Previously: Running Back
Continuing our position by position series, let’s take a look at the group of wideouts who will be tasked with trying to fill the shoes of Thomas Owens.
Returnees: Tony Gaither IV (Jr.) - 5-9, 185, 34 receptions for 314 yards and one touchdown
Austin Maloney (R-Jr.) - 5-11, 190, 21 receptions for 304 yards, zero touchdowns
Darrius Scott (Jr.) - 5-10, 195, 22 receptions for 298 yards and two touchdowns
Bryce Singleton (Soph.) - 5-10, 193, 17 receptions for 228 yards and three touchdowns
Shermar Thornton (Soph.) - 5-11, 182, 10 receptions for 164 yards and two touchdowns
Maurice Alexander (R-Jr.) - 6-0, 190, Moved to wide receiver after spring, 13 games as a quarterback
C.J. Worton (R-Sr.) - 6-0, 183, Redshirted-Transfer from University of Florida
Richie Cooper (R-Jr.) - 5-8, 160, Redshirted-Transfer from University of Akron
Walter Jackson (R-Jr.)- 5-10, 188, Redshirted-Transfer from Northern Michigan
Zach Armour TE (R-So.)- 6-4, 225, Zero catches in 2017.
Newcomers: Zahir Turner (Fr.)- 6-0, 160, Three-star recruit, Miami-Booker T. Washington
Jordan Underwood (Fr.)- 6-0, 174, Three-star recruit, Orlando-Olympia
Ivan Thomas (Fr.)- 6-4, 221, Three-star recruit, Miami-Palmetto
Cadarius Gaskin (Fr.) 6-3, 215. Three-star recruit, Delray Beach-Atlantic
Sterling Palmer (Fr.) 6-6, 240, Two-star recruit, Fork Union Military Academy
David O’Meara (Fr.) 6-5, 250, Two-star recruit, Tallahassee-Chiles
Heading into Fall: The good news for the Panthers is that they return a lot of experience. The bad news is the bulk of that experience comes as the supporting cast to Thomas Owens’s starring role last season.
Just like the running backs, expect FIU to spread the ball around as Rich Skrosky’s offense employs three receivers over 40 percent of the snaps.
Look for Tony Gaiter IV and speedster Austin Maloney to lead the way. After that there’s going to be a lot of competition for the third and forth spots.
Former Florida Gator C.J. Worton had a tremendous spring and was awarded a scholarship by Butch Davis for his efforts.
Darrius Scott has put together back to back solid seasons in his first two campaigns as a Panther. Singleton and Thornton both made contributions as true freshmen last season.
The mystery of the group has to be former starting quarterback Maurice Alexander. He voluntarily asked to move to receiver after the spring game. There’s no doubt he has the athleticism to be an impact player as a receiver, the question will be how quickly can he get up to speed as a receiver.
FIU’s 2018 recruiting class was ranked number one in Conference USA by 24/7 Sports and boasts a quartet of three-star wide receivers.
Zahir Turner, Ivan Thomas and Cadarius Gaskin all hail from within a 50-mile radius of FIU’s campus, while Jordan Underwood from Orlando is also a talented prospect who will push for playing time.
The tight end position accounted for 27 catches and three touchdowns last season.
Candidates for the starting job will be Zach Armour who was a reserve last season, along with two freshmen with impressive size and athleticism in David O’Meara and Sterling Palmer.
Both are timed at under 4.75 seconds in the 40-yard dash despite being over 235 pounds.
Final Thought: While Thomas Owens led FIU in receiving the past three seasons, the Panthers are in good shape with the amount of depth they have at the position.
Alexander has the potential to be an X-Factor. He reminds me of another decorated Dade county high school quarterback in former UCF QB Jeff Godfrey.
If Alexander can be as successful as Godfrey was in switching positions in college, Rich Skrosky will have a valuable weapon in his arsenal. It will take a group effort to replace Owens production, but the talent is there for the passing game to be effective.
Position Grade: B. I was torn between a B and B- because losing Thomas Owens can’t be understated. With that being said, the combination of returning experience, C.J. Worton coming in, and the potential of the receiving group leads me to believe the Panthers are in solid shape here entering the 2018 season.