New FIU head coach Butch Davis signed the best recruiting class in recent memory for FIU as the Panthers signed the fourth best recruiting class in Conference USA, with 12 three star recruits set to call Miami their next home. We will take a look at the new roster and do a position-by-position breakdown of what the roster looks like going into Spring Camp.
Returning contributors: Jordan Budwig (SR), Left guard who had zero starts in 2016 but has 24 career starts. Daquane Wilkie (JR), Right tackle who started eight games. Kai Absheer (JR), Left guard who started 12 games. Neal Mars (JR), Center who started four games.
Incoming recruits: Cody Bowers (3 Star), Willa Pierre (3 Star), Mershawn Miller (2 Star)
What we know: Similar to FAU, FIU’s offensive line was pretty solid at run blocking. The Panthers ranked 58th in Opportunity Rate, 63rd in Stuff Rate, and 71st in Adjusted Line Yards. Not amazing, but good enough to get the job done.
What they really struggled in was keeping Alex McGough on his feet. The offensive line surrendered 31 sacks last season. What’s weird is that on passing downs the line held up quite well as they ranked 53rd in Passing Downs Sack Rate. When they tried to pass the ball on standard downs is when they struggled as they finished 83rd in Adjusted Sack Rate.
With the amount of talent and experience returning at quarterback, running back, and wide receiver the offense will go as far as the offensive line will take them. Last year it was middle of the pack.
The line should perform much better in 2017. Two-year starter Jordan Budwig returns after missing last season with a shoulder injury. Couple that with the return of Kai Absheer and those are two solid pieces to work with.
But returning starts along the offensive line doesn’t always mean the unit will be better. Allen Mogridge was tabbed as FIU’s new offensive line coach but he only has two years of experience (one year at UCF and last year at Georgia Southern) so there’s not a lot of evidence to glean from on his end if he’s the guy to turn this unit around.
Cody Bowers, a former West Virginia commit, was one of the best recruits Butch signed in 2017. Bowers could see the field early should the line not perform to Butch’s standards.
Final thought: Junior left guard Chris Miller is the only other player on the roster who has made at least one start along the offensive line. If the Panthers experience any injuries along their two-deep they will be plugging in players who are very green.
Position grade: C+. Experience on the offensive line is a plus no matter what advanced stats say. The 31 sacks allowed last year should decrease due to four returning starters. However, should there be any injuries FIU is going to be in some trouble.