FIU will bring spring practice to a conclusion with their “Spring Showcase” Friday night at Riccardo Silva Stadium.
There’s plenty of room for optimism surrounding the Panthers, who return 18 starters from last year’s nine-win team, led by redshirt senior quarterback James Morgan and senior linebacker Sage Lewis.
While it won’t be a traditional spring game scrimmage, expect to get a look at many of the players involved in position battles and those who didn’t see much action last season due to redshirt.
Here’s three things to keep on an eye during the showcase.
1. The Offensive Line
The improved play of the unit in year two under position coach Allen Mogridge was undoubtedly a catalyst for the success of the offense last season.
However, entering this season, there’s four key members of the group to replace.
That’s made even more critical by the fact that FIU likes to play eight or nine offensive linemen a contest.
D’Antne Demery, Dallas Connell and Shane McGough are locks as starters, while Mershawn Miller, Devontay Taylor and Shacquille Williams will see extensive playing time, whether as starters or rotational.
JUCO transfer Logan Gunderson has practiced at guard and tackle during the spring and Willa Pierre will also have a chance at making the rotation.
Connell has been praised as a leader in the offensive line room, leading film meetings and being a relentless worker in his adjustment last season to the center position.
Taylor and McGough are projected to tremendous strides heading into fall and the season.
2. Young Talent
Various members of the coaching staff have made mention of this year’s team being not only incredibly deep, but it being the first year that freshmen wont be pressed into duty because of need.
With that, it will be worth watching how some of the younger players who didn’t see many snaps last season look.
On the defensive side of the ball, defensive backs Jesson Walker, Jamal Anderson, Shamar Munroe, and linebackers Tevin Jones and Daniel Jackson are among the players who have had a strong showing during the spring.
On offense, the amount of depth at the “skill” positions is vast.
Look for running backs DeMarcus Townsend and Shaun Peterson Jr. to show that they’re capable of carrying the load behind the four veterans in front of them.
Athletic tight ends David O’Meara and Ivan Thomas are more than capable behind starter Sterling Palmer.
3. Behind “Captain Morgan”
Conference USA newcomer of the year James Morgan is the unquestioned starter at quarterback.
What is unknown, is who will be the QB2?
Butch Davis has made much to do about always wanting two quarterbacks to be ready at a moments notice.
With the departure of Christian Alexander, it’s two signal-callers who haven’t attempted a collegiate pass in Kaylan Wiggins and Caleb Lynum competing for the backup role.
Both have seen reps with the first, second and third units during the spring and Davis says he’s focused on their development.
“I don’t want them worried about the competition, I want them just to learn the scheme, get comfortable with making reads and checks, just push each other every day,” said Davis.
While the winner wont be decided until after fall camp, it’s worth watching to see how both young quarterbacks perform on Friday.