When it comes to the skill positions on offense for FIU, improving the receiving corps might be the most pressing issue of this offseason. Outside of a few deep passes to Glenn Coleman last season the Panthers really didn't have much of a deep threat in the passing game.
FIU's two longest completions last season came in the same game at UAB. Coleman caught an 85-yard touchdown pass from Alex McGough. Tight end Jonnu Smith (photo above) caught a short pass from McGough and outran the Blazers defense for a 75-yard score. However, that was about it when it came to FIU's vertical passing game.
Before we get more into the receivers and tight ends, the Countdown to NSD 2015 series disclaimer: Due to NCAA restrictions, I can only comment on current or former Panthers until National Signing Day on Feb. 4. Until then you good people are smart enough to know where to find recruiting rumblings.
On National Signing Day, Feb. 4, I'll talk to you about all the new Panthers on our FIU 2015 NSD Radio Broadcast from the FIU Stadium Club after FIU's National Signing Day event where coach Ron Turner will introduce the newest FIU players. The event will be open to the public and begins at 5:30 p.m. Turner will speak at 6 p.m. On the radio broadcast, Turner and FIU players will join me and former FIU linebacker James Knapp to talk about the day and look ahead to spring practice. CLICK HERE to access the radio broadcast.
Going into this offseason getting receivers that could take the top off of defenses was a priority for FIU. After Coleman's 23 receptions last season, speedy freshman Dennis Turner (above), who played sparingly, had the next most catches with 11 but averaged just 8.1 yards per catch. The Panthers are hoping with one year in the system under his belt Turner will play faster in 2015. Coleman led the Panthers with 20.3 yards per catch but he was a senior so his time is done at FIU.
FIU has some intriguing receivers returning in 2015 in addition to the three or four receivers the Panthers are looking to add in the 2015 signing class. Freshman Thomas Owens showed some flashes of his physicality last season in practice. At 6-1, 200 pounds, Owens could manhandle defensive backs if he progresses this coming season. Michigan State transfer Juwan Caesar (below), who sat out last season due to NCAA transfer rules, also made some nice catches on the scout team and he measures 6-5 which will also make him a tough cover for opposing secondaries. I thought Clinton Taylor came on at the end of last season. With his quickness Taylor could compete for time in the slot.
FIU has already signed one receiver for 2015 in Central High's Anthony Jones, who was a human highlight film for the Rockets en route to the state championship. Jones is the kind of speedy playmaker that FIU set out to acquire in the offseason, someone that can stretch defenses. Jones can also get big yardage out of the Wildcat running the ball as he did at Central.
Smith, who is listed as a tight end, is more like a receiver playing tight end. Smith led FIU in all receiving categories last season with 61 catches, 710 receiving yards and 8 touchdowns. Smith is a junior now and he'll have a couple of seniors at tight end with him in Akil Dan-Fodio and Ya'Keem Griner. Both Dan-Fodio and Griner are athletic and can help the FIU offense. FIU loses Cory White, who was a solid blocking tight end. Look for the Panthers to add one, maybe two tight ends on Feb. 4.