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FIU 2018 Outlook: Offensive & Defensive Lines: A tale of two units.

The Panther defensive line has the potential to be special. Can the offensive line rise to their level?

NCAA Football: Texas-San Antonio at Florida International
Anthony Johnson could be the most under-rated interior lineman in all of C-USA.
Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Previously: Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

Continuing our position by position look at FIU let’s take a look at the line play. The positive for Panthers is they have five starting offensive linemen returning. However, the unit has room for growth.

The defensive line is a different story. They have the potential to be the best in C-USA.

Florida International v Rice
Senior tackle Kai Absheer will lead a veteran group of offensive lineman in 2018.
Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

Returnees OL: Kai Absheer (R-Sr)- Started 12 games

Jordan Budwig: (Gr)- Started 13 games

Dallas Connell: (Jr)- Started 12 games

Daquane Wilkie: (R-Sr)- Started 10 games

Neal Mars: (Sr)- Started 11 games

Shane McGough: (R-Soph)- Started 2 games

Tahj Brighthaupt: (Soph)- Reserve

Jason Jean: (R-Jr)- Reserve

Doug Connell: (R-Soph)- Reserve

Returnees DL: Fermin Silva LB/DE (Sr)- 50 tackles and 7 sacks

Anthony Johnson: (R-Sr)- 39 tackles and 7 sacks

Jermaine Sheriff: (R-Sr)- 20 tackles and 2 sacks

Noah Curtis: (Soph)- 17 tackles

Josh Little: (R-Jr)- 16 tackles and 1.5 sacks

Andrew Tarver: (R-Soph)- 12 tackles

Kevin Oliver: (Soph)- 8 tackles and 1 sack

Newcomers OL and DL: D’Antne Demery OL (Soph)- Three-star prospect, Hutchinson Community College

Lyndell Hudson Jr. OL (Fr)- Three-star prospect, Brooksville-Central High

Teair Tart DT: (Jr)- Four-star prospect, Ellsworth Community College

Tayland Humphrey DT: (Jr) Four-star prospect, Hutchinson Community College

Jordan Woods DE: (R-Soph) Transfer from Georgia Tech

Jason Mercier DE: (Fr) Three-star prospect, Boynton Beach-Atlantic

Heading into Fall: The Panther offensive line is talented and experienced. That’s the plus.

However, the fact of the matter is Alex McGough covered up for certain deficiencies on the line. FIU statistically was below average protecting the QB on passing downs (Second-and-8 or more, third-and-5 or more, or fourth-and-5 or more) in 2017.

The unit has all five starters returning, plus talented JUCO product D’Antne Demery, so the potential is there.

The D-Line is has a chance to be special. Hybrid LB/DE Fermin Silva is a darkhorse DPOY candidate.

Florida International v Massachusetts
Fermin Silva will stand up at LB on 1st and 2nd downs, but will see time as a DE on passing downs.
Photo by Tim Bradbury/Getty Images

DT Anthony Johnson could be the best interior lineman you’ve never heard of.

Four-star JUCO transfers Teair Tait and Tayland Humphrey, plus Georgia Tech transfer Jordan Woods will bring a dearth of talent to the unit.

Final Thought: The play of both units will make or break FIU in 2017. The defensive line can easily be one of the best in the conference. In my opinion, the play of the unit can make the entire defense.

Silva along with Texas transfer Edwin Freeman and Sage Lewis are a dynamic linebacking core and the play of the front-seven will do wonders for the DB’s.

As for the offensive line, there’s a stable of talented running backs ready to run behind them and two quarterbacks who if given time can make the throws.

Position Grade: Defensive Line A-/Offensive Line B-

Defensive coordinator Brent Guy has to be ecstatic at the depth on the D-line. The unit is a legit 8 deep and the ability to rotate fresh players in and out will be huge.

I’m expecting opposing offenses to be under duress all season long. The offensive line has the potential to a solid unit. The biggest question is just how much of last year’s success was McGough’s magic?