National Signing Day is two days 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.
Before we get into the returning FIU defensive line and linebackers, 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 biggest losses for the Panthers along the defensive front are Tourek Williams, Josh Forney and Andre Pound. Williams, who had a stellar FIU career, will be working on Sundays in the fall of 2013. Although Williams will be sorely missed, the previous FIU coaching staff left some pretty good talent along the D-line.
Isame Faciane, Paul Crawford (above), Giovani Francois, Fadol Brown and Lars Koht are among the returning defensive linemen to see playing time last season. Greg Hickman also played a lot on the defensive front, but he might shift between the D-line and linebacker (his natural position) due to the inexperience at linebacker with the departure of three seniors.
The Panthers also have an intriguing bunch of freshmen from last season that should make an impact this season, including the New Orleans trio of Darian Dyson, Marques Cheeks and Leonard Washington. Dieugot Joseph and Michael Wakefield are also in that group.
One area where the Panthers have to find a way to improve in 2013 is getting in the opponent's backfield. FIU had 87 and 88 tackles for loss in 2010 and 2011, respectively, and 33 and 35 sacks in those years as well. The numbers dropped for FIU last season when it had 66 tackles for loss and 23 sacks. We'll see if younger defenders help the Panthers improve in those deparments.
Seniors Winston Fraser, Jordan Hunt and Kenny Dillard are gone and in step linebackers lean on experience, but with potential.
Patrick Jean, Josh Glanton and Jamie Willis were highly-touted coming out of high school just a year ago. Jean turned down Louisville at the last minute to come to FIU. Jean, Glanton and Willis are all physically ready to play. They just now need some game experience. Luis Rosado, who had a promising start to his FIU career in 2011 with a sack and a forced fumble against North Texas, should also get a chance to see what he can do.
Hickman (above) could be the hub of this unit if he moves back from the defensive line. Hickman has the speed and power to play linebacker and to line up on the edge along the defensive line. Another option for linebacker depth is possibly using safety Davison Colimon, who played linebacker in high school.
Linebacker is an area where the Panthers are thin right now and that might play a factor in 2013, depending on what happens on and after February 6.