In somewhat dramatic fashion, Butch Davis and FIU close out their 2019 recruiting class with a “victory” of sorts over rival FAU.
Three-star defensive back Brian Dillard verbally committed to FIU on January 27th, after decommitting from USF.
However, a last-minute visit from Florida Atlantic Head Coach Lane Kiffin prompted Dillard to take a trip to Boca Raton on December 2nd. In the end, Dillard made it official that he’ll join FIU, signing his letter-of-intent from Lake Weir High at 4 P.M. and in the process becoming the 21st and final addition to the program.
The recruiting battle between two of college football’s premier recruiters was a topic of discussion heading into signing day.
“FIU is out-recruiting FAU right now,” said Charles Fishbein to the Miami Herald.
Fishbein is a recruiting expert in South Florida.
Kiffin who isn’t known for being shy on opinions, took note of the the quote and the article.
Might want to write these articles after signing day not before. ♂️ @MiamiHerald https://t.co/I9xilWknrT— Lane Kiffin (@Lane_Kiffin) February 6, 2019
Despite the semantics of the recruiting “victory”, what Davis and his staff are very much aware of is the fact that they’re 0-2 versus FAU in the two season that they’ve been in Miami.
In terms of trying to add talent to the roster to change that fact, the bulk of FIU’s class was signed during the early signing period in December.
Davis inked a dozen players shortly before Christmas.
Included in that group was highly-decorated quarterback Stone Norton, who was Tennessee's “Mr. Football” for the 2018 season, after passing for over 3,400 yards and 41 touchdowns in leading Nashville’s Davidson Academy to a state championship.
Running back Lexington Joseph, who is the Panthers’ highest rated recruit according to 247 Sports also signed during the early period. Joseph attended the same high school as current FIU running back Anthony Jones and ran for over 1,600 yards during his final prep season.
The team also addressed the defensive side of the ball by landing Lousiana native Ni’Kendrick Carter in December. Carter was committed to SMU, before switching to FIU and is a very athletic linebacker, who both Davis and DB coach Bryn Renner describe as “having a great ability to sense where a running back may go, because of his time spent as a back.”
For a deeper look at all 12 commits who signed in December, my article on those signees is below.
Signing Day Additions
FIU added six more players on National Signing Day. Here’s a look at the additional athletes who will be making their way to Miami.
DB, 6-2, 195
Lake Weir, FL (Lake Weir HS)
247 ranking: Three-star
About Dillard: Dillard comes to FIU with a ton of playmaking ability. At 6’2, he brings size and length to the Panther secondary and finished his prep career with 174 tackles, 11 interceptions and an impressive 12 fumbles forced. In his junior season, he returned three interceptions for touchdowns.
WR/DB/LB 6-3, 200
Port St. Joe, FL (Port St. Joe HS)
247 Ranking: Three-star
About Gant: Gant is a prospect that the FIU coaching staff has the ability to play a huge role in their defense.
“I think he can be an explosive safety that can cover in space, a lot like a Xavier Rhodes or Derwin James,” said Renner.
The Port St. Joe product was formerly a UCF commit, but chose to de-commit in mid-January and was courted late in the recruiting process by various power-five programs. He recorded 62 tackles, two interceptions and forced three fumbles in his senior season.
‘Safeties need to be tremendous athletes in today’s game, because they have to be able to cover in multiple receiver sets and they’ll double almost like another linebacker at times depending on the coverage,” said Davis.
Guard 6-3, 300
Keller, TX (Central HS)
247 Ranking: Three-star
About Finau: The product of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex was ranked among the top-200 players in Texas by most ranking services He chose FIU, after having offers from Hawaii and Air Force.
“He’s tough, physical and he’ll surprise you with his athleticism. He’s nimble on his feet and can get in and out of traffic and this kid finishes blocks. Comes from a great family,” said Davis.
TE/WR 6-3, 235
Delray Beach, FL (Atlantic HS)
247 Ranking: Three-star
About Williams: Williams was somewhat of a surprise signee for the Panthers. He chose FIU over offers from Kansas and C-USA rival Marshall. One of the biggest things that jumps out about Williams on film is his athletic ability for his size and the match-up nightmares that size could create as a receiver.
“His versatility is outstanding, he’s played wideout, tight end, fullback, H-back. If you’re a kid who is this size and runs a 4.6, we’re going to find you. He can come in a contribute on special teams immediately and I had a great conversation with he and his mom and I told him that we’ll definitely find a place for you here,” said Davis.
LB 6-3, 220
Winter Garden, FL (West Orange HS)
247 Ranking: Two/Three-star
About Carter: FIU’s ability to recruit the Central Florida region pays dividends again with the addition of Carter. Under Butch Davis, the Panthers have signed seven players from the three county area (Orange, Seminole, Lake) in the middle of the state. Carter led West Orange with 96 tackles as a senior and was also voted a team captain.
“This is a kid who plays in the box, he has the instincts to find the ball, can cover and plays downhill,” said Davis.
OT 6-5, 295
Tampa, FL (Jefferson HS)
247 Ranking: Two-Star
About Hobdy-Lee: The Tampa native chose FIU over interest from Kentucky, FAU and Bethune-Cookman.
“He’s a massive kid and you see the power he has, he can trap and pull and do things that make him very versatile as an offensive lineman. He does a great job blocking in space. He really fit in with the culture and Allen Modgridge did a great job finding him,” said Davis.
The Panthers close out the recruiting period with a total of 18 signees and three additions via transfer. Of the 18 high school players, 15 were three-star prospects and three were two-star players.
Up next for FIU is their spring game, which is scheduled for April 12th at Riccardo Silva Stadium.