With two months till the season opener at Tulane, let’s take a position-by-position look at the Panthers, heading into Fall camp.
Today, we’ll look at the FIU receiving corps. In 2018, the passing attack was more balanced than it was in previous years, due to the graduation of star wideout Thomas Owens.
University of Florida transfer C.J. Worton emerged out of Fall camp as the number one receiver and developed an early rapport with James Morgan. However, the ball was distributed among the top-four receivers fairly evenly.
Heading into 2019, expect more of the same from the FIU offense.
All stats listed are for the 2018 season.
Returning: Tony Gaiter IV (Sr.) - 5-9, 185, 24 catches for 227 yards and two touchdowns
Austin Maloney (R-Sr.) - 5-11, 190, 30 catches for 610 yards and five touchdowns
Darrius Scott (Sr.) - 5-10, 195, nine catches for 86 yards
Bryce Singleton (Jr.) - 5-10, 193, 29 catches for 368 yards and two touchdowns
Shemar Thornton (Jr.) - 5-11, 182, seven catches for 134 yards and two touchdowns
Maurice Alexander (R-Sr.) - 5-11, 180, 40 catches for 474 yards and five touchdowns
Darius Philon (R-Sr.)- 5-10, 161, zero statistics
Cadarius Gaskin (Soph.)- 6-3, 218, three catches for 82 yards and one touchdown
Jordan Underwood (R-Fr.)- 6-0, 180, redshirted in 2018
Maurquel Dillard (R-Fr.)- 6-0, 185, redshirted in 2018
DeAndre Williams (R-Soph.)- 5-10, 180, zero catches, one special teams tackle
Nate Jefferson (Fr.) 5-11, 170, three-star recruit
Kris Mitchell (Fr.) 6-1, 175, three-star recruit
Heading into Fall: Ball distribution was the name of the game for James Morgan last season, and heading into 2019, it won’t be any different.
The FIU receiving corps are stacked with talented playmakers, led by Austin Maloney and Maurice Alexander. Both are speedsters, who, with the ball in their hands are capable to taking a short pass for long yardage.
At the beginning of last season, the task at hand was replacing Thomas Owens, who was far and away the number one target for the Panthers. Butch Davis has noted in press conferences that he prefers depth and ball distribution among the position.
“In my first year, Thomas Owens was getting a majority of the passes. Now, I’m really pleased that we have some more depth at the position. Any one of these guys can step in and play the position well,” said Davis.
The only issue facing the Panthers’ offense entering 2019 is that there’s only one football. Luckily, Rich Skrosky’s offense uses the defense to dictate who the open man is.
Summary: Maloney had a breakout 2018, and he’ll have his shot at being a number one target this season. He’s an excellent route-runner and turns into a running back in the open field with the ball in his hands.
Both he and Alexander can take the top off the defense. Speaking of Alexander, he’s arguably the most dangerous slot receiver in C-USA.
The former quarterback seamlessly made the transition to wideout last season. Gaiter, Thornton and Scott are reliable veterans, who, when called upon, are dependable and will be in the right spot.
Arguably the most intriguing of the group is Bryce Singleton. The South Carolina native isn’t lacking in talent and playmaking ability, as evidenced by his Odell Beckham-esque grab against FAU.
This issue, however, has been his ability to stay healthy. If he’s 100%, he has a chance to have a big year. Gaskin should be the next man up, after having a strong spring.
He provides much-needed size, compared to the rest of the group, who are all below six foot tall.
Jordan Underwood and Maurquel Dillard were three-star recruits from the 2018 class, and are talented players, who at this point will provide depth in the event of injuries.
True freshmen Nate Jefferson and Kris Mitchell are this year’s version of Underwood and Dillard. Both are talented, but I don’t expect either to see the field (as a receiver) this year.
Position Grade: B+ - The only major loss from last season is C.J. Worton.
While he was the team’s leading receiver, four other wideouts had at least 24 catches in 2018. Meaning, Morgan isn’t locked onto one specific target, as much as he is on the man the defense gives him.
Maloney is a tremendous athlete who should slide into Worton’s spot easily, Alexander, in theory, should be even better in his second season as the Y (slot) receiver.
Singleton’s health will be key, but, even in the worst-case scenario, the veterans behind him are very capable players.
Overall, the Panthers’ are in great position with six players at the position who can step in at any time.