FIU receivers had 1,514 of the team's 2,854 receiving yards last season. Receiver Thomas Owens had the most receiving yards with 638, but the Panthers didn't really have another receiver as a consistent No. 2 threat. Clinton Taylor had the second most yards among receivers with 387.
Having tight end Jonnu Smith healthy again will certainly help take away some defensive attention from Owens. Still, FIU is looking for someone else to step forward to complement Owens and Smith. During camp this month several receivers have shown promise to possibly emerge as a consistent number two to Owens.
"T.O. and Jonnu give us a chance on the field but as many of those type of weapons that you can find to put on the field at once to create stress for the defense that's the goal," FIU receivers coach Kort Shankweiler said. "We've had some guys who have been here who have stepped up and we have some guys who just got here that are going to give us the chance to put more weapons on the field."
One of those guys that has been here that could help this season is redshirt freshman Austin Maloney, who led Miami-Dade County in receiving in his senior season at Columbus High. Maloney has shown good hands in camp and is quick after catching the ball.
"From where Austin was at this time last year as a freshman to now has been a tremendous improvement," Shankweiler said. "He's a guy who knows where to be at multiple positions and when he's consistent with catching the ball he's a guy that will be a great addition for us on the field this year."
FIU brought in some very good speed and size with its newest receivers. Freshman Stanley Thomas, a 6-2, 185-pounder out of Charlotte High, has not looked like a freshman in camp. Yes, Thomas is very athletic and has good hands but he's shown some instincts not usually associated with first-year players.
"Stanley is an exceptional route runner," Shankweiler said. "He does a lot of stuff naturally that you don't have to spend a lot of time coaching. People think you just get out there and go run a route, but you have to take into account how the defense is playing you, if the corner is playing the press or if he's playing you off. There's a lot that goes into it. So for a guy coming from the high school level to this offense and do that has been a treat for all of us."
Freshmen Darrius Scott (5-11) and Tony Gaiter (5-9) may not have the size of Thomas but they are just as fast and have a good feel for the game.
"Tony Gaiter is a very natural football player," Shankweiler said. "He's very instinctive. Whether you put the ball in his hands or if it's perimeter blocking or route running, having the feel of when to make a break. Tony knows how to do those things."