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Depth and Defense lead the way for FIU Football’s Spring Showcase

The Panthers wrapped up the spring with a variety of drills and a short exhibition.

Rice v Florida International Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

FIU concluded its spring practice with their Spring Showcase at Riccardo Silva Stadium Friday evening.

Butch Davis and his staff chose to have a mix of position drills and 40 minutes of scrimmages between first, second and third team players.

Reigning C-USA newcomer of the year James Morgan looked sharp in limited reps, leading the first-team offense to a touchdown, on a four-yard connection with wideout Maurice Alexander.

The rest of the offensive unit had some struggles before picking things up in the second half.

“Going into spring number three, we made some significant progress. So we should be more efficient and our execution should be better. But all and all it still was a solid night overall,” said Davis.

Here are a few takeaways from the evening.

1. Running back depth

Davis touted the running backs as the deepest unit on the team last season. That was before they returned the entire running back room.

Anthony Jones took a handful of reps before giving way to the returning Shawndarrius Phillips. Redshirt freshman Shaun Peterson Jr. spent most of last season battling an ankle injury, but he looks to be 100 percent healthy.

Marshall v Florida International
Anthony Jones is the unquestioned starter for FIU at the running back position.
Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

He ran with authority, bringing the crowd to its feet with an emphatic collision in the process of finishing a run.

“Anyone who’s watched us play knows that at times we’ll use three running backs on any given play, Demarcus Townsend and Shaun Peterson Jr. had some nice runs,” said Davis.

2. Second team quarterback reps

Davis has made depth at quarterback a major point of emphasis since the 2018 Gasparilla Bowl, which saw the offense virtually disintegrate, after starter Alex McGough was injured early in that contest.

“Throughout the entire spring, they’ve made light-years worth of improvement and James Morgan is an unbelievable teacher,” said Davis.

Redshirt sophomore Kaylan Wiggins took the majority of the second team reps.
Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

Redshirt sophomore Kaylan Wiggins took all of the second team reps and showed flashes of ability with his legs, similar to the different dimension that former backup Christian Alexander presented opposite the pocket passer in Morgan.

Caleb Lynum took the third team snaps and also used his legs to pick up a first down

3. Specialists

With incoming JUCO K/P Tommy Heatherly set to arrive in the fall, the punting duties were handled by Alec Hallman and Thomas Leo. Hallman’s first punt of the game was blocked and recovered for a special teams touchdown.

“We made some strides with the punters, so like everyone else in this program, there’s competition for a spot and Tommy has to earn the job,” said Davis.

Western Kentucky v Florida International
Jose Borregales is one of the most talented kickers in Conference USA.
Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

Kicker Jose Borregales is one of the best young kickers in FBS football. His 79 percent career percentage shows as much.

“We trust and believe in Jose, he’s one of the finest kickers in the nation,” said Davis.

However, he missed two kicks in the season-finale against Marshall and he missed a kick today.

4. Depth

The coaching staff has made numerous mention of this being the first year that they don’t have to push freshmen into duty because of need.

No stat may be more indicative of that than the fact that the team went four-deep at virtually every position except offensive tackle.

Defensive back Jamal Anderson had two pass breakups, one of which came against number one receiver Austin Maloney, while defensive tackle Tayland Humphrey made a nice play, causing a disruption in the backfield and scoring on a tipped pick-six.

All three graduate transfers in Josh Turner, Alexy Jean-Baptiste and Maleek Williams saw reps with the second unit.

Lastly, the offensive line starters are far from set, but Tahj Brighthaupt took the first reps at right tackle and Mershawn Miller was at guard opposite Shane McGough.

The Panthers are off for the summer, before returning to the practice field in the fall with 25 practices before taking on Tulane on August 29th.