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FIU Week: Offensive Preview

Editor's Note:This is from way back in June, but it provides a halfway-decent overview look of what FIU's offense was predicted to look like, prior to fall practice. Sorry for the lack of original content. The Defensive Preview I provided will be re-posted in the morning...RCT

Last season, offense wasn't Florida International's strength. Not by a long shot. I mean, obviously they weren't world-beaters on either side of the ball; that is inevitable when you post an 1-11 season. However, their offense was clearly the weaker of the two, and the passing game was the weak point of the offense, hands down. However, much of that can be attributed to how young the team was, and they are returning eight of their starters on the offensive side of the ball. Improvement is expected, and an absolute must if they are to win more than a game-or-two this year, but how much will be the difference between another 'disappointing' year and a 'successful' one.

Last Season

Last year, using passing efficiency, Florida International had the worst passing offense in all of Division 1-A. All of it. It wasn't particularly close, either. If you would rather go by passing yards, we can do that too. 117th. The two teams that threw for fewer yards last year were Navy and Air Force. They throw about five times a game. They only got 150 yards-a-game out of their passing game, that's all. Oh, and it isn't like they were just uber-protective of the ball either. They threw 20 interceptions, tied for eighth most in all of college football. Combine all of that together and you have one of the more pathetic units you should ever see in college football. This pathetic unit was led by numerous quarterbacks, naturally. Sophomore Wayne Younger saw the most action, appearing in 11 games. However, he posted a 9:17 TD:INT ratio, and eventually wore out the coaching staff; which led to the insertion of his backup, Junior Paul McCall. McCall fared better in his time on the field, completing 10% more of his passes and posting a 5:1 ratio. McCall also averaged 15 more yards per game passing. Still, neither played well enough to clearly entrench themselves as the starter entering this season, which we will get into a little later on.

The running game was better, sure, but not much. They ranked 98th in the country in rushing offense, averaging 118 yards a pop. The running game was led by Senior A'Mod Ned, who averaged about 4 yards a rush. Considering that the passing game provided little balance, that is a pretty solid output. However, he only scored 2 TDs, for whatever reason. Younger also contributed in the running game, using his athleticism to actually lead the team in yards-per-carry with 4.2. Senior Julian Reams also contributed, carrying the ball 82 times for 274 yards.

Overall, as I mentioned, the offense is awfully putrid. Total Offense, yards-wise, FIU ranks 118th. Scoring wise: 119th. Last year was pitiful from an offensive standpoint at FIU. However, they do figure to be much-improved this upcoming season, as they are returning nearly every single one of their starters, all with an added year of experience.

This Season

As I mentioned earlier, the Golden Panthers figure to be much-improved this upcoming season. They lose just about no one on the offensive side of the ball, and they have nowhere to go but up. So, with that being said, here are who figure to be big, impact players in the Panthers' offense this upcoming season, and in the game against the Jayhawks.

Quarterback :: As previously mentioned, they are led by the dual-threat QB Wayne Younger. He walked on to the program, spent a year redshirting and on the scout team before finally seeing real-life game action last season. It was clear that he was almost learning on the job, making plenty of mistakes (17 INTs) and throwing for a pitifully low percentage. However, he also has the most potential of the FIU quarterbacks and will continue to be given chances because of his athletic ability. Still, my money is on also-aformentioned Paul McCall, a more traditional pass-only QB, to win the job entering Memorial Stadium. McCall started the final two games of FIU's year last year, after Younger was injured, and shined (relatively) in both. 23-35 against the Florida Atlantic Owls (the real Boca Raton team) with 2 TDs and only 1 INT was followed by 11-19 for 3 TDs (and 0 INTs) in the season-finale, and the Panthers' only win, against North Texas. They were the best passing performances of the season, bar none, but in those two games he only ran for a combined 4 yards.

So, it comes down to a pretty easy proposition, at least based off of last year's statistics, scouting reports and such. You either sink-or-swim with the incredibly athletic, dual-threat Younger, and live with the inevitable mistakes, or you go with the pass-heavy, mistake-free(er) McCall. I think the smart choice is McCall, and I think that, at least for the beginning of the year, Mario Cristobal will go with McCall. Of course, a monster fall practice season from Younger could make the decision a really easy one.

Runningback :: Already went over this one, but we can quickly scan over this position yet again. A'Mod Ned is the clear focal point of the running game, having received more carries each-and-every year in the FIU program. 88 freshman carries turned into 94 sophomore carries before ending in 143 carries last season; and Ned is in line for another increase this season, barring an injury. Particularly if they go McCall, they will have to ride Ned to a decent rushing attack, and it will be (at least at the beginning of the season) against a stop-the-run-at-all-costs defense. Because of the absolute pathetic qualities of FIU's passing "attack" last season, defenses should be loading up in the box to force McCall or Younger, whoever is the starter, to beat them through the air.

Ned is helped out by Julian Reams, who received 82 carries last season, but is clearly the major component in the FIU offense. Also watch out for H-Back John Ellis, as he has "become a favorite safety-valve of all three

Wide Receiver :: Naturally, considering how putrid the throwing game was last season, there were no 'breakout' wideouts last season. It wasn't for lack of options, however. 19 separate Golden Panthers caught at least one pass last season, and eight (including Ned) reached double digits. No one caught more than 21 passes, and no one had more than 304 yards receiving. For a reference point; Marcus Henry caught 54 passes last season and had more than 1000 yards receiving. And we had an awfully balanced attack. So, yea. Greg Ellingson, a sophomore, might have been the most consistent wideout they had last season. He caught a ball in eight of their games last season, including three in Lawrence. He also led the team in receiving yards, with 304. Trenard Turner is listed as a RB by ESPN, but he ran the ball all of zero times last season compared to 12 catches. He also led the team in yards per catch, exploding a couple of times (screen passes? lined up outside as a WR?) for plays exceeding 20 yards. Six times he caught a pass for more than 20 yards, including doing it twice in one game against North Texas, FIU's lone win last season. So, maybe he will factor into the game or not. The possession receiver of the bunch is probably sophomore Jason Frierson. He caught more passes than any other Golden Panther last season, with 21, but averaged only 9 yards a pop. He had himself a nice game in Lawrence, hauling in 4 passes for 42 yards. Elliot Dix, a junior who had his two best games of the season (by far) to end the year with McCall at QB, also figures to factor into the equation, as does fellow junior Jeremy Dickens, who also had a great end to the season with McCall at QB.

Tight End :: Last season, only two tight ends factored into the FIU passing game: Moses Hinton and Eric Kirchenburg. They both caught 5 passes on the year, Hinton's for 75 yards (including a 49-yard TD against Maryland) and Kirchenburg's for 49 yards, and neither caught a pass in the final four games of the season, when the offense looked most competent. So, who knows if they will factor as much into the offensive equation this season, as FIU (judging by the stat sheet) has plenty of viable options at the wide receiver positions. If I were them, of course I am not them, I would just stick with the WR's and leave the TE's for short-yardage and blocking. But I am seriously in love with the spread, so I'm not exactly an unbiased opinion on that one.

Offensive Line :: Now, I'm not making excuses or nothing, just giving you some evidence. When you google 'Florida International Golden Panthers', my introductory post is like #4 on the list. There is virtually no news on the Golden Panthers, and all of it is stats. Of course, O-Liners don't exactly have, uh, stats. So, finding out just who the starters were who last year was hard, and not exactly a fool-proof adventure. But here is the best I was able to come up with:

LT -- Junior Andy Leavine

LG --Junior Michael Alls

C --Sophomore Brad Serini

RG -- Junior Joe Alajajian

RT -- Senior Dustin Gibson

Again, those may be way off, but basing it off of their last game's starting lineup and defections and stuff, that is my best guess.