I had the chance to catch up with linebackers coach Rob Harley after Friday's practice to talk about his position group. You can click the link above for the full interview as well as an interview with freshman receiver Dennis Turner, whose voice kind of sounds like former FIU basketball coach Isiah Thomas. Take a listen.
For the most part the linebackers are young and inexperienced but there is talent in the group. Like other position groups in camp the 1s and the 2s at linebacker have been fluid. Just today two freshmen and a sophomore were running with the 1s: freshmen Anthony Wint and Jordan Guest (photo on front page) and sophomore Treyvon Williams (photo below).
Harley said Williams and junior Luis Rosado have been pushing each other for the starting MIKE spot. Or in Harley's terms they have been "on the hunt" for the starting job. One practice you will see Rosado with the 1s and then like today Williams will be with the starters. Rosado had never played the MIKE before spring ball but he has been adapting. With Williams's size (5-11, 230 pounds) and nose for the football, he reminds me of former FIU middle linebacker Keyonvis Bouie, who went on to be the Sun Belt Conference Defensive Player of the Year in 2006.
I think Guest has been one of the surprises of camp with his playmaking ability. The redshirt freshman has been all over the field. Guest is 6-4 and at 200 pounds probably needs to fill out some more, but there is no question he can play linebacker. Wint is another playmaker. He just needs to collect the game experience. Harley said Wint has been on another level but that he has to balance not putting too much on his plate because he is a true freshman. Freshman Fred Russ has shown glimpses of what he can do as well.
Harley called Davison Colimon and Patrick Jean, "athletes". Harley said both have "done a real good job" and they have embraced the challenge of earning more playing time.
Besides Wint practicing with the first team today, safety Jordan Davis also ran with the 1s while Justin Halley was with the 2s.
The offensive line had some shuffling between the first and second teams today. Edens Sineace worked at right tackle with the 1s, Delmar Taylor and Jordan White alternated at right guard. Dieugot Joseph got snaps with the 1s at left tackle.
LOOK AHEAD TO SATURDAY'S SCRIMMAGE
The Panthers will scrimmage Saturday morning with the season opener just two weeks away. Saturday marks the 15th of 23 practices this month for FIU. Here are some things I'll be looking for in the scrimmage.
Will either quarterback E.J. Hilliard or Alex McGough take noticeable strides in the competition for the starting job? Hilliard has looked more in command of the offense this month than he did last year. Hilliard is also throwing the ball with more authority. McGough has the physical tools to be the starter but how well he handles the speed of the game may determine who is under center against Bethune-Cookman on Aug. 30.
There has been a lot of shuffling between the 1s and the 2s when it comes to the receiving corps in camp. Which receivers are going to stand out in the final week of camp and claim starting jobs? The young receivers are pushing the veterans. Freshmen Dennis Turner and Thomas Owens have impressed. Lately, Dominique Rhymes (above) has been consistent catching the football. Glenn Coleman has starting receiver talent. I know he's a recent kicker-turned-receiver but Cody Hodgens can help this team. He's not afraid of catching passes in traffic.
With Lars Koht out with a foot injury there have been more reps for other defensive tackles to try and earn more playing time. Darrian Dyson has had a solid week in camp with several tackles for losses. Marques Cheeks can also get more playing time with a good finish to camp. The interior of the defensive line and the linebackers could be key to how well the defense performs in 2014 because there is a lack of game experience on both units.
It will be interesting to see how well the offensive line performs in more of a game-like setting in Saturday's scrimmage. I think the line has done a decent job in both pass and run blocking during 11-on-11s in practice. I would like to see more of a push in short yardage situations. The improvement of the offense from 2013 to 2014 starts with the O-line.
There's a pretty good battle going on between Demarkus Perkins, Justin Halley and Jordan Davis for the two starting safety spots. All three are capable of being reliable starters against the pass and the run. Which two safeties are going to end up starting?
Which punter is going to outkick the other three candidates and take the job. Chris Ayers, Karson Dietrich, Jose Laphitzondo and Luke Medlock have not been as consistent as special teams coach Shannon Moore would like. For a team like FIU that is trying to take a step forward a dependable punter is huge because of the hidden yardage game. You can't have opponents consistently starting in good field position because that will wear on a defense.
Check back here on Saturday for a recap of the scrimmage.