FIU opened its 15th football training camp Wednesday morning 28 days from the season opener against Indiana on Sept. 1. The Panthers have many known commodities back on offense and those appeared to be in fine form Wednesday. And while on defense FIU has to replace two shutdown cornerbacks with the graduations of Richard Leonard and Jeremiah McKinnon, the Panthers got some encouraging performances from a couple of corners Wednesday.
Sophomore cornerback Emmanuel Lubin and freshman cornerback Isaiah Brown stood out the most among the corners in the first practice. Lubin, who made some plays last season, had a pass breakup during 7-on-7s and later just missed a pick six on a throw by Christian Alexander. Brown was aggressive in coverage, stripping Thomas Owens of the ball after Owens made a catch over the middle. Brown later followed that up with two pass breakups. Both Lubin and Brown have good size. Each is 6-1 and that certainly helps when most receivers are taller than six feet.
Speaking of size, several newcomers have plenty of it. Freshman receiver Freddie Pinder is a big 6-5 and Stanley Thomas is a rangy 6-2. Thomas is also a freshman receiver. Freshman running back Shawndarrius Phillips looks like he will be a load to bring down standing 5-11 and weighing 230 pounds. I mentioned a comparison to former FIU running back Darriet Perry in the preview but getting an in-person look this morning I'd say Phillips is bigger than Perry.
It is a good sight to see tight end Jonnu Smith running and cutting with no issues after ACL surgery last season. Smith was NOT wearing the Home Depot jersey as he is completely healthy. Smith hauled in a long pass from quarterback Alex McGough during team drills.
Entering his junior season, McGough appears to be in complete command of the offense. He made a nifty throw to Owens in traffic. Besides the freshman talent at receiver, that includes speedster Tony Gaiter, McGough has Owens and Smith to work with among the returning pass catchers. Gaiter also worked as a punt returner Wednesday.
Some of the other highlights from Wednesday: Vontarius West continued his good defensive work from last season picking off Christian Alexander. But credit Christian Alexander, who bounced back on the next play to connect with Gaiter on a 23-yard completion.
Maurice Alexander threw a little too tall to 6-4 Shawn Abrams and safety Deonte Wilson was there to intercept the pass. Fullback Jacob Kraut looks smooth catching the ball out of the backfield. Kraut, a Rutgers transfer, is a true fullback and that will allow Smith to line up more as a tight end/receiver.
The linebackers practiced as advertised. Davison Colimon batted down a pass. Anthony Wint got into the offensive backfield.