to the 2013 season. FIU lacks a lot of depth right now at corner. Sam Miller, Richard Leonard are among the top returning cornerbacks. One corner who really showed tremendous potential last season was freshman Jeremiah McKinnon, who was a force on special teams and displayed good cover skills in pass defense.
FIU will have new players at each of the specialist positions in 2013. New kicker, punter, long snapper. The Panthers all-time points leader, kicker Jack Griffin will be looking to work on Sundays this fall. Punter Josh Brisk has also graduated as did long snapper Mitch MacClugage.
What remains on the current roster are untested redshirt freshman kicker Sergio Sroka and redshirt freshman punter Chris Ayers. More than likely both will have to fend off competition to win their respective jobs. Expect to see more specialists on the roster in the near future.