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FIU Football: Fall Camp Notebook

The big news was the arrival of J.J. Holloman, but camp is full steam ahead in week three.

Appalachian State v Georgia Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images

Butch Davis repeatedly says during media scrums, “Recruiting is the lifeblood of your program. We’re always looking to bring in talent that can make us better.”

The Panthers may have brought in a receiver who will be the top talent at the position when he steps on the field in 2020.

Former University of Georgia receiver Jeremiah Holloman transferred to FIU last week and was on the practice field Saturday morning.

At 6-2, 210-pounds, Holloman adds a sizable target to a receiving group that will lose five seniors to graduation at the end of 2019.

But what has those around the program most excited is the dynamic playmaking ability that the Covington, Georgia native exhibited in the SEC last season.

He was clocked at a 4.43 40-yard-dash coming out of high school and has maintained similar speed, while adding 20 pounds to his frame.

That ability to take the top off of the defense will also open up the middle of the field for players like Sterling Palmer and Cadarius Gaskin to operate.

With a 2020 schedule that includes Group of Five powerhouse UCF, Holloman’s ability gives potential future starting quarterback Stone Norton an established player from day one.

Run Defense Explained

With all of the talk about conference championship aspirations around the program, it’s easy to forget that FIU was one win away from playing in the C-USA title game last year.

The biggest reason that they didn’t were failures to stop the run.

While Butch Davis and defensive coordinator Jeff Copp have been vague with specifics as to what happened last year and what needs to change in 2019, some details were provided during media day last week from players.

“We had too many guys trying to do too much and not play their own assignments. We can all fly to the ball, but the whole D-Line can’t think they’re going to be the one to make the play,” said defensive tackle Teair Tart.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 03 FAU at FIU
Teair Tart is looking to learn from last season’s mistakes, to replicate his late season success.
Photo by Samuel Lewis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Tart, who was a four-star recruit last season, gave insight into his own transition from JUCO to Division one.

“It took me a minute to adjust. I’ve always been used to using my athleticism to make plays, but at this level, everyone is athletic. I had to learn that I don’t have to make every tackle, sometimes, it’s about playing my gap so the other guys like Noah (Curtis) can make plays.”

Curtis also gave insights as to the run defense.

“Last year we had too many guys playing recklessly. It’s all about playing your gap, that’s your responsibility. We can’t have guys trying to do things that aren’t asked of them,” said Curtis.

The Freshmen

Davis has said throughout the offseason that this will be the first group of incoming freshmen who won’t be relied upon to play immediately.

While they may not be called upon this season, they’re still looking to make an impact in camp.

Most noticeably has been true freshman quarterback Stone Norton. Being out on the practice field, what’s apparent is his command and presence when taking his reps.

Center Julius Pierce is a project player, who Davis feels is coming along nicely.

“When we recruited him, we said you can be a 4.8 tight end or you can be an athletic 4.8 offensive lineman. He’s gone from 245 pounds to now almost 280 and he still has his athletic traits,” said Davis.

While Pierce is working on gaining size to play on the line, freshman tight end Joe Hocker already looks the part. Standing alongside fellow tight ends Sterling Palmer and Ivan Thomas, he’s just as physically impressive at 6-6, 250 pounds.

Guard Sione Finau earned praise from veteran center Dallas Connell, although Connell is still working on saying his name correctly.

“A young guy who’s really impressed me is Sione Finau, I’m still working on saying his last name correctly, but he’s shown up ready to learn and that’s a great thing,” said Connell.

For the record, it’s pronounced CEE-own-E fa-NEW, per the FIU Media Guide.

Three-star recruit Brian Dillard is no longer with the program, however, the door is open for his return.

“We knew that he would be cutting it close in terms of grades and he’ll have to attend a prep school in the fall. Should he get everything in order, he’s more than welcome back,” said Davis.

Miscellaneous

  • JJ Holloman will be wearing number four for FIU. The last player on offense to wear that number - Panther great T.Y. Hilton
  • The team held a closed scrimmage on Saturday with all players on roster participating. Additionally, practice will be closed to the public through 8/18.
  • The secondary has been the strongest part of the defense throughout the offseason. When asked who was the toughest defensive back, a consensus answer of safety Olin Cushion III was given.
  • In addition to Holloman, transfers Tyson Maeva and Alexy Jean-Baptiste have been active on the practice field, gaining reps with the first and second team last week.